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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 11/7/2000

So you think you're ready to vote, eh?

Because of the closeness of this year's presidential race, experts are predicting that today's voter turnout is likely to be much higher than usual. Not surprisingly, commentators, editorial writers, and other deep thinkers are rejoicing at this news.

In a normal election, they say, millions of Americans dishonor the memory of Daniel Boone, Mel Gibson, Frank Gifford, and the rest of our founding fathers by failing to exercise their constitutional right to go to the polls and cast a ballot.

This time around, though, we're likely to have a big turnout, and that's wonderful, they say. The more the merrier.

I'm not so sure about that. Why? Because many of those who are going to the polls today to cast their ballots have no idea what or whom they're voting for. But based on what somebody told them, or what some commercial said, or who had the best one-liners with Jay Leno, they're going to go right ahead and pull the lever with a steely conviction that belies their utter bewilderment.

Personally, I think too many people vote. We might be better off if a lot of them just stayed home and watched Jenny Jones reruns on the Lobotomy Channel.

Think about it. We don't let people drive without a license, do we? And we don't let people perform brain surgery without a medical degree. We don't even let people cut hair without being certified by a state board (although I suppose a brain surgeon could probably take a little off the top on his way in and nobody would complain).

Now think about a voter. What are the requirements?

1. Remember to wake up every morning until your 18th birthday.

2. Don't be convicted of a felony. Hey, no sweat about all those misdemeanors, though.

3. Have an IQ higher than a big ball of Play-Doh.

Actually, I was kidding about No. 3. That's not really a requirement.

I should point out that I certainly don't intend to insult those people who actually enter a polling place on election day with a very solid idea of what they're doing. Plenty of them do. But how can we distinguish them from the others? Looks aren't everything, you know. I've seen some very distinguished-looking people who would be severely outgunned in a battle of wits against Homer Simpson.

But there's an easy answer. Let's just make all would-be voters take a test. Those who pass get to vote. Those who flunk are barred from the voting booth, but they'd be welcome to retake the test before the next election to see if maybe they've developed any functioning brain cells by then.

What kind of questions should be on the test? Well, maybe some could be general democracy questions, while others could be specific to one election. Some sample questions:

  • When an election is over, how can you tell who won?

  • How long can an undecided voter straddle the fence before it starts to get really uncomfortable?

  • Does the Secretary of State have to make coffee for the governor?

  • Who would win in a steel-cage death match between Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan?

  • Is “fuzzy math” a subject that's taught at the Electoral College?

    You know, the more I think about this whole thing, the better I like the idea of a qualifying test for voters. It might really go a long way toward screening out those who shouldn't be allowed to cast a vote.

    And if the idea ever caught on, who knows? Maybe we could look into the possibility of coming up with a similar test for people who want to have children.

    Mike Kelly is a Blade columnist. E-mail him at mikekelly@theblade.com.



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