Paul R. Hollrah
Electoral Reform: The Multiple Vote
In a recent column I discussed the very real threat to the continued
existence of our republic that is posed by uninformed, misinformed, and
indifferent voters. The column drew a significant amount of comment...
most of it positive.
The most interesting response came from a reader who pointed to a 1953
novel titled, In the Wet, by British novelist Nevil Shute.
Although the basic plot is an interesting and engaging one... involving
the adventures of a half-aboriginal Australian pilot who is assigned to
fly the Queen of England... a quick search of the Internet tells us that
what readers remember most from the book is the concept of the "multiple
vote,” described therein as a necessary democratic reform.
Under the "multiple vote” concept, each person over a certain age was
enfranchised with one vote. However, individuals were able to increase
their franchise to as many as seven votes if they met certain criteria.
For example: additional votes could be acquired if the voter: a) had a
college degree or had served in the military, b) had raised two children
to the age of 14 without getting divorced, c) had earned a living by
working overseas for at least two years, d) had been an official of a
Christian church, or e) had a high level of earned income. A seventh
vote could be earned, at the Queen’s sole discretion, for distinguished
service to the nation or for acts of extraordinary heroism.
The concept of the multiple vote did not originate with Shute. According
to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, "Multiple votes have been known
in history. Until the late 1940’s, the graduates of
University sent representatives to Parliament. The graduates
University of Ireland and of
are still represented in the upper house of
Another reader reminded me that there was once a great nation, Sparta,
that took the principles outlined in my column to heart. In order to be
a candidate for public office in Sparta, an individual had to have the
▪ He had to be at least 60 years of age.
▪ He had to be able to contribute food and sustenance to his
constituency, i.e. he had to be a taxpayer.
▪ He had to have dedicated his entire life to service to his country. In
Sparta, that meant serving in the military for 41 years.
▪ He had to abide by the Rule of Law... whether or not he agreed with
These were the very durable requirements for public office in Sparta,
which dominated Greece for almost 600 years.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the Nevil Shute model and the
Sparta model, both of which were designed to give increased voting power
to those who contributed most to the society, is the Lani Guinere model.
Many readers will remember
1993 nominee for Assistant
and head of the
Division of the Department of Justice.
As the first tenured black female professor at Harvard Law School,
Guinere championed a voting reform proposal called "cumulative voting,”
a concept most often used in local elections where the goal is
to give greater voting power to minorities and to those at the lower end
of the economic ladder.
In some instances of cumulative voting, such as an election in which
five seats are to be filled and the ballot contains the names of ten
candidates, each voter is given five votes. The voter is then free to
distribute his/her five votes equally among the five preferred
candidates, or to give all five votes to a single candidate. In other
venues, voters simply check off the preferred candidates and his/her
allotted votes are then distributed equally among those candidates.
This may be a perfectly acceptable system in local elections, such as
school board and city council elections. However, when the media
disclosed Guinere’s support for the cumulative voting system and voters
began to think in terms of applying the cumulative voting concept to
other elections, such as congressional elections, the chances for her
Senate confirmation began to dim. Clinton eventually withdrew her
As a first principle, a multiple vote system in 21st century America
should be designed to favor those who have put forth the greatest effort
to be economically self-sufficient, and those who contribute most to
society. In other words, those who have demonstrated that they
understand the importance of making good choices in their lives would be
rewarded. Just as a suggestion, a new American voting system might
confer additional votes to all those of voting age, as follows:
▪ One additional vote for those with a college degree and/or active duty
▪ One additional vote for those with twenty years or more of
demonstrated voluntary civilian service to church, community, state, or
▪ One additional vote for individuals who have raised at least one child
to age sixteen without being divorced.
▪ One additional vote for those without a felony criminal record.
▪ One additional vote for those who own their principal place of
residence, mortgage free.
And lest liberals cry "foul” and begin to gather all of their victimized
minorities under their protective wings, it should be noted that the
opportunity to accumulate six votes would be open to all and closed to
none. Those who have achieved and lived the American Dream, those who
have made good choices in their lives and who have served their
communities and their nation without resorting to criminal activity,
would be given a well-deserved advantage at the polls.
Can it ever happen? Probably not... at least not so long as Democrats
control the White House and/or majorities in at least one house of
Congress. It is precisely the under-educated, the uninformed, and the
indifferent voters, and those who can be convinced that they are in some
way "victims” of all the rest of us, who are essential to Democratic
success at the polls.
If we can’t get Democrats to agree to the notion that voters should be
required to dip a finger into a vial of indelible ink after voting, to
make sure they don’t vote more than once, let alone show the same photo
ID they’re required to show when they make a $10 purchase at the local
Wal-Mart, the chance that they would agree to a system of multiple votes
is extremely remote.
So if you
want to know the politics of friends or relatives who say they never
discuss politics or religion, there’s an easy way to find out. Just run
this idea up the flag pole. If they salute it, they’re Republicans; if
they try to shoot it down, they’re Democrats.