voters are idiots

Alright, I can’t claim authorship of that title. I stole it from Joel Stein’s article “And the Winner is…” in the Dec 22 issue of Time. And I’ll also admit that I pulled it out of context. But I do believe it.

In the article, Stein discusses the senate vote recount happening in Minnesota. But I’m writing about a completely different angle on this whole recount problem. And these are feelings I’ve had since the debacle in Florida during the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

Here’s the deal. Recounts themselves don’t need to be difficult. After all, counting is one of the basic skills we all learned on Seseme Street as a toddler. So why are these recounts so messy? I’ll tell you way. Because the people doing the counting are trying to figure out the intent of the voter, and that’s the wrong approach. It sure sounds good. It even sounds politically correct. But it’s wrong. It should not be left up to some official to figure out your intent. It should be up to you, the voter, to make your intent clear, by filling out the ballot properly. If you can’t figure out how to fill out a ballot, you shouldn’t be in the booth.

Ooooh. I can picture a few friends of mine right now saying, “Scott, you’re a Christian man, how can you be so insensitive? How can you say such a thing?”

Well, let me first be clear and make sure you read that correctly. I’ll say it again, “If you can’t figure out how to fill out a ballot, you shouldn’t be in the booth.”

Let’s just be real about this. We first need to make sure our voting process is simple. One thing I’ll never understand is why we have so many different voting methods in this country. Punch cards, fill in the circle, draw a black line, electronic, levers, etc. We have a lot of experience voting, we should look at the results, choose the most reliable method and use it nationwide. And of course we can offer official help for the elderly, absentee ballots, etc. But everyone should be under the same rules. And if I move to a new municipality, I shouldn’t have to learn a new way to vote.

But regardless of what method we use, we have to expect our fellow citizens to know how to vote. It’s your responsibility to know how to vote in your municipality. And if you don’t do it right, your vote should not count. If the instruction is to fill in an oval, and you complete your ballot like those shown in the image (real ballots from the Minnesota senate race), your entire ballot should be thrown away. It’s simple folks. Fill in the oval. Don’t put an ‘x’ or a check. Don’t mark two candidates. Just follow the instructions.

If you don’t know how to drive a car, then you can’t get a license. It doesn’t matter why you don’t know how, all that matters is that you don’t and that it’s your responsibility. If you fail your drivers test and your state does not give you a license, it’s not because the state is being insenstive. It’s because you don’t know how to drive. Period.

Voting is just as important, if not more. We should hold ourselves to a high standard. Learn how to vote, and do it right. Then counting ballots will be as easy as it is on Seseme Street.