By Adam Odolil
Voting is an integral part of our democracy, and yet it appears to me that simply being a citizen of the United States is not a sufficient condition for being able to vote.
One key component of casting your vote is being informed. If citizens are informed about their choice of candidates, then they can make an appropriate decision at the polling booth. Without an educated citizenry, however, we run the risk of ruining our democracy. As President John F. Kennedy once said, “the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
Voter ignorance can mean that voters run the risk of voting for a candidate based on an incomplete picture of their platform. A possible solution to this problem is one proposed by Joseph Brennan, a philosophy professor at Georgetown University. He suggests that an exam be created that tests citizens’ political knowledge (500 randomly selected citizens would make up the questions on the test). Those who pass the test would have a vote that is weighted more heavily than those who do not pass the test. In this way, everyone is able to vote, but those who are more educated in politics have a greater say.
A refutation of this proposal comes in this or a similar form: Giving certain people more of a voice in a democracy is wrong. Opponents of my position would have you believe that this weighting of votes goes against the very idea of democracy. My response is that specialization is inherent in every society, and that it is necessary for progress.
To treat a wound, one would consult a medical professional. To want to seek a random stranger for treatment would be considered absurd; fairness is secondary to an effective treatment plan. In an analogous fashion, voting is an integral part of the body of democracy. To give this sacred right to any and all passersby is ridiculous. By allowing those with the political expertise to steer the course of democracy, we mitigate the risk of infection.
Additionally, the ability to specialize in politics is not a difficult one. While medical school takes years of education, citizens need not devote their entire livelihoods to becoming proficient in politics. A citizen who is not deemed to be politically apt (but wants to vote) one year will certainly be more inspired to improve his or her political vocabulary by the time the next election cycle comes around. Indeed, an emphasis on political literacy will likely lead to citizens wanting to learn more about politics, as this enables them to have a greater say in their community.
Adam Odolil is a student in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University.