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Obligation to Be Informed?

I’m glad Ilya Somin has clarified that he’s sympathetic to the idea that voters do have a moral duty to be informed, even if they are, as he has suggested, rationally ignorant of politics.  I think voters do have some obligation to be informed, but my bar is not set very high.  When I think about a voter’s moral obligations, I have to take into account the fact that I don’t believe the the single issue voter is shirking his civil responsibilities.

If someone is, for instance, well informed on the gun issue, and vote specifically on that issue, I have no issue with their going to the polls and casting a ballot.  But how far is someone obligated to be informed on their single issue?  I tend to take the position “trust, but verify.”  Don’t just vote a certain way because your buddy told you candidate X would take all your guns.  Do some research.  See if other people are saying that too.  Check with organizations who advocate on behalf of your issue and see what they say.

I think there’s little problem with general political ignorance provided that the voter is reasonably informed on the issues that bring him or her into the voting booth.  They don’t have to be experts, but they should be well enough informed and engaged as to make up their own mind.

I view my job as an activist for this issue to be making sure gun owners have the right information and are asking the right questions.  I won’t hide McCain’s record on guns, but nor will I exaggerate it.  I’ve heard way too many other activists claiming there’s no difference between McCain and Obama, which just isn’t true.

9 Responses to “Obligation to Be Informed?”

  1. Mike Gallo says:

    Don’t forget that only 40% of our country’s eligible voters can both a) identify that there are three branches of government, and b) name them. Oh, and since most presidential elections draw almost 50% voter turnout, that means 20% of active voters in a presidential election can’t identify the three branches of government, assuming the entirety of potential voters who DO know all voted. Obviously we don’t know which of these people are or aren’t voting, but in elections that are won by a percentage point or two, this is dangerous.

  2. Sebastian says:

    Being informed of how their government works I think is a basic responsibility of citizenship. Even if you don’t vote, I think people can’t consider themselves to be educated if they are that out of touch with how their own government works. I would agree that we shouldn’t encourage people who are uneducated to vote just for the sake of getting them to vote.

  3. bitchy mom says:

    Sebastian, if you only knew the pressure we are receiving at work to make sure that “all” voters are registered to vote. We are required to inquire if they need a new voter card if the move; when they have their eligible benefits for food stamps, medicaid, and/or Temporary Assistance for Families either reviewed for continued eligibility or determined eligible. Now we are to make sure that we don’t make them think their eligible is determined by whether they register or not and we are to make sure that we don’t influence them on who to vote for but we can get in big trouble if we don’t offer this opportunity. Talk about those who do not understand what voting is all about, many have no clue and we have to fill out the forms for them and mail them in. Makes one wonder “who” will help them at the polls!

  4. Robert says:

    Voting ought to cost 1.00. Or you ought to have to name the sitting president and your senators. Or at least be able to name the state governor or bird. Sheesh.
    Idiots voting is not the answer.
    And government employees and elected officials and their staffs should NOT be eligible to vote.

  5. Sebastian says:

    Sebastian, if you only knew the pressure we are receiving at work to make sure that “all” voters are registered to vote. We are required to inquire if they need a new voter card if the move; when they have their eligible benefits for food stamps, medicaid, and/or Temporary Assistance for Families either reviewed for continued eligibility or determined eligible.

    Is this law or policy?

  6. bitchy mom says:

    It is law. Check out http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/nvra/activ_nvra.htm

    We are required to do it and the feds have done spot checks and Virginia wasn’t doing all that well in following the law so they have really been putting pressure on us to make sure we are giving everyone an opportunity to register. Of course we are short of staff and have more work than we can get done but we still have to take the time to act as the voter reg. office!

  7. Sebastian says:

    What a shocker… passed by a lefty Democratic Congress with a lefty Democratic President. I seem to recall Motor Voter was something the Republicans fought for a long time. Now I know why.

  8. oldblinddog says:

    Keep in mind that at least 51% of voters didn’t even know they had a mind, much less that they could make it up on a subject before voting.

  9. Kathy says:

    And government employees and elected officials and their staffs should NOT be eligible to vote.

    Wow. That’s a pretty broad range of people.

    No cops, postal employees, municipal fire departments, highway construction workers, no one who is in the armed forces, public school employees, border control agents, customs, municipal works employees, CYS workers, etc.

    Of course, I’m probably just being bitter about the fact that I’m one of the people that you want to strip the right to vote from. Although it’s not part of the bill of rights, so it’s probably okay to do away with the 19th Amendment.

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