an informed voter test ain’t no litterussy test

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SOUTH, states below the Mason-Dixon Line gave “literacy tests” to voters to determine their level of education. While these tests were theoretically for ALL voters, they were—need I say, needless to say?—given “disproportionately to black voters. Some of these tests were nigh on impossible to pass, regardless of one’s level of education!

For example, Louisiana’s 1964 test had these “questions”:

 Spell backwards, forwards.
 Print the word vote upside down, but in the correct order.
 Place a cross over the tenth letter in this line, a line under the first space in this sentence, and a circle around the last the in the second line of this sentence.

Lousy choices means sleazeballs get elected with 25% of the popular vote!

While these tests have carried the stench of the worst kind of racism for decades, theoretically, they suit me just fine. So, the recent Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder which overturned Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This section mandated federal oversight of changes in voting procedure in jurisdictions that have a history of using a “test or device” to impede enfranchisement.

That is, this section exists to keep racist jurisdictions from implementing so-called test to prevent legitimate, registered black and Hispanic voters from casting their ballots.

Well now, this Supreme Court decision (the usual 5-4 vote, with the five racists appointed by Reagan and the Bushes in the majority) can actually be put to GOOD use.

Devise an intelligence test based on current political and economic events that would indicate the voter’s awareness of the FACTS in the consensual reality in which he or she lives and votes.

And, again, needless to say, apply it across the spectrum to every single voter!


Once upon a time in the northeast

Jon May and I grew up together, our families living a few blocks from each other in the leave-it-to-beaver-like neighborhoods of Kingston, Pennsylvania, in the ’60s. Somehow, I became what others perceive as a “hippie” while Jon ended up a “cowboy.” The former (inaccurate) perception should be easily understood by a glance at my photo in this site’s sidebar.

The latter perception is made because Jon lives in Texas on a small ranch with his wife and a lot of horses. There are no cows but nonetheless we call such people cowboys, not horseboys.

Fortunately, the Lone Star State’s predilection for growing secession-minded righties was not the reason that Jon selected it as his home.

It was the horses.

He is one-half of HorseFlicks, a company that promotes horsemanship in a variety of ways, notably in making documentary style movies of people’s horses. Texas is a good place to run that kind of business.


Cartoon by Rob Rogers for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

None-of-the-Above as a choice

We occasionally discuss the better known politicians from Texas and how much of the rest of the country is often baffled as to how they get elected. Recently he remarked:

“The problem is the best people to help run the [state] won’t run.  Only the sleaziest who can stomach the entire campaign / media / election process will run, so we are left with lousy choices, no matter what. Lousy choices means more voter apathy, so these sleazeballs get elected with 25% or less of the popular vote.

That’s not a majority.

The reason Perry was elected for fifteen years was that the Democrats would line up against him each election and the opposition vote was therefore fractured among several candidates. So he’d waltz back into office with 20% support, and then he acts like he’s invincible.

To cast a ballot, a citizen must pass a test written by the two parties.

To win an election, I think a candidate should have to have over 50% of the eligible voters to win, not those who still have the ambition to go out an vote, but 50% of all eligible voters.

And ‘None of the Above’ should be a legitimate choice; if NOTA wins, you start over with NEW candidates until someone gathers enough votes to beat out NOTA. Of course, I think conscription is still the best answer.”


Countering all that money

Around the same time I received the above from Jon, I also received an email from End Citizens United that contained a poll. Here are the email’s contents:

Obama just raised a bold idea to counter the influence of money in politics.

“President Obama just raised a bold idea to counter the influence of money in politics: Mandatory Voting. Last election, just 36.4% of Americans turned out to vote.

Because of the disastrous Citizens United decision, billionaires like the Kochs are free to spend unlimited amounts to deceive this small slice of the electorate to vote Republican.

Take our instant poll to tell us if you support or oppose President Obama’s idea to counter the influence of money in politics by make voting mandatory for American citizens?”

The poll consisted of one question: “Do you support President Obama’s idea of making voting mandatory for American citizens?”

The options were Yes, No, and Undecided.

I selected Yes.

There was a comment section, to which I added, “I have believed in mandatory voting since before I was old enough to vote for McGovern!”

That is true, but it is now my second choice among my political “beliefs.”


An informed voter test

My first choice is an ideal: universal electronic voting machines that begin each election with a quiz in the form of ten (10) true-or-false statements about the events upon which one is casting one’s vote.

