As random voter registration drives get underway, I think this is a very well stated argument against mindlessly saying that any random voter participation is a good thing.
It’s all well and good to encourage eligible citizens to select who will govern them, but what chaps me is that nowhere in this get-out-the-vote fervor — which will only increase as November approaches — will we hear anyone suggest that before someone tramps to the voting booth, he ought to educate himself.
Educate himself about what? There’s plenty for that list. Economics. Public policy. The actual records of the actual candidates. Hell, the actual names of the candidates. All this would be an improvement over what the average student knows about history, politics, and most important, the principles that undergird freedom and prosperity.
It’s a curious position, vote-for-voting’s-sake, given that the same voices calling for it tend to favor insuring that students know in exquisite detail every possible birth control option available in the Western hemisphere. They recognize, in other words, that action in ignorance is inherently dangerous.
We were just commenting about this issue locally. In 2008, there was a line outside our polling place for the precincts that held various apartment complexes in the area. It filled the voting room, went down one somewhat short hall, filled a very long hallway, and then still left about 40 people outside. It seemed like the Obama get out the vote efforts were strong in those complexes. However, in any other national election, you’ll only see a short little line coming out of their voting area at the school. In the primaries and local/state-only elections, the room is close to empty. In other words, these aren’t people who are paying attention to elections or issues. They only show up sporadically when told to do so by someone else. We wonder how long the line will be for those precincts this year.
In the linked piece, Tony Woodlief finishes with this thought:
Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that, statistically speaking, whenever droves of students rushed to the polls, they pulled the lever for the candidate who most favors limited government. Does anyone for a hot half-second doubt that Mr. Sanchez, rather than brainstorming ways to make voting more like ordering a pizza, would instead want to treat it more like buying a handgun?
And that’s how we should at least to think about it, which is to say that we ought no more encourage someone who doesn’t know what the Constitution is to vote than we ought to give a chimpanzee a shotgun. In either case you’re not exactly sure what we’ll happen, but chances are it won’t be pretty.