Voting here in America is considered by many a right and by some a privilege. At the beginning of our country, voting was only by the landowners and/or taxpayers who were white men. They were the ones who determined the course of the government. Voting was certainly a privilege that only some enjoyed. This however did allow those who were paying for government to control it.
There were a few exceptions as each state controlled their own voting rights. By 1860, the requirements to own property had been removed by all states and after the civil war, Nonwhite men were allowed to vote. This was the law of the land but not always followed by each state. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 allowed women to vote. Native Americans won the right in 1924. Many more loopholes were closed which prohibited some from voting with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The 26th Amendment to The Constitution allowed 18 year olds to vote in response to the Vietnam War and the ensuing cry that if you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.
That pretty much got us to where we are today and unfortunately, in many cases it hasn’t all worked out so well. Many of our voters are so ill informed about government and the issues that we get crazy results. Yet, all those groups that were given the right to vote supposedly went to school or took government classes to get their citizenship. However, we see street interviews where people can’t identify our Vice President or haven’t a clue about current issues.
There are at least two major problems; the recruitment of people to vote who didn’t have a good education and those who are voting only for a single issue or party. Our schools have failed us in many communities by simply warehousing students instead of insuring they get a good education and learn about government. These people are then registered to vote by special interest groups who then tell them how to vote. This usually happens in the poorest of neighborhoods where many are on some kind of public assistance. In many cases, it is easy to buy their vote with promises of more public assistance or just free stuff.
The second group is those who got the education but throw it away by not caring about anything but themselves. They are just riding the high life, many times fortified by drugs or alcohol. Alternatively, maybe they just drop out of the real world. Therefore, what should we do with all the people who really shouldn’t be voting, a good question with not many good answers. The courts, over the years, have removed most restrictions on voting rights and they are not covered in the original Constitution. They are supportably governed by the individual states which have been modified by some amendments to the Constitution and court rulings.
Since people who come to this country, and want to become citizens have to take a class and pass a test on the U.S. government, why shouldn’t we all have to pass a test in order to vote? Would that disenfranchise anyone who didn’t know anything about anything and didn’t care about anything but themselves? Yes, it might, but classes to vote could be offered just as citizenship classes are today and we could call them the same “Citizenship Classes”. Free, open to all but you must get up off you hind end and put a little time and effort into it. Some might say they used this in the South to kept blacks from voting and that was true but we would require all to pass a test to vote.
Consider it carefully as it would change government into a more responsive body. When people are informed it’s a lot harder to pull things over on them. People who care about our country would sign up take the class and then be controlling our country’ destiny; people who didn’t care would be left alone to follow their own road. It would require an Amendment to the Constitution and the setting up free classes, carefully structuring tests so they don’t discriminate but voting control would be returned to the informed instead of an uninformed wild bunch. It could require renewals periodically much like our driver’s license. Maybe it’s time to rethink some things at least It is some food for thought.
Mike Young is a retired water and power executive who resides in Mesquite. Graduated from the University of LaVerne he has taught communications skills and technical subjects throughout the Western Hemisphere. In addition to writing and editing technical manuals he has a book titled “Speaking for Effect”. He has received some of the highest awards and recognition from both professional and public organizations