Local representatives of the Democratic and the Rep*blican parties can each select five statements. (The two big boys can decide whether to include or exclude third parties through the questions they submit. Or accommodations can be made for independent parties with a certain membership or who gather a certain amount of signatures.)

I am not suggesting that citizens need a refresher course in politics or current events. The ten statements can be insultingly stupid, just as long as they are germane to the election. To avoid lengthy delays in voting, a time limit of a ten minutes can be set on the test.

Any number of other minor tweaking could be done to make this work. But if you don’t know what is happening in any given election, you do not get to vote in that election.

Lousy choices means more voter apathy, so these sleazeballs get elected with 25% or less of the popular vote.

So, my “belief” regarding President Obama’s statement above is that either everybody in every election is required to vote as a duty of citizenship, or only informed voters get to vote. Mandatory voting is usually referred to as compulsory voting and can be considered a form of egalitarian voting. It would seem to be the voting that we would expect the Democratic Party to back.

The informed voting could also be considered a form of elitist voting and would seem to be the voting that we would expect the Rep*blican Party to back.

Although my suggested true-or-false quiz can be considered an Elite Voter Test, for this essay I am referring to it as the Informed Voter Test.


Cartoon by Matt Davies for Newsday.

It ain’t no ‘literacy test’

Such a test is not to be confused with what were called literacy tests in some states prior to the Civil Rights era.

“A literacy test refers to state government practices of administering tests to prospective voters purportedly to test their literacy in order to vote.

In practice, these tests were intended to disenfranchise African-Americans. For other nations, literacy tests have been a matter of immigration policy.

Southern state legislatures employed literacy tests as part of the voter registration process starting in the late 19th century. Literacy tests, along with poll taxes and extra-legal intimidation, were used to deny suffrage to African-Americans.

The tests were usually administered orally by white local officials, who had complete discretion over who passed and who failed. Examples of questions asked of Blacks in Alabama included: naming all sixty-seven county judges in the state, naming the date on which Oklahoma was admitted to the Union, and declaring how many bubbles are in a bar of soap.” (Wikipedia)

If you don’t know what is happening in any given election, you do not get to vote in that election!

The Informed Voter Test that I believe in is based on the need for voters to be making their decision based on awareness and understanding of the issues—not on popularity or name recognition, party identification, incumbency, but especially on manipulation through demagoguery. 

“A demagogue is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness.

Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.” (Wikipedia)

“In popular usage, demagoguery simply means ‘effective rhetoric on behalf of a political agenda I dislike.’ Not only is that a useless definition, but, if anything, it increases the likelihood of people being persuaded by demagoguery. . . .

Demagoguery is a discourse that promises stability, certainty, and escape from the responsibilities of rhetoric through framing public policy in terms of the degree to which and means by which (not whether) the outgroup should be punished for the current problems of the ingroup.

Public debate largely concerns three stases: group identity (who is in the ingroup, what signifies outgroup membership, and how loyal rhetors are to the ingroup); need (usually framed in terms of how evil the outgroup is); what level of punishment to enact against the outgroup (restriction of rights to extermination).” (Trish Roberts-Miller)

The existence of demagoguery is the primary reason that the Grand Old Party would not support even the Elite Voter Test: as exit poll after exit poll has shown over the past twenty years, Americans who vote for Rep*blican candidates are often clueless as to the issues in the election in which they are voting.

This is almost universally true of those voters who rely exclusively on FoxNews for their “news.” Many of the ‘commentators’ that Fox uses or sources that they turn to can be considered demagogues of a sort.


Voter turnout is a problem

For this and other reasons (like the fact that the station presents editorial comment as news presentation), those people who rely on Fox often score less in current events test than people who watch no news or read no newspapers at all!

Failure to vote is concentrated among groups already experiencing one or more forms of deprivation.

So, as it is almost certain the Reps won’t support either movement and the Dems are unlikely to support the Elite Test, then we are left with the Mandatory Voter possibility, hence my support for such a piece of legislation.

There are many websites with the pros and cons of compulsory voting, and I agree with points on each side. The interested reader should go to his favorite browser and type in “compulsory voting” and do his own investigating.

I found this in an article titled “What We’ve Seen in Australia With Mandatory Voting” by Lisa Hill, a professor of politics at the University of Adelaide, Australia:

“America has a serious voter turnout problem, yet none of the attempted remedies have been able to solve it. The problem is not just that turnout is low but that it is also socially biased. Failure to vote is concentrated among groups already experiencing one or more forms of deprivation, namely, the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, indigenous peoples, the isolated, new citizens and the young.

