Mandatory Voter Education

February 13, 2023

One thing both Democrats and Republicans agreed about in their vastly different conventions: The American voter will not only decide but decide wisely. But does the electorate really know what it's talking about? Plenty of things are hurting American democracy -- gridlock, negative campaigning, special interests -- but one factor lies at the root of all the others, and nobody dares to discuss it. American voters, who are hiring the people who'll run a superpower democracy, are grossly ignorant.
5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters
Washington Post.....Rick Shenkman.....September 7, 2008
... Voting is a right best exercised by people who have taken time to learn about the issues.
Tony Snow

Just after John Edwards dropped out of the 2008 presidential race, I watched from the comfort of my living room as a television reporter asked a handful of people for their opinions. One young woman, perhaps in her early twenties, did not know the name John Edwards. After the reporter explained a couple of facts about Edwards, the woman said something like, “Oh, that’s John Edwards? He‘s my favorite.”


Huh? How can a person who does not know Edwards claim him as her favorite candidate? 


The answer is appearance and charisma. It’s an easy conclusion to draw when considering people become adamant about this candidate or that candidate as the best but are unable to cite a single issue the candidate does or does not support.


I will go to my urn believing appearance, charisma, biased media reports, celebrity endorsements, the influence of liberal college professors, along with peer and family influences put too many presidential candidates in the Oval Office. It is my subjective opinion that four Democrats and one Republican to occupy the White House since 1960 were elected based largely - not completely but largely - on appearance and charisma. To me, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama possessed both attributes. I will not say the same about Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.


Our problem: do not know and do not care

Readers of Rick Shenkman's September 7, 2008 Washington Post article 5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters - an article substantiated with poll data - will understand perhaps a little better why today’s politicians are like yesterday’s politicians. Briefly stated, the political environment hasn’t changed during the years because too many voters do not know what’s going on in the world around them and do not care enough to learn.


Do not know and do not care! How true. What's on the minds of many after taking care of work and family responsibilities? For many, it’s relaxing with sports and entertainment, worry about the next day followed with a few hours of sleep before greeting the next day.


Further, the subject of another writer's article gives the "do not-know-do not-care" notion credibility:


A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that so-called “low-information voters” — those who watch a lot of TV but who aren’t up-to-date on policy issues — are most likely vote for a candidate based on looks alone.

The solution: Education

Here’s my suggestion for educating voters: Require all first-time voters of any age to take, and pass, a 48 hour course focusing on key aspects of our government, completely at tax payer’s expense, before voting in national elections. Forty-eight hours comes close to equaling the time of a 3-hour college semester course.

Once completed, we should permit the student’s hours to transfer to an accredited college or university. This approach will not guarantee every voter is knowledgeable about the candidates and the issues but it will help. For one thing, imagine the stigma attached to failing such a test.

I can hear the whiners. Likely, many who choose not to go through the process will say their rights have been violated. Perhaps so but maybe not. There are many online writings addressing the issue of voting rights but none of my research addresses required education regarding voting.

Whatever, we need to make necessary changes to facilitate uneducated voters becoming educated voters.

Still, there will be whiners. Some will say they do not have time to study. Nonsense! They have the same amount of time during the day as the rest of us. They choose, as we all choose, how to use their time.

I bet you can guess who will be the biggest whining group of all if voters become educated. Pretty boy and pretty girl politicians, of course, when the day comes good looks and charisma alone will not cut it.