Paul R. Hollrah
Real Electoral Reform
Jefferson once said, "Whenever people are well-informed they can be
trusted with their own government.” On another occasion he spoke even
more clearly; he said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it
expects what never was and never will be.”
The election of Barack Obama on November 4 illustrates precisely what
Jefferson had in mind. In a November 13-15 Zogby poll of 512 Obama
voters... 97.1% high school graduates and 55% college graduates... we
▪ 57.4% could not identify which party now controls Congress.
▪ 71.8% could not identify Joe Biden as the candidate who has engaged in
▪ 82.6% could not identify Barack Obama as the candidate who won his
first political primary by having all of his opponents removed from the
ballot on technicalities.
▪ 88.4% could not identify Obama as the candidate who said that his
environmental policies would bankrupt coal-burning electric utilities
and drive consumer power costs through the ceiling.
▪ 86.3% identified Sarah Palin as the candidate whose political party
spent $150,000 on campaign wardrobe.
▪ 93.8% identified Sarah Palin as the candidate with a pregnant teenage
▪ 86.9% identified Sarah Palin as the candidate who said that she could
see Russia from her home in Alaska (Actually, Palin did not say that.
That quote is from comedienne Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live).
Clearly, most Democratic voters get their political information from
Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, and Saturday Night Live,
unable to distinguish tasteless political humor from reality. Only 12 of
the 512 Obama voters answered at least eleven of the twelve multiple
choice questions correctly, while only 3 of those interviewed answered
all twelve correctly.
In a Wilson Research Strategies follow-up poll, the 12 Zogby questions
were duplicated and the results were essentially the same. When asked
where voters get most of the information on which they base their
political decisions, the Wilson Research poll yielded the following
▪ 64% of Fox News viewers answered the "congressional control” question
▪ 70% of those who watch Fox News voted for McCain-Palin.
▪ 61% of those who listen to talk radio voted for McCain-Palin
▪ 63% of those who watch CNN voted for Obama-Biden.
▪ 73% of those who watch MSNBC voted for Obama-Biden
▪ 64% of those who read national newspapers voted for Obama-Biden.
NEWS FLASH! All of those who didn’t know which party controlled
Congress, who didn’t know that Joe Biden was a serial plagiarist, who
didn’t know that Obama said he was going to bankrupt coal-burning power
plants and drive electricity costs through the ceiling, and who thought
that Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house in Alaska...
they all VOTE, and a significant majority of them vote Democratic.
What these poll results clearly show is that a substantial majority of
Americans do not take their citizenship responsibilities seriously
enough to be entrusted with full voting rights. If they were voting on
issues such as whether or not to declare Super Bowl Sunday a national
holiday, or whether or not to adopt the Dodo Bird as our national
symbol, what difference would it make?
But those are not the kind of issues they’re ultimately deciding. They
are deciding whether or not we can grow our economy by taxing the
investor class and giving the money to the parasite class; they’re
deciding whether or not we can keep our country safe by turning our
terrorist detention centers into Club Med-style vacation spas; they’re
deciding whether or not to protect our national sovereignty by
maintaining control of our borders; and they’re deciding whether or not
to give taxpayer subsidies to those who own no property and who choose
not to work, while imposing higher taxes on the assets of property
owners and on the income of those who earn a weekly paycheck. These are
the issues that the uninformed, the misinformed, and the indifferent are
So let’s take Thomas Jefferson at his word. Let’s declare it a core
principal of national policy that ignorance and freedom are totally
incompatible concepts and that the uninformed cannot be trusted to
govern themselves... let alone all the rest of us.
For the better part of a century, Democrats across the South
administered voter competency tests on Election Day... tests designed to
insure that no blacks or white Republicans could vote. Such competency
tests have been invalidated by the courts, but can we say that the
concept is totally without merit? In an essay titled "Democracy or
Republic First?” blogger Sultan Knish suggests that, "A truly relevant
system of elections understands that voting is a responsibility that
requires some minimum demonstration of competence.
"Just as driving a car requires being able to prove that you
understand the principles of the automobile, choosing the nation's
driver should require some understanding of how the system of government
works so that the voter demonstrates the ability to tell completely
hollow promises from workable proposals... A truly informed electorate
is what distinguishes a democratic republic from a bread and circuses
To insist that the right to vote is implicit, regardless of whether or
not the uninformed or misinformed voter has an adequate understanding of
the candidates and the issues, begs the question of what we as a nation
of free men, hoping to maintain our freedom, are all about.
Given the life or death nature of the issues of our time, we must do
everything in our power to insure the continued existence of our
In addition to criminalizing all manner of fraud, violence and
intimidation in the electoral process, we must take steps to insure that
those who vote have the best interests of our nation at heart. First, we
should insure that all those on the voting rolls have a vested interest
in the preservation of property. Those who hold title to no property
should not be allowed to select those who would tax property or the
proceeds of property for the benefit of others.
And finally, upon entering a voting booth, each voter should be required
to complete a list of ten multiple-choice questions, randomly selected,
the results of which, after being electronically scored, would determine
whether or not the voter’s ballot would be included in the final tally?
A radical suggestion? Perhaps. But if there is a superior argument to be
made on behalf of rule by those who not only comprise an ignorant and
uninformed majority, but whose primary civic interest may be rooted in
what government benefits they themselves may derive, I am prepared to
yield to that wisdom.
Sultan Knish concludes his essay by saying that, "in embracing the
mantra of unlimited democracy as good in and of itself, we have placed
real democracy in jeopardy” The time for real electoral reform has
arrived but only if we have the courage to seize the moment.