Should there be more restrictions on who can vote?

Ever since the idea of a representative or democratic government has existed, so has the question ‘Who can vote?’ In Athens, only male citizens who owned property could vote in elections and on issues, a stark contrast to most western countries where as long as you’re a legal adult and not a convicted felon you can vote. However, this is not always a good thing. The uninformed and those who live off government benefits often have an important impact on elections.
In the United States, the requirements to vote are that the voter is to be over the age of 18, not a convicted felon, and in some states to have a voter ID. It wasn’t always like this. When the republic was formed, only white men over the age of 21 who owned property could vote. In one of the Federalist Papers [1] , James Madison described democracies in which most people could vote as “turbulent” and “short lived.” However, as time went on, the requirement to own property was dropped and with the passage of the 15th Amendment, men from all races became eligible to vote. Then the progressive era came. Senators, whom before were chosen by their state governments, now had to run in gubernatorial elections after the 17th Amendment was passed. Women gained the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was passed. At this point in time, almost all law abiding adults could vote. The last major change concerning who could or couldn’t vote came with the 23rd, 24th, and 26th Amendments which gave citizens in the capital the right to vote, banned the poll tax, and lowered the voting age to 18, respectfully. This is where America is currently.
One of the most, if not the most, important things that elected officials do is spend taxpayer dollars on various projects ranging from the military to “$3,500 spent on 0 gravity chairs [for a government gym].” Money also goes to those on welfare and other government assistance programs. Many people on welfare do not pay taxes, but have the same say in their government as someone working 60 hours a week who pays a third of their income to Washington. Noting this, Iowa representative Steve King observed, “There was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was because [the Founding Fathers] [2] wanted the people who voted—that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending—to have some skin in the game. Now we have data out there that shows that 47% of American households don’t pay taxes … But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.” [3] Mitt Romney also stated something similar in 2012 about the number of American households that receive some form of government assistance vote for more. The suggested solution from certain radical members inside the Tea Party was to pass an amendment requiring that only income taxpayers be allowed to vote. There was, of course, strong opposition to that as it could alienate those who are in college and don’t have time for a job, the retired elderly who no longer have a job and live off savings, pensions, and stocks, as well as the poor who earn so little they are not required to pay a tax. Partisan politics also come into play here, as this is what the 2012 election would have looked like if only taxpayers voted.


CNN writer LZ Granderson opined that voters should be able to pass a ‘political IQ test’ in order to vote, as a poll in 2011 showed that 30% of Americans were ignorant about how much military spending and other things took up the budget [5] . A political IQ test would be similar to the naturalization test for legal immigrants. However some people could compare it to the literacy test that was in place in the South during the latter 19th century to keep blacks from voting. A counterargument to any of these restrictions is that elected politicians pass laws that everyone, taxpayer or not, genius or not, are required to follow. But this is only partially true. Many government agencies like the ATF, EPA, and CDC most of whose members are unelected pass regulations that must be followed [4].
Is the idea of an additional requirement in order to vote a bad one? Well if you look at the current election and how the American people voted in their primaries, it isn’t that bad of an idea. People who don’t know the difference between the senate and house, income tax and sales tax, and think that their welfare check should be doubled even though they are not looking for a job should not be allowed to vote. Lies can swing elections and many a cunning politician have made use of the uninformed electorate to get in office. A basic IQ requirement could stop much of that. My idea is that voters should either pay an income tax or be able to pass a political IQ test. If that were the case America could be better off then it is now.

[1] Federalist papers No. 10 and No. 51
[2] CDC oversight report

[3] The Atlantic – Should the poor be allowed to vote?

[5] CNN – Should ignorant people vote?


This guest article was written by @jeeveey. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent the writers or the blog as a whole. Thank you.

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