Democracy is a great thing, but it fails in a lot of ways.
There are plenty of places in the world where people are oppressed and don’t get any say in their own government. To a much lesser extent, one of these places is the United States of America. In America each person gets one vote for each political position in their district. That means that the people they vote for should reflect the will of the majority, but that vote gets watered down by a system of electors, representatives and gerrymandering and eventually dumped in a big tub with all the other votes. This means that each individual vote means a lot less than the aggregate.
Advocating for the removal of votes from the uninformed is wrong, but what about rewarding intelligent people with an extra vote?
Every citizen deserves a say in the election process, but to what extent?
Let’s take two hypothetical American voters. One is a professor of political science that dedicates his free time to educating people about different issues pertaining to our country. He watches all of the debates and gives speeches at different universities.
The other pays no attention to politics whatsoever. He votes, but never engages in any kind of political discussion with anyone. He can’t name anything that either candidate stands for, but he votes for his registered political party because that’s what his family has always done.
Is it really ethical that these people have the same say in our political process?
In our current system the answer is yes. The informed and intelligent voter gets the same vote as the sheep-like voter who does what he is told, even if he has no rhyme or reason for doing it. It would be wrong to deny him his vote. He still has a stake in the outcome of elections. But what if informed, intelligent voters were given an additional vote in elections?
One immediately comes up against the problem of voter suppression.
In the past, districts in the south used Jim Crow laws and literacy tests to keep minorities from voting, but the motivations for these laws were racially charged. Intelligence is a whole different ball game.
Being denied a job based on race is different than being denied a job because of a lack of intelligence. If someone isn’t intelligent enough for a job, then they aren’t qualified, and there is nothing ethically or morally wrong with that.
The same should be true for voting. If voters can’t identify half of the states in the Union on a map, then they should only get one vote. Let the smartest people have the loudest voice.
It all stems from education, and compared to other developed nations, the United States is behind the curve.
Harvard University published a study in July titled “Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance.”
This study says, “the gains posted by the United States in recent years are hardly remarkable by world standards. Although the U.S. is not among the nine countries that were losing ground over this period of time, 11 other countries were moving forward at better than twice the pace of the United States, and all the other participating countries were changing at a rate similar enough to the United States to be within a range too close to be identified as clearly different.”
In other words, our education system is not keeping up with the world and is not outputting as many intelligent voters.
Few people call the system into question, but it deserves to be inspected. The main argument against giving intelligent, deserving people an extra vote is that it isn’t equal for everyone. The United States has the ability to let smarter people have a more powerful voice, but is it really right to intentionally dumb down the voice of the popular vote in the effort of equality?
The Electoral College already has the power to go against the people’s popular vote. If a more informed voice is influencing the Electoral College, then that gives the part of the popular vote cast by intelligent people more power.
Or, we could invest in better civic education. We could make sure that our high school seniors can pass a test like we ask immigrants to this country to pass or at least name all the branches of government. We could use education to integrate critical thinking skills to the average person’s political decisions. We could use advocacy campaigns to make people realize they have a vested interest in voting intelligently.
Instead of giving more votes to the intelligent we could strive to bring up the intelligence of the population to a level that we can all vote like that political science professor.
Then maybe the uninformed will have no sway on politics.