Should voting be an inherent, unquestionable right for all? Should a high school student who isn’t interested in politics be allowed to vote? Should someone who never graduated from high school be allowed to vote? Should a person of old age who hates the younger generation be allowed to vote? Should someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia be allowed to vote? Should someone who thinks the Earth is flat be allowed to vote? Should a racist be allowed to vote? Should a murderer or rapist be allowed to vote?
If you were to ask any average US citizen if they thought that the average US citizen should be allowed to vote, they would probably say that they should. Voting is what helps give citizens in any nation the power they need to defend themselves against corrupt governments and policies. All throughout US history people of all groups have fought hard to obtain and keep their right to vote.
I also agree that most people (except felons) should have the right to vote, but does that mean that they should? What happens in a democracy when most of the voters happen to be uninformed or ignorant during an election? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of having a system that prevents government corruption?
Let’s look to Socrates for a reasonable argument. Socrates disliked democracy and the power it gave to voters. He compared it to a voyage on a ship and asked who you would rather have in charge: Just anyone? Or people who have been educated in running the ship? Obviously, a skilled captain and crew would be the superior option. Socrates then points out that voting is very much the same, yet maybe even more important since the direction that a government is heading needs to be more carefully monitored by experts. (If you would like to see a very good video by The School of Life that discusses Socrates’ beliefs on democracy in detail, please click here or search for “Why Socrates Hated Democracy” on Youtube)
To elaborate on this idea, let’s compare voting to driving. Everyone has the right to drive, but that doesn’t mean that they should. Driving is a skill, and before you can get your license, you must demonstrate that you are capable and understand the rules. Additionally, any deviation after receiving your license, such as accidents or law-breaking activity, can result in having your license suspended or revoked.
Similarly, voting is a skill. It requires knowledge of the candidates and policies you are voting for. In the same way that someone with no driving education is a hazard behind the wheel, someone who arbitrarily votes is a hazard to the democratic system. Thus, in the same way that those who fail the driving test are not allowed to drive, those who fail to demonstrate a basic understanding of what or who they are voting for, as well as demonstrating good judgement and moral behavior, shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
Now, this doesn’t mean that someone who fails a “voting test” should be refused the right to vote forever. In the same way that you can retake the driving test later, a person should be allowed to demonstrate their ability to vote later as well. Everyone can educate and better themselves, if they are willing, so if someone really wants to be a part of the voting process, they can earn it and have an opportunity to prove themselves. In this way, those who are actually interested in politics and educated can vote, while those who aren’t interested in politics and are uninformed don’t vote, thus nurturing the potential of the democratic system.