By Graham Glover –
Freedom isn’t free. And your right to vote shouldn’t be either.
I know this is a giving season. We are in the midst of celebrating the greatest gift ever given in the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord.
But I write primarily about politics and not theology. This column is about the polis, not the Church.
The gift of forgiveness and eternal life is and always will be free. Of this we are certain. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
But our American citizenship is not free. At least it shouldn’t be. A great many of us have come to take our citizenship for granted. While millions around the globe struggle for the cause of liberty, our citizens treat the ability to elect representatives to various offices and at times vote on public policy as an afterthought (say nothing of those who never participate in the voting process!). Several factors contribute to this apathy, but I think our nation is spoiled. We have forgotten the enormous sacrifices made by our founding fathers and I think it’s time we start earning our ability to participate in the democratic process. It’s time to earn our right to vote. You want a voice in the democratic process, then step up and meet some (or all) of the following requirements. I’m sold on the first two and offer the remaining three for debate.
1) Citizenship is a must. This should go without saying. And your ability to prove this citizenship is critical. Voter ID laws are not discriminatory or racist; they are simply a means to prove you are who you claim to be. I want all citizens to participate. I don’t care how long you’ve been an American or whether you got here legally or not. If you are now a citizen, you are eligible to vote. But a caveat here: I want all voters to prove some general knowledge of American civics. Our immigrants know this process well. They have to take a test to become an American. Why not make all those who want to vote take the same test? Seems fair and logical, doesn’t it?
2) I’ve written before about mandatory military service. What about mandatory civil service to earn your right to vote? Military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, etc. – some type of compulsory civil service prior to getting your voter registration card? You give 2 years of your life to the nation that grants your freedom – you gain the ability to vote for the rest of your life…but not until you serve.
3) Should language be a requirement? In other words, should a base mastery of the English language be required to vote? I’ve seen some reports that over 250 counties in the United States offer ballots in languages other than English. I know, English is not “officially” our national language, but should all ballots remain only in English? Does this help or dissuade a distinctly American identity?
4) What about a poll tax? Since 1966, the poll tax has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. I’m not suggesting an excessive fee here. Perhaps $5-10 to vote? My wife told me a poll tax was absurd and would only punish those who financially struggle. I asked if one should pay to play? That argument didn’t get me too far with my bride…Maybe she’s right (she usually is).
5) So long as one has to be 21 to buy alcohol (a ridiculous law itself), why don’t we raise the voting age to 21? Behavioral studies suggest our children are not emotionally or psychologically becoming adults until their mid-twenties, so on some level this might make sense.
I don’t know what should be required to vote, beyond what the law already demands. But I am convinced that we Americans are given the luxury to vote with too few strings attached. It’s time we earn this privilege. It’s time to prove our worth. Our citizenry and democratic process demand as much.