Universal suffrage has not served America well. It was a foolish dream to think that it would once the masses learned that they could vote themselves “bread and circuses.”
This idea that most all titularly adult American citizens should be granted their franchise without any regard for any sort of merit or flaw whatsoever is an idea that reached fruition in 1965. It’s done little but harm since then.
It is past time for America to put this damaging foolishness behind us and to recommence correctly thinking of suffrage or enfranchisement as the privilege to be earned and a duty to be exercised instead of a right to enjoyed by any and all.
Currently American law states that no US citizen having attained the age of 18 years can be denied their franchise due to their religion, race, gender, age, or failure to pay taxes or fees. These are all laudable provisions of the law because not a single one of those criteria has anything to due with personal merit or the ability of the person in question to responsibly exercise their franchise.
There are still a plethora of means by which we can regulate suffrage in order to ensure a baseline competence and responsibility within the electorate, all of which are based upon non-discriminatory displays or proofs of merit.
Methods For Acquiring a Franchise
Rather than previous common means of determining suffrage such as landholding or employing at least a certain number of workers, the methods of acquiring enfranchisement should provide clear evidence that the person is committed to the United States of America or, at the very least, committed enough to taking part in the electoral process enough to spend their labor and/or treasure to gain that privilege.
- Federal Service – Four (4) years of federal service – not limited to- or even necessarily being military service – would convey enfranchisement upon discharge from service;
- Purchase of Franchise – Set the price for suffrage as equal to one years earnings for the median American household. In 2010 that would be $46,326.00;
- Franchise Lottery – Issue a small number of franchises each year via lottery as a control group.
If someone wants to vote strongly enough that they’re willing to work four years in service to the nation or pay a high fee for the privilege, they’ve earned your franchise. They also, by the very fact that they’ve had to earn it, will likely value it and spend more care in exercising their privilege to vote than most do under the current system.
The Franchise Lottery should be included as a control group to offset the primary and secondary means of earning suffrage. It allows for statistical outliers and provides some measure of mitigation for any flaws in execution of the planned franchise requirements.
Controlling Exercise of Franchise
Basic means testing should be applied at the polls on a purely ballot-by-ballot basis to ensure that those who have earned their franchise are, at the time of that particular election or referendum, competent and responsible enough to exercise their franchise privilege.
- Civics Questionnaire – Make passing some randomized subset of the Citizenship Exam a prerequisite of voting. Issue the questionnaire / exam at the polls;
- Math / Economics Quiz – Make passing some mall number of mathematics questions, focused on basic economics, a prerequisite of voting. Issue the quiz at the polls.
Failure to correctly answer both sets of questions would bar the individual from voting upon that singular election and/or referendum ballot but would not bar them from any future votes.
In situations where the polls are open for more than one day, an occurrence growing more and more common, they would be allowed to come back on another day and try again.
Suspension of Franchise
Franchise should be for life and should not be able to be revoked for any reason whatsoever. It should, however, be able to be suspended for limited times for certain specific reasons.
- Convicted Felons – No convicted felon should be allowed to vote until such time as they have fully discharged their debt to society. That would include all mandated incarceration periods, completion of parole, and/or probation. Once the felon has fully and successfully completed the entirety of their sentence their franchise would be restored in full;
- Mental Incompetents – Anyone adjudged to be suffering from a disorder or illness that rendered them unable to make sound judgments concerning their welfare or the welfare of others would have their franchise privileges suspended until treatment / therapy has allowed for that adjudication to be reversed.
In the first case, convicted felons, this is actually a loosening of the current restrictions which in most states permanently bar a convicted felon from ever voting again.
In the second case, mental incompetents, this is just a codification and standardization of laws currently enacted in multiple states.
The idea of the franchise requirements being nothing more than warm body over the age of 18 years-old is, quite frankly, ludicrous and damaging in equal measures. It should be changed and the above suggestions are one set of ways to change it without drastically changing the body of America’s laws or overturning a truckload of court precedents.