This transfers greater voting power to the well-off and causes policies to be geared disproportionately to the interests of voters (politicians aren’t stupid: they know who their customers are). The legitimacy of American democracy is thereby undermined, assuming you agree that political inequality and unrepresentativeness are bad for democracy.”


FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken in the 1960s. It shows civil rights activists staging a protest on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. They face a little opposition from National Guardsmen.

“Testing the voters on the platforms of two parties does not violate the democratic principle that everyone has an equal right to vote. And the test would ensure that voters have at least minimal understanding of the agenda of two parties rather than blindly siding with one party.

To ensure political neutrality, the tests should be administered by nonpartisan organizations, and the various political parties can choose their own questions.” (Should Voters Be Tested?)





5 Replies to “an informed voter test ain’t no litterussy test”

  1. 1. I might add that I believe a large part of voter apathy is not that people aren’t interested in “the process” but rather a total lack of interest and support in the candidates. Who wants to vote for one of two candidates that have no appeal whatsoever? It’s vote for this clown, or vote for that clown- or vote for no one.

    I want neither to be honest. It’s been soooo long since I voted “for” a particular candidate, instead of voting “against” one candidate. I WANT someone I believe in to lead, someone I support, but the choices all come down to two undesirables, so I vote to try and keep one out of office, rather than cast a vote to put someone in office.

    Sad, I know.

    2. Many of you remember Ross Perot. He is an icon in Texas, where he has accomplished so much for the state and the people. When high school kids in athletics were failing in their academics to play sports, Ross successfully took on the issue and got passed “No Pass-No Play” legislation for the schools. Essentially, if your grades weren’t there, you didn’t play football or other sports—academics was more important than sports.

    “Heresy” many said, as football is a religion in Texas, but by damn, Ross got it done and students’ academics began to rise. Our high school students could now read and write when they graduated. Ross was no stranger to taking on serious issues, and he was incredible at kicking aside the bullshit and getting things done—and people in Texas knew about it.

    He would have made an excellent President because he was task oriented, driven, not owned by special interests (what a concept…) and wanted what’s best for the people and especially the country. How many other companies or politicians would lead a raid against the enemy to free his employees who were being held captive? They would still be rotting in jail if it was anyone else.

    So while Ross was a legend in Texas, I discovered through my business travels in other states that the media had painted him as a complete and utter whack-job. People could not believe (based on their media perception of him) that I was sane to consider him a viable candidate. And that’s one of the main problems we have, in that the first Rule of Media is “Don’t ever let facts get in the way of a good story.” So the media can rip you apart, whether it’s true or not, and then you are always playing defense.

    They will sift through your garbage, discover that you got to second base with a girl who was “almost” 17, and while working a Summer job, your cash register drawer was short 15 cents, not once, but twice. So there are very few candidates who can even stomach the process and ridiculous media grind.

    Who wants to subject themselves and their family to that? Only the usual bunch of clowns who are unashamed at whatever the media can dig up. When the media couldn’t get a choke hold on Ross Perot, they went after his family. I can’t blame Ross for putting an end to this disgusting ploy. When you wrestle with pigs in the mud, at some point you realize the pig enjoys it.

    3. Just look at the line-up of clowns pandering for votes: it’s the SAME cast of losers we saw on the stage last time, there are no fresh faces anywhere. Hey, the country didn’t want you then, why the Hell are you back again, like a plague of locusts?

    Did you think we forgot you held no appeal to us in the last election?

    But they don’t care, with enough money behind them, if they can be the last man or woman standing, they will get elected because that’s the only choices we have. Take it or leave it America.

    4. So for votes it’s a choice between “I don’t like you” or “I like you even less” or “Why bother to vote, I honestly don’t like either candidate” in which case the third choice becomes the feeling of the majority of the country, and people ARE voting by NOT voting. I understand walking into a voting booth and wanting to scream because there isn’t one person worth voting for, so I hold my nose and vote against the worst of the bunch by voting for someone who is only slightly less worse.

    There—I voted by God! I’ve done my civic duty by voting for someone I really don’t want to see in office and their only virtue was the fact that I liked the other candidate even less.

    So bozo the clown gets elected and then we have four more years of social media bashing and all the nasty Obama jokes can now be replaced with the name of our new Prince of Clowns.

    5. No wonder people won’t vote, it really doesn’t matter who gets in (more heresy) because they are all owned by special interests. Just watch: all the promises you hear about tax reform (I STILL want to know how our new Texas Governor Abbott earned $300,000 last year, paid $104 in taxes—and that’s not a typo—and got a $19,000 refund on top of that), securing the border, creating jobs, renewable power, improving education—all the collective bullshit politicians think will garner them a vote—won’t change a thing.

