Suffrage for Ignorant Voters?
The United States of America has come a long way with its suffrage. Originally only white, land-owning men were allowed to vote. Then during the Reconstruction, all men were given the right to vote. Finally, during the 1920s women were given that freedom. These were great milestones in American history, but perhaps this nation has gone too far in the name of freedom.
For blacks prior to the Civil Rights movement, the ability to actually use the right to vote was not easy. Certain groups implemented ways to keep African-Americans from voting (“Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement”). One of these was the literacy test. Although not a bad idea altogether, the method and purpose for these tests were despicable. When someone went to the polls to vote, the registrars could issue these incredibly hard tests to whomever they pleased (“Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement”). Based on personal prejudices, the registrars would issue the test to minorities, primarily blacks; however, they would allow white people to vote without taking the test. Because the tests were so arduous, anyone who was forced to take it would have a high chance of failing especially due to the subjectivity of the tests (“Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement”).
However, literacy tests were done away with when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 took effect (“Civil Rights Division”). This banned the denial of the use of literacy tests nationwide. It is widely accepted that this abandonment was beneficial to the United States’ voting system (“Civil Rights Division”). This ban allowed for truer equal voting rights. The right to vote was no longer based on skin color or gender. These are things that cannot be helped or changed. Where does ignorance come into this?
Denying the ability to vote based on the ignorance of the would-be voter cannot be logically considered prejudice because it is something that can be subject to change. Ignorance is simply not knowing. Any voter that goes to the polls and does not know the issues is ignorant. It is far too common for voters to vote based solely on name recognition without any clue of what the person’s platform is. That is not what a republic should be. A republic should be a nation full of informed voters voting representatives that actually represent the people. Rather it has become voting on the best looking candidate. This began to be the case in 1960 with the first televised debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. This form of political shallowness is simply unacceptable.
The solution is simple. That solution is the use of a test similar to literacy tests. This new test would need to be required equally of every single voter before casting the ballot. Measures would need to be required to ensure that these tests would not be abused. Each test would be a simple multiple choice test with about ten questions. If they missed more than two questions, the test would be randomized and administered again. The voter would be allowed to take the test as many times as necessary. This way, even if the voter came in ignorant, after seeing the test so many times, they would then be aware of the issues and what each candidate represents. Under this system, voters would not be denied the right to vote, but rather be educated before casting the vote.
The United States has come far in allowing the right to vote to everybody. But it is irresponsible to allow everyone to vote regardless of their knowledge or lack of knowledge on the subjects that they vote on. This solution would not happen easily; many of the members of Congress still remember the abuse of the old literacy tests. However, it is an absolute necessity to having a responsible voting system.
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Civil Rights Division. N.p., 25 07 2008. Web. 9 Dec 2010.
“Voting Rights.” Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. N.p., 2009. Web. 9 Dec 2010.