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Should Voters ‘Phone It In’?

A column in today’s Washington Post asks: Should we pick presidents the way we pick the American Idol (via phone)? Personally, I should hope not.

My take: If a person can’t motivate themselves to go to the polls, then perhaps, they are not sufficiently dedicated to casting a ballot.

This, of course, is not even half as bad as the Arizona initiative which would award $1 million to randomly selected voters (in order to encourage voter “participation”). If you ask me, anyone who needs to be bribed to vote is, by definition, not worthy of casting a ballot.

Conversely, voters on American Idol actually pay to cast their vote. If nothing else, the people who cast a vote for the American Idol are interested in the outcome—and are willing to sacrifice something to help pick the winner (although I would certainly not encourage this sort of “poll tax” for voting in a political election, merely going to the polls constitutes a sufficient sacrifice of time and energy).

Call me “old fashioned,” but I’m all for having an Election Day where most Americans actually go to the polls.

The way to increasing voter participation isn’t to bribe voters with a chance of winning a million bucks, or to make it “easier” for the disaffected to cast a ballot (by phoning it in).

The answer is to find a way to make voters as invested in the outcome of a presidential election as they are in the outcome of American Idol.

Of course, that’s a tall order.

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Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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