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ABC News is predicting that John Kerry is the next President ... and Susan Johnson has just won $10 million!
October 19, 2004 3:28 PM   Subscribe

An Election Lottery?
We've had decades of handwringing and civics lectures while voting continues to plunge. This is America, dammit. If everything else pays, why shouldn't voting?
posted by amberglow (23 comments total)

I always though it was a bit silly to encourage people to vote who couldn't, or didn't want to, make a rational decision about who to vote for. You don't really want people going along and just ticking a random box, do you?

The whole first-past-the-post voting system is broken anyway. Bring in Condorcet's or something.
posted by Mwongozi at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2004

Perhaps I'm being a bit elitist here, but shouldn't we be encouraging civic participation, rather than simply voting? I mean, how well reasoned and informed could a voter truly be if his main incentive to vote is a chance at some fast cash? Call me crazy, but I'd rather that person not vote at all.
posted by Doug at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2004

I would be for it only if "none of the above" is an option.
posted by birdherder at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2004

Meanwhile, Thomas Sowell again argues that voting if you don't know what you're doing is actually a problem:
A citizen who cannot be bothered to find out the facts about the issues, not just media spin or party propaganda, is doing a disservice to this country by voting -- especially when electing leaders making life-and-death decisions whose consequences will affect this generation and generations to come.
Although this particular version (a repeat of an earlier column, discussed here, though no longer available) seems much more partisan. Tom, I agree with you that no voting is better than educated voting, but where's your outrage at the attempts to block the Ohio registrations and the Nevada shredding?
posted by namespan at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2004

i've been arguing for this for years! when you vote you'd get a ticket, you have to be in it to win it... send em packin to the polls.
posted by jcruelty at 4:19 PM on October 19, 2004

I agree that this is a bad thing. People shouldn't need a financial incentive to take part in the democratic process.

Anyone who took part because they thought they could get rich is doing it for the wrong reasons and, as namespan did such a nice job of showing, they would be casting their vote from a position of ignorance, which does a disservice to all of us who are casting our votes intentionally and willfully and with strong reasons for doing so.

By the way, namespan, my outrage was making for damned sure that my voter registration is in order. If you take away their means to deny you your rights then they wield no power. You DID mean no voting is better than UN-educated voting, right?
posted by fenriq at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2004

It's hard not to feel despair at the state of democracy in the world's most powerful nation. I don't what else to say.
posted by at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2004

why does it matter what their reasons are? we have millions of people who are woefully misinformed--why can't uninformed people vote too?

I think it's disgusting to suggest that people not vote. People DIED fighting for the right to vote.

You can't get financial aid for college unless you're registered for Selective Service, if you're a guy. We link driver's licenses and jury duty. We link all sorts of things in government. Why can't we link voting to Megabucks or something?

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that millions of adult Americans don't vote?
posted by amberglow at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2004

I don't mind giving people a little incentive to put in the effort to think things through and contribute to a civil society. Hell, doing it right is work, important work, and we might as well pay people to do it. Perhaps if we had financial incentives backed by some sort of multiple-choice quiz on the candidates and issues, we could get people to do the work and do it right.

It'd work like this: you score 90% on your quiz, and you get 90 shares in the lottery. Meaning that the 500 or so other winners who pick the same lottery numbers as you will split the pot in such a way that your 90% nets you twice as much as Joe Flipacoin's 45% score.
posted by gregor-e at 4:52 PM on October 19, 2004

Its a good thing that millions of Americans don't randomly vote for whoever so they can get their lottery ticket. Its a bad thing that millions of Americans don't vote because they're too lazy, stupid, busy, whatever to take the time to participate in the democratic process.

Coercion to take part is stupid. People did die for our right to vote, you think they'd want some idiot who doesn't know who he's voting for to just cast a vote and not give a damn who he's electing?

I don't think. I think they'd call that person a traitor to the ideals of democracy.

On Preview: Gregor-e might be on to something. Qualified incentives aren't that terrible an idea.
posted by fenriq at 4:54 PM on October 19, 2004

I don't think they'd care whether it was an idiot voting or not--white idiots had been voting all along, and still do. I think the "i don't want uninformed people to vote" thing is meaningless, since it happens every 2/4 years anyway.

gregor-e: i like that idea, but it's not legal, i don't think, and tests were used all during Jim Crow to disenfranchise people, so it may stir bad memories.
posted by amberglow at 5:04 PM on October 19, 2004

Except that poll taxes and tests are illegal. I think it should be harder to vote -- not easier, but I know others have wildly different opinions on that, and we're not likely to persuade each other.

It just seems crazy to me that here in California you can get an initiative on the ballot that will modify the state's constitution. You can then spend a lot of money on ads that say the change is going to do the exact opposite of what it's going to do if you read the law, and people will vote it into effect. That's crazy to me.

