Educating the Voters
When operated as intended, as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, a democracy is a beautiful thing. An important privilege that is entailed by having a democratic government is having the privilege and power to vote. A question can be raised from this, however, which is should voters have a minimum amount of education before being allowed to vote. Throughout the early history of the United States, only wealthy white men had the privilege to vote, an error corrected by the 15th amendment in 1869. A voter’s test was created following the ratification of the amendment in the form of literacy tests that were designed not to better our country but rather disenfranchise African Americans. Putting aside intentional discrimination for a moment the question arises, is democracy actually for all the people? Is it prudent to start testing voters to make sure that all are sufficiently educated in political ideology, in how the government works, and even whom they are voting for? The idea of making politicians only have to appeal to educated voters may also cause them to work harder and be more truthful because those voters will be less likely to be deceived.
The idea of having a selected group of voters dates back to ancient Greece, which was the first democracy. These voters, however, were only white men. Voting means so much; today our government is dependent on it and our future is written by those we elect, so why shouldn’t the most educated of our population choose who is elected. For instance, driving a car requires an exam you take at age sixteen or older that all people must practice for or they will fail. This is because not only is your life on the line, but you can potentially be putting the lives of others at risk if you are not capable. Why should politics be any different? Selecting designated voters could, in turn, cause the government to run smoother. If the best and most deserving are elected, great strides in the wellness of our nation could occur. In addition, the pettiness and bickering along with the name calling and smear campaigns would most likely cease, as the goal of politicians would be to actually set forth real agendas and changes they plan to make. This would occur due to the candidate only having to appeal to a knowledgeable constituent that can hold them accountable.
However, the voter’s test would most likely never happen again. While both sides of this argument have very valid points favoring their cause, the simple fact is such a test is unconstitutional. Voting is a basic freedom that should be protected for all people. This exam would have to be standardized and a clear set of requirements would have to be determined as to what a tester would have to achieve before being given the right to vote. The idea of even being able to make a test that is not biased in any way, and is fair for all people to take seems impossible in the divided nation we live in today. Whoever is the creator of the exam in all reality would have the final say in who actually gets to vote. Those chosen to create this exam would have a lot of power that can easily be abused to favor a certain group of people. This fact alone goes against the basic values of democracy because not everyone’s voice is truly heard. Low-income communities, racial minorities, and areas where educational systems suffer would be the greatest groups affected by this test. Some people may simply not have access to education as educational systems in poor communities suffer greatly and may not have the means to teach about elections in addition to what they are already struggling to teach. Therefore, those students do not have an equal opportunity to pass a voter’s test and would be unable to vote as a result of their circumstances. Overall, the voter’s test goes against the foundation of our values and impedes on citizen’s rights regardless of how the test is created.
In a perfect world, any form of government would work without any obstacles or problems. All members of society would benefit and the civilization would prosper. Unfortunately, we do not and as seen throughout history it’s nearly impossible to unite an entire people for a common purpose. The idea of a voter’s test may sound great on paper, but it’s impossible to create an exam that would be perfectly fair for all of its testers. Instead of having a group of educated people be the voters, why not make it more of a concern to educate everyone?