Opinion | Vote values should be calculated based on electorate awareness
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 00:02
Equality and democracy are both ideals that sound great in principle, but like anything, their value has its limitations. Ironically, this is especially true in politics. But unfortunately, and especially in America it seems, we have become so enamored with equal rights and advocacy for fairness that we are sacrificing quality of decisions.
It’s disconcerting to be reminded that there are people like “Obama Phone Lady” in the world and that in most democracies, such as ours, their votes count just as much as the next person. Little argument should need to be made that this sort of voting system is not what is in our best interest, not just as a nation, but as human beings.
Though it is likely going to sound heretical to suggest it, having a weighted voting system makes by far the most sense. The exact parameters that would contribute to the weight of an individual’s vote would have to be worked out, but knowledge of issues should be first and foremost.
Opinions aren’t worth much without proper information to place things into context. We already know this, which is why most professional positions require qualifying credentials of some sort. When I go to the doctor, I want my physician to understand the practice of medicine, and when I take my car into a shop, I want the mechanic to be knowledgeable about fixing vehicles. You probably share the same sentiment. Yet for some reason, the regard for knowledge being a qualifying factor for decision-making gets thrown to the wind when choosing the leaders and policies of our cities, states and country, an endeavor that arguably requires being able to interpret and judge more information than the previous two examples.
Weighted voting is not a new concept, nor is requiring some sort of mental capability to participate in the process. It wasn’t until 1965 that requiring a literacy test to vote in the United States was banned. The problem is that most previous systems in which votes were weighted did not do it correctly. Votes were weighted mostly according to social class, money, race and other factors that probably shouldn’t matter. But the values and parameters are where the systems were flawed, not the concept.
Some have proposed requiring an IQ test in order to vote. This doesn’t quite get the logic right either though. It’s far more important to be familiar with contemporary issues and understand concepts that are related to governing, both of which don’t necessarily equate with intelligence. And while intelligence is resistant to fluctuation throughout most of the course of life, being informed is not.
Thus, the benefits of weighting votes by using knowledge of relevant topics as the primary criterion would increase the quality of vote in multiple ways.
It would have immediate effects by allocating electoral power to the opinions of those that are well informed and more qualified to be elected. It would also create incentive to educate oneself to increase or maintain voting power in upcoming elections. Single-issue voters would need to demonstrate at least an awareness and understanding of other issues. And people that didn’t take the time to inform themselves or that think a candidates stance on say, abortion rights, is the only issue that matters would consequently have an appropriate impact on choosing elected officials.
Admittedly, implementing a weighted voting system surely would be tough to accomplish, and exactly what weighting should be based on would be a contentious topic of debate. Age might be another variable worth considering. Why does it make sense that the vote of an 85-year-old individual counts just as much as a 20-year-old individual? The latter is likely going to be living for a substantially longer time, and so will probably have their lives impacted to a greater extent by election results. It similarly doesn’t make sense to keep a well-informed 16- year-old from voting, but let any Joe-Schmo above the age of 18 casts a ballot.
Current voting policies are not the best we can do. Not by a long shot. It is time we develop an algorithm to determine how much an individual’s vote should weigh in an election. Accessibility of information is cheap enough, and the technology is available to pull off any required testing and computing. But the bottom line is, though everybody has an opinion when it comes to politics, these opinions are far being created equal, and they should consequently be treated as such.