Monday, February 05, 2007

The Left Coast - Part Deux

Proving once again that the California Assembly must not have anything really important to do, Assemblyman Joe Coto (D-San Jose) has proposed a bill that would mandate high school students to register to vote before a diploma will be awarded. That’s right, every high school senior will have to be registered to vote in order to graduate. There is so much wrong with this idea I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with some statistics.

According the California Secretary of State, of the approximately 22.6 million Californians eligible to vote, about 70 percent or 15.8 million were registered as of the November 2006 election. Of those registered, 8.9 million - only 56.2 percent - voted. As a total of all eligible voters, the percentage is a dismal 39.3 percent. Although making kids register to vote might increase voter turnout, it certainly does not guarantee it.

I don’t think I want everyone to vote just because they’re supposed to, compelled to or coerced to. I want them to vote because they want to. These are the people who are paying at least some attention to what’s going on. Sure, many will vote a straight ticket or be persuaded by negative campaign advertising, but even those who vote by picking up on the abundance of cues available, studies show that they are by and large voting their conscience. In other words, having only cursory knowledge of the issues and the candidates is enough to cast an informed ballot.

However, there are those who vote with no idea what they are voting for. It could be the top slot on a ballot - or the bottom. I’d rather not have the electoral process randomized by the uninformed. "Getting out the vote" is misleading - it’s calling us to vote for the sake of voting. But our vote means so much more. I’d rather see informational campaigns that motivate people to inform themselves - and then vote if so compelled by a sense of civic responsibility. How does this bill do that? “Be a good citizen - go register to vote. Oh, and if you don’t, you don’t graduate.” What kind of message is that?

Voting is a right. It’s a responsibility. It’s not a requirement and registering to vote shouldn’t be either. It’s proposals like this that leave me with the feeling of “big brother” breathing down my neck. Surely the right to vote includes the right not to. What’s next? The end of the secret ballot to be sure we all voted. Fines or imprisonment for not being civic minded enough? Who will be the arbiter? Here’s the irony: These idiotic laws are being enacted partly due to a disinterested constituency. How many more before that same constituency ceases to be disinterested?


Anonymous said...

Pardon me for being cynical but couldn't this bill just be a ploy to stop the poorer classes from voting. Start by forcing students to register to vote in order to graduate, then make it that you have to graduate before you can register to vote. :D

Here via Michele's

Thumper said...

Hmm. I was 17 when I graduated. My sn graduated halfway between his junior year. Would this mean that kids won't get their diplomas until they're 18? Waiting would have really sucked, ya know?

It doesn't sound remotely feasible...

Unknown said...

First of all, Mike, your last sentence makes a very important and terrific point: namely, those of us who ARE interested in what's going on in the political arena and who DO vote may just start to lose faith in the system altogether if we find that our hard earned money is being spent on these types of bills.

To have to register to vote is actually, I think, unconstitutional, mainly because just as it is our RIGHT to vote, it is not our duty. It is our 'duty', they say, as American citizens, to vote; however, it is not--in the truest sense of the word--our 'duty', i.e. 'obligation' to vote.

I agree with you 100% that I would rather have the 39% of the people who vote be people who are by nature interested in the voting process, rather than have 100% percent of the population voting, with only 39% actually doing the research (and using their intellect to guide their vote) it takes to cast an educated vote. Does that make sense to you?

Great post. I can't wait to start reading your work in national/international magazines! You have a definite voice and strong opinion backed by intelligence and logic. Keep going, buddy!

Belizegial said...

Hey Mike,

Not that I don't see the logic in your thought process on this topic, but I am of the opinion that the majority young voters everywhere are, by and large, apathetic and need something to get them going on the path to voter responsibility.

True, most of us do graduate at 17 years so there may be flaws in the process. However, the overall aim is commendable in getting our young minds into gear and on the path of responsible citizenship.


The Zombieslayer said...

Agreed. While in theory, I understand where she's coming from, it is coercion (I hope I spelled that word right). I like how in the Czech Republic, candidates bribed people to vote for them by giving out free beer. That's more an incentive. ;)

Funny how so many whacked out ideas come from our state. And Californians wonder why everyone else thinks we're whacked.

awareness said...

It's like forcing a kid to eat brussel sprouts. Not gonna happen.

Great post!!!

Anonymous said...

that is over the top. it is infringing on our personal liberties and the ability to chose. registering to vote is a right, not a requirment. as you said.

besides that, about half the students are too immature to even understand the real issues, or too busy partying. that better get shot down

Snaggle Tooth said...

Let's hope the Governator has enough brain not to pass a law taking away liberty...

BTW, I was 17 when I graduated HS-

Shephard said...

I'd have to agree... voting is a right. There has to be a better way of encouraging votes.
Then again, we have The Governator, so whether or not they voted may not have helped us much.


Anonymous said...

I read this post the other day but as a born lurker went away without saying anything. I totally agree with you.
1. I hate anything that tells me I have to do anything. (it's the surest way to get me to not do something- immature, yes I know)
2. I was raised to be aware of politics & what is going on around me & have raised my kids the same way. (as a matter of fact, my 17 year old is actually excited that she's going to be 18 in 2008 & elligible to vote for president the year she turns 18!)
3. I have friends who have said to me they wouldn't vote for someone because they were ugly (this was some years ago & in reference to John Kerry who was just a jr. Senator in MA back then) People who are voting on that sort of basis shouldn't be voting. (imo)
Here from Micheles tonight.

mckay said...

you know how i feel about voting. it's a celebration of democracy. to be ordered to do it will only breed resentment and conflict - as your first commenter alluded.