I haven't researched it yet enough to know for sure, but from what I've heard, we have some guy with lots of bucks who bought a proposition onto the ballot with respect to three strikes because he wants to get his kid out of jail. If true, that's just nuts. I can't believe that's even possible, but it is.
posted by willnot at 5:14 PM on October 19, 2004

"People DIED fighting for the right to vote."

I suppose you could also say that people have DIED for the right to run for elective office. If people don't run for elective office, do you consider them disgusting?

I am not suggesting that people not vote. I'm suggesting that people make informed, intelligent decisions when voting. That is not accomplished by creating a poll lottery, or by suggesting people "Vote or Die."
posted by Doug at 5:16 PM on October 19, 2004

Why can't we link voting to Megabucks or something?

b/c you'd just be encouraging the propertarians. ;p

seriously, they should make Election Day a national holiday or move it to the weekend. or else make it compulsory, like Australia.

i used to think that not voting was one of the essential rights of the usa, but i don't have a problem with making people vote anymore. as long as we're allowed to mark "none of the above," "no opinion," or a write-in candidate, i don't see the problem with compulsory voting.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that millions of adult Americans don't vote?

of course, it's a bad thing b/c it separates the populace from the democratic government.

most of the people who vote are already uninformed. we all read about the X% of Republicans who believe Saddam Hussein was behind the WTC attacks. i'd be surprised if non-voters were much less informed. anyone have evidence either way? my guess is that they are less misinformed, if that makes sense. being uninformed isn't such a bad thing, if all the information you acquire is bogus.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2004

It just seems crazy to me that here in California you can get an initiative on the ballot that will modify the state's constitution. You can then spend a lot of money on ads that say the change is going to do the exact opposite of what it's going to do if you read the law, and people will vote it into effect. That's crazy to me.

yes, it is crazy, and that's why some of us want *everyone* to vote. i fully believe that 100% of the people voting will *always* make a better decision than 50%. yes, that's a faith-based decision. ;p
posted by mrgrimm at 5:35 PM on October 19, 2004

I was just listening to the local news on the local NPR station here in Seattle.

300, 000 new voters have registered this year in the state of Washington and the state expects an 84% turnout on Election Day--the highest since the Depression. Oregon was reporting a registration of over 100, 000 new voters and expected a similar turnout to Washington's.

Something really big is going on out here. I think this moaning about the state of democracy is a little premature.
posted by y2karl at 5:38 PM on October 19, 2004

what mrgrimm said--you and i have faith, i guess. : >

voting registrations are way up this year, but people are still saying that there'll be 40% of people eligible to vote not voting. I think if it's really supposed to be "of the people, by the people, for the people", the people should say so.

I also think either mandatory voting or some kind of bonus would serve to prevent the disgusting dirty tricks we see now, in Nevada and elsewhere.
posted by amberglow at 6:04 PM on October 19, 2004

Given that first past the post voting doesn't work well--hasn't it been shown that no voting system will work right in all circumstances? Is first past the post pessimal?
posted by kenko at 6:06 PM on October 19, 2004

maybe it is. I think proportional representation would make people feel more connected, given that they'd see tangible results from their votes.
posted by amberglow at 6:12 PM on October 19, 2004

I read the article and I thought YEAH! get more people to vote and than I read the recent posts and I thought NO! more dumb people voting and then I wondered if those Dumb People would be Repubs or Demos...or None of the Above...
posted by kozad at 6:16 PM on October 19, 2004

...but people are still saying that there'll be 40% of people eligible to vote not voting.

You did not read or chose to ignore what I just wrote:

Huge Wash. state voter turnout expected

Expect a massive turnout of Washington state voters on Election Day, the state's top election official said Tuesday.

Voters are expected to turn out in near-record numbers on Nov. 2, rivaling the 85 percent turnout during World War II, according to Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed.

Reed forecast an "amazing" 84 percent turnout, with voters drawn by hot races and ballot propositions. If that pans out, it would eclipse the 82 percent turnout in 1960, the year of the Kennedy-Nixon showdown, and would come close to the record set in 1944.

Something is going on.
posted by y2karl at 6:36 PM on October 19, 2004

That's wonderful about Washington, but registrations don't equal turnout, usually. And I'm talking about the whole country,'s not going to be 85% everywhere, especially in states that aren't swing. I haven't heard of a single other state where turnout is expected to be that high. Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, predicts that 58 percent to 60 percent of registered voters -- or 118 million to 120 million Americans -- will turn out. That would represent a significant increase from the 54 percent, or 106 million, who voted in 2000.
posted by amberglow at 6:45 PM on October 19, 2004

I think it should be as easy to vote as feasibly possible, and the more people who vote, the better, but voting still ought to be its own incentive. If a role in the democratic process isn't enough to motivate people to participate, then they shouldn't be coerced.

I might support this if one were entered into the lottery simply by registering to vote. Then people would still not cast a ballot if they had no interest in the election results, but everyone would still get off their butts and take the first step.
posted by Wingy at 8:51 PM on October 19, 2004

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