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Sanity outbreak at Boston Globe

August 12, 2012

Et tu, Boston Globe!

Then fall statist plot?

Yet none of this shakes the popular belief that everyone should be pushed to participate in elections — that higher voter turnout is good for American democracy, and that anything that makes voting more likely should therefore be encouraged. Even if it means sending absentee ballots to the occasional cat. Or cajoling people to register when they sign up for food stamps, without even asking whether they’re eligible to vote.

Motor-voter is only part of the problem. Voters in most of the country no longer have to wait until Election Day to exercise their franchise. In several states this year polling places will be opening as early as September. Other states allow residents to request an absentee ballot without having to give a reason, while at least two states, Washington and Oregon, now conduct all their elections by mail. Some jurisdictions have even begun experimenting with voting over the Internet.

This isn’t rational public policy; it’s a fetish. We have gone overboard with this notion that voting must be as effortless and convenient as possible, and that even people with no interest in voting ought to be wheedled or hectored into voting anyway.

Higher voter turnout is no proof of civic health. Voting is only a means, not the end, of democratic self-government. Of course every citizen has the right to vote, including those who are ignorant, apathetic, or indifferent. But why should Americans who take their vote seriously want to increase electoral participation by those who don’t?

Registering to vote isn’t complicated. By and large, Americans who don’t vote don’t want to vote. In 2008 the Census Bureau found that by far the largest share of unregistered voters (46 percent) reported that they were “not interested in the election [or] not interested in politics.” Their nonparticipation is rational, and we should respect it. http://b.globe.com/MPVTTT

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