Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Emoter Voter

Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 52, which would allow voter registration on election day. This proposal is presumably based on the bogus notion, propagated by journalists and pundits every election year, that maximizing votes cast is the great desideratum of electoral politics. But when it comes to votes, I'm much more concerned about their quality than their quantity. Other things equal, I prefer to be governed by voters who have taken the time to consider the issues and think about them. There's no way to check for a voter's understanding of the issues, of course, but one simple proxy is to see whether she even had the forethought to get registered at least 15 days before the election. It's far from a perfect correlation, but at least it's something.

Lest I be accused of being undemocratic, it's worth noting that advance registration excludes no one from voting except those who *exclude themselves*. Anyone who wants to vote (and meets the other requirements) can do so if she just thinks ahead. Advance registration does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or political viewpoint. Yes, it does impose a filter on voters, but what's the matter with that? Age and citizenship requirements also impose filters. We impose them because we think that, on the whole, the pool of voters meeting them will be marginally more informed and thoughtful than would a broader pool. (This does not mean that I fully agree with all existing voting requirements, however. Consider this thoughtful commentary on the voting rights of non-citizens.)

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