Maybe everyone shouldn’t vote

A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary Feb. 9 inside a voting booth at a polling place in Manchester, N.H. Associated Press

In his New York Times column, Stones, Notre Dame professor Gary Gutting considers whether everyone should be urged to vote, considering, he says, that there is ample evidence that the majority does not rule.

Even when large majorities of people favor policy change in America, they generally do not get it, he writes of some still-inconclusive research. “If you’re one of the many who are convinced that our system is effectively an oligarchy, why play in an electoral game you think has been rigged?”

Why, indeed?

The game isn’t entirely rigged; those who win elections don’t have dictatorial powers, but they general follow the path they want as long as the voters — us — will tolerate it, and we have a high level of tolerance.

Is there a better way?

He rejetctd one idea: an “enfranchisement lottery”:

Such a lottery would restrict voting to a randomly chosen group of citizens who are provided unbiased in-depth information relevant to an election. We can think of this approach as a matter of modeling our voting on our jury system.

We would never accept deciding important and highly publicized trials by a vote of the general public. We think only people fully informed of the facts and relevant arguments put forward in a trial should make such important judgments. Shouldn’t we be at least as careful in deciding who should be president?

Notice that answering yes does not imply the elitist view that only a small minority of citizens are capable of making informed votes. The idea is not that voters are too stupid or biased to access the needed information; it’s just that they don’t have the time and resources to do so.

Ideally, we would provide everyone with the relevant knowledge, but that would be impractical, time-consuming and expensive.

Gutting suggests choosing a national jury of several thousand from the list of registered voters. It would meet a week or two before the election, sequester itself, and listen to presentation from and debates among the candidates and their policy makers.

“The result would be voters informed to a level most us can only hope to achieve,” he writes.

Would we get better candidates?

Related:
Dialing for Dollars (60 Minutes)