    None of it will get done, because the fact is, special interests run the country. Why would Governor Abbott want tax reform? Shit, he paid $104 in income tax on $300,000 of income. He will fight tooth and nail against tax reform, the kind you and I really need.

    But I don’t have the money to buy influence because it all went to the government. Governor Abbott has money to fight against tax reform because he only kicked in $104 to the government.

    Is this a great country or what????

    6. All the middle class jobs that were once the mainstay of our economy and provided stability for our middle class are now elsewhere, shipped to China and other countries. I picked up a greeting card the other day and flipped it over to see how much it was, and on the bottom it read “Printed in China.” This is how bad it’s gotten, we can now ship paper to China, have them print a greeting card with some toxic shit I can’t even imagine, ship the damn thing back here cheaper than we can print it in the US ourselves!

    And then they want $4.50 for this printed masterpiece, so someone is making a bloody fortune on this card, and no one in the US benefits from the process (except for Hallmark). So we have decimated the middle class, so they can’t afford to buy a candidate the way special interest can, so the middle class has no power or influence anymore, just the illusion that their voice matters.

    It doesn’t.

    7. About a week ago, the sleazeball Ted Cruz said for a $500,000 contribution for his breakfast (I feel like a pauper going to Denny’s for the Grand Slam now) he will grant them “access” to him. Yes, for half a million dollars you can bend Ted’s ear and have counsel with the King. He will sell you access !!!!

    And if you don’t have that kind of change lying around, you can still wipe the dog shit off his shoes—that’s the kind of access you can have—but it’s better than nothing right? Could we be any more blatant about selling America to the highest bidder?

    Ted ran one of the sleaziest campaigns in Texas history to get elected, but the media outside of Texas paints him as some kind of evangelical saint, who actually cares about the little person. Kind of like Ross Perot’s situation only in reverse. The media is glossing over what a sleazeball Ted Cruz really is, and I’m not sure why the truth is being covered up—more special interests at work here.

    People: RUN as fast as you can away from Cruz—he is dangerous! You didn’t see the kind of things he is capable of from his last campaign here in Texas.

    So not only do we have lousy candidates, everyone of them is owned by special interests. I honestly think conscription is an answer, because the process we have will not improve. It’s bad for the people and getting worse, but it won’t change because it’s all about special interests—they run Congress, they run the President, they have a stranglehold on everything.

    8. It’s not the same country I grew up in. Okay—back under my toasty rock.

    1. MAYJON

      I broke your piece up into eight sections to make it easier for me to respond. As this is your turn, I have kept my replies brief:

      1. I voted gleefully for George McGovern in 1972 and still consider it the best wasted vote I ever cast. I also thought very highly of Carter and, because of the “October Surprise,” we may never know the measure of them man. Except, of course, the many marvelous deeds of his post-Presidential career.

      2. I don’t know a lot about Perot except that whatever he is, he says is, he invariably supports the Rep*blican party.

      3. I dunno here: the Dems have Clinton, who could have won the nomination eight years ago if she hadn’t started campaigning like a Rep*blicam and alienating a lot of her supporters. (Like me.) They have Sanders and Warren, fresh faces both. What the GOP will throw up is unknown . . .

      4. But the problem is most votes don’t vote at all! Compulsory voting could change a lot of things in American politics. We don’t know until we try it.

      5. Of course it matters and of course it is different when one side is in control over the other. It is absolutely true that whoever is President has to toe certain American lines: that of the military-industrial complex, the CIA and its fingers all over the world, oil, Wall Street. Nothing we can do about that now. Had EVERYBODY voted wisely forty years ago these issues might not exist. We will never know.

      But there are many MANY things that are done by the Rep and Dem that differentiate one President from another. Here is a list of things that Obama has accomplished that benefit people like you and me. It is titled “A List of 291 Accomplishments by President Obama so far” and appears on the Please Cut The Crap website:

      I dare anyone to put such a list together for any Rep*blican president.

      6. Um, I believe you are discussing free-market capitalism/vulture capitalism or what you and I were taught was laissez faire capitalism when we were in high school. That ain’t politics but if it matters that form of winner-take-all-and-fuck-the-losers is a side of conservative-based economics . . .

      7. No argument from me here.

      8. No argument and I don’t think we are ever going to get anything like it back. Makes us sound “conservative,” nyet?

  2. Here are several of the first entries in the article “A List of 291 Accomplishments by President Obama so far” that I mentioned in my response to Jon May above:

    • Within his first week, he signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse.

