Saturday, March 02, 2019


In the Voter ID discussion, Dirty Jobs Guy noted that voting used to be granted more to those who were more likely to have a commitment to the community.  Owning property was required in colonial times and the early years of the US; in some places an oath was required. There were difficulties in qualifying to vote.  One can see how that is deeply unfair in some ways, and allows landowners to perpetuate advantages. It mattered less in New England, where land ownership was distributed, than in Virginia, where the FFV's owned the land and had many servants who could not. Requiring oaths is a problem for some religious groups. There are also those who did not have fixed addresses but still provided useful service, such as sailors, small traders, or permanent military. Still, the principle remains that if people have to show some commitment, they take it more seriously.

When teaching an adult Sunday School class, we tend to find that people are more likely to attend and do the work if they had to buy the book rather than have it given.  But requiring this goes sharply against the idea of a free Gospel available to all, and the kindness of not embarrassing someone who may not be able to pay but would be humiliated for that to be known.

We made education free to all receivers regardless of their ability to pay as a cultural equaliser. I think that resulted in a fair bit of gratitude for the first two generations of it, who had parents and grandparents who were painfully aware of advantages they did not have. But once it becomes automatic, the gratitude disappears.  It's just human nature.

I have said not-quite-kiddingly that they should move the polling places every election, so that it takes some effort and research to find out where to vote.  Part of me rejoices when the weather is bad on election day. The drive to make it easier and easier seems misguided.  I don't want to keep out disabled people or young mothers carrying babies, but I do want to discourage people who just don't care that much.  I admit there is a sneaky downside that the harder one makes it to vote, the more the field is yielded to fanatics of all stripes.  Yet I don't think that is a realistic worry.


Texan99 said...

I posted on my community website a link to the National Bureau of Economic Research research study concluding that there was no detectable link between voter photo ID requirements and the suppression of votes in any demographic. Almost immediately the comments devolved into "but Dems are bad people who want non-citizens to vote illegally" and "but Reps are bad people who want to take away the sacred right to vote." Right now a battle is brewing over who can find the most articles linking voting fraud to one party or the other--even though the article failed to find a link between photo ID and fraud, just as it failed to find a link between photo ID and suppression. It's a really sick debate.

Murph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Murph said...

I meant to mention this on the earlier post about Voter ID. Y'all may recall that Ohio tried to purge its rolls of long-time-inactive voters. It had a long drawn-out system to identify, attempt to contact, and then absent a response to delete that erstwhile voter from the rolls.

It went to the SCt, and even a win there wasn't good enough....

Jonathan said...

"Part of me rejoices when the weather is bad on election day. The drive to make it easier and easier seems misguided."

Yes. The phrase "skin in the game" as Taleb uses it applies here. So, property owners but also people who are engaged in civic life regardless of property or wealth qualification.

I agree we should discourage people who just don't care much from voting. Perhaps the problem is that such people are now the majority.

Any suggestions on what can be done?

james said...

If I may play Devil's Advocate--every citizen has "skin in the game" so long as he is effected by the policies of the government. Although if they do care, they should probably show it by learning a little about matters before voting. I'm not keen on coin flippers and "pulling the same lever Grandpa always did."

JMSmith said...

As you probably know, the Congregationalist churches of 18th century New England were one of the first institutions to wrestle with this problem. First there was the question of membership, which brought not only access to the Lord's Table, but also voting privileges. As membership requirements were relaxed (e.g. the Half Way Covenant, etc.), doctrine relaxed as well. This is why so many conservative Congregationalists became Presbyterians, especially as they moved west. My parent's old church in western New York started with congregationalist government in 1820, but went to presbyterian government when the Erie Canal came to town and things started getting a little wild.

You say that raising the cost to vote will leave only the fanatics. I think that word takes in two groups, as can be seen in the case of church government. The first sort of fanatic we might call an enthusiast (or wild man, if you like), and they make poor voters. The second sort of fanatic is simply serious about their church as a church, and does not see it primarily as a social club. Call this second set disciples. I would say that everyone in the church, including the enthusiasts and the socialites, benefits when decisions are made by disciples. A church will blow up if the enthusiasts take charge. It will die a slow death under the socialites.

In the realm of secular politics, most "moderate" voters are analogous to the socialites in the church. They are not bad people, but most are low-information voters with little interest in politics. This makes them look "moderate," but they are really luke-warm and unprincipled, and thus easily manipulated.