Warm Body Franchise

BallotUniversal 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.

  1. Federal Service – Four (4) years of federal service – not limited to- or even necessarily being military service – would convey enfranchisement upon discharge from service;

Or…

  1. 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;

Or…

  1. 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.

  1. Civics Questionnaire – Make passing some randomized subset of the Citizenship Exam a prerequisite of voting. Issue the questionnaire / exam at the polls;

And…

  1. 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.

  1. 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;

Or…

  1. 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.

Related Reading:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle
Sane Society           Ils 252 (International Library of Sociology)
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
Franchise Bible: How to Buy a Franchise or Franchise Your Own Business

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9 Responses to “Warm Body Franchise”

  1. Paradigm Says:

    Hear, hear. There should be a meritocracy. If your tap is leaking you call a plumber, if your car is broken you hire a mechanic. If the country needs a government – anyone can have a say. It’s stupid beyond belief. It’s even worse in Sweden. Here all criminals have the right to vote, and non-citizens can vote in their municipality.

  2. Paradigm Says:

    What happened to my comment? Seems to have vanished.

    But I agree completely. In every other line of work or decision we expect those in charge to know what they are doing. But voting, the most important desicion of all, there anyone can have a say. Idiocy.

  3. jonolan Says:

    Paradigm,

    Sorry for the delayed response; I’ve been swamped with work. Sorry also for your disappearing comment; the spam filter caught it for some unknown reason.

  4. Paradigm Says:

    No problem. My spam filter does that too sometimes, but I’m still very glad I have it.

  5. ojmo Says:

    I don’t quite get Qualification 1 for Acquiring a Franchise; I could understand if it was military service, but what distinguishes federal service from some other kind of work enough to merit a franchise, if the service can be non-military?

  6. jonolan Says:

    I wouldn’t want it limited to just military service because that would bar too many people, through no fault of their own, from gaining the privilege of voting.

  7. Michael Says:

    Ever read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers? Not the movie (the European communist director destroyed the story), but the book. Classic piece of literature. In it in order to become a citizen you must provide 2 years of service, either in the military or some other civic service. It could be sorting paperclips for an administrative service, but two years working for near nothing would qualify you as a citizen. The argument made in the story is that people who serve in some way, shape or form understand that 1) government is a service to the people, not their master, and 2) electing someone to that position is a priveledge, a duty and a responsibility; selecting such a leader should be made not from a position of self interest, but by determining what would be in the best interests of the society/state/nation. The argument is that people who’ve sacrified to earn franchise will be more likely to make that type choice.

  8. jonolan Says:

    Welcome, Michael!

    Yes, I’ve read Starship Troopers many, many times over the decades. In point of fact, that work was my first conscious experience with truly considering other than a nominal, warm body franchise.

    Indeed, even the phrase, “Warm Body Franchise,” was derived from Heinlein’s word in another work, To Sail Beyond The Sunset.

    The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a “warm body” democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally has no internal feedback for self correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens…which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it…which for the majority translates as “Bread and Circuses”

    Bread and Circuses is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader – the barbarians enter Rome.

    Mine was a lovely world – until the parasites took over.

    But then, Heinlein was a man of uncommon wisdom whose words it behooves all rational people of good character to consider.

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