    • On his first full day, he froze White House salaries.

    • He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems. To that end, he also signed the Democratic-sponsored Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, which attempted to put a stop to waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system.

    • Pushed through and signed the Democratic-sponsored American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package.” The bill passed, even though only three Republicans voted for it. In a major departure from the previous administration, he launched, a website that allows taxpayers to track spending from the Act.

    • The Bush-led Great Recession was costing the economy nearly 800,000 jobs per month by the time President Obama took office. But by the end of his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy by 3.5%.

    • Not only did he completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, he also leaned on the banks and others, and recovered virtually all of the bail-out money.

    All of these and 285 more can be found on the Please Cut The Crap website:

  3. 8. No argument and I don’t think we are ever going to get anything like it back. Makes us sound “conservative,” nyet?

    And since you mentioned it (and I know this is heresy so start gathering up the faggots for my bonfire (I hope readers know what a faggot really is and understand it is not a gay slur here….) but I don’t consider myself a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent, I’m not liberal, conservative or moderate. I’m a pedestrian who decides issues based on what the issue is, so on something I might be liberal, somethings conservative, sometimes I understand both positions, but I hate when people try to pigeon hole the public into one of those defining slots like Democratic liberal or Republican conservative, and that’s your brand you carry for life, you are defined by these terms. I’d like to believe that the public is more than a characterization, that they are free thinking and they can be conservative on some issues, liberal on others. Free thinking, being rational, understanding the pros and cons, the upside and downside, the impact and consequences of our decisions. (I know..too much free thinking going on here…)

    I remember when straight party ticket voting was the thing…as if one party had all the answers regardless of the character of the candidates running, you weren’t voting for a candidate, you were voting a political theology, can we be any more blind than that? I guess so, when people scurry to find a faction in our political society and hunker down with their respective title as R or D, L or C, and find some comfort in being branded and pigeon holed for the rest of their life. What ever happened to free thinking and choice on whatever the issue happens to be?

    I’ve just never found myself so blinded to reality that I fall into a particular category, time and time again. I’ve never found the need to align consistently with a party or philosophy, regardless of how I really feel on a subject.

    I’m not sure I understand people who do, it’s like mind control or something where someone proclaims they are a Republican conservative, no matter what the issue, by gawd, the party knows what is right for the country and everyone living in it, or someone is branded a Democratic liberal and that somehow is painted as a bad thing. Grow up people, you have a brain, everything is not black and white, there is a lot of gray area if you think about it; but this people branding, with no leeway for compromise, is what has brought this country and out political system to total, and unrepentant gridlock. Some people are proud to be branded and pigeon holed…I don’t understand why one would want to be, it seems to mean they have given up on free though and personal decisions. Are we that blind, subservient and compliant to a political ideology? I guess so.

    Ohhh, and munch on this… while everyone was lining up to be branded, the special interests poured in, and really control everything because politicians are too busy denigrating and vilifying any belief or position that isn’t theirs. It’s SICK.

    And now we have the Internet which by monitoring your computer has developed profiles on all of you which can and are, being sold to anyone who wants to know just who you are. If you dig deep enough you can find your Facebook and Google profiles which are created by what you and your computer are doing. There was a news story the other day on how your iPhone tracks your movements, knows where you go, where you stop, where you live, and that feature is buried deep into your iPhone settings. Why does the iPhone and carrier need to know where I go, who I see, where I eat, and where I live? What business is it of theirs, after all, I paid for the phone and pay for the service, but it seems I am paying to provide everything about my life to some faceless name somewhere for what purposes I can’t even imagine.

    The Book “1984” was not all that far off from 2015. It’s scary but for the 20-something morons who developed this capability and think this is cool to invade your computer, phone and privacy and draw conclusions on your genetic makeup and then sell it to the highest bidder…well, I hope in 50 years it bites you in the ass when you can’t evacuate your bowels without half the world knowing about it, and watching it on live TV. I won’t be here, so enjoy what you created.

    I know, I know…I’m a heretic (and a pedestrian).

    1. MAYJON

      Quick response: you are FAR more liberal than you seem to know, else you would never have been able to tolerate my presence let alone my friendship for forty years.

      I will have to take the time to address this lengthy piece as I did the first one above.



      PS: Hoping you are keeping copies of these comments before you send them. Like the previous one, this was in my SPAM folder and could have been easily jettisoned with the rest of the junk sight unseen . . .

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