Friday, December 4, 2009

Keep in the vote!

In part two of my two-part election-week extravaganza, I expound on what I think of "get out the vote" campaigns. The astute reader of blog titles may have divined where this is going: while I think it's great for people to vote, I think it's bad to try and convince them to do so.

Voting needs to be accessible, of course, but only passively: anyone who wants to vote should be able to easily, but we shouldn't be pursuing citizens and shoving forms in their faces. I'll wager that voter registration drives lead to a greater number of uninformed voters; how much can we expect someone to read up on the candidates and issues if that person couldn't be bothered to Google "[state name] voter registration" and mail in a form?

This isn't just elitist demagoguery. Voting registration drives are almost always — maybe always always? — organized by partisan groups, and the objective is pretty transparent. Rather than cultivating an environment of educated, informed voters who would then demand smart, sophisticated and lucid candidates, campaigns want an army of blind followers. You don't get that from putting a form online and having those who would be interested go and find it.

One way to move away from anti-intellectual and pop-culture elections is to stop convincing people that voting is hip or a great way to screw over some other region. If people really care about politics, they'll figure out how to register on their own. If they don't care that much, our democracy will function better if they sit it out.

So this coming Tuesday, don't forget to vote... unless it happens to slip your mind.

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