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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Leib and James to help fill your Sunday

Ethan's busy ushering the groom today (congrats Julie and Eddan), so let me take a second to plug Ethan's provocative piece in today's Washington Post Outlook section, entitled Why Not Dial-in Democracy, Too? Here's the opener:

The people have spoken: Taylor Hicks is our newest democratically elected American Idol. Americans cast 63.4 million votes in last week's election -- nearly as many as were cast in the 2002 congressional elections, and more votes than George W. Bush got in 2004. Judging from the level of participation it inspires, "American Idol" isn't just a wildly successful television program -- it's also a successful democracy.  It's not a perfect democracy, of course. When Chris Daughtry was eliminated despite his talent and popularity -- and the heroic pleas on his behalf from the grass-roots "Chrisaders" at http://www.DaughtryGang.com -- many learned the hard way that participatory democracy can produce results that seem terribly unfair, or that give rise to suspicions of rigging.  But the show still inspires more water-cooler conversation than this year's hotly contested House races in Colorado or Connecticut. Moreover, 35 percent of the show's voters believe that casting a vote for a contestant on this juggernaut of a television program counts "more than or as much as" voting in a presidential election, according to a recent survey.

Also worth checking out on this Lazy Sunday is this funny essay by Sarita James, a delightful former student of mine.  The essay appears in the Modern Love column today and it's about the difficulty of cabining parental involvement in spousal selection. 

Posted by Administrators on May 28, 2006 at 10:56 AM in Law and Politics | Permalink


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I'm not sure that I can get on board with the argument that voting should be made "easier" (I enquote that because it's not entirely clear that it's "difficult" to begin with). What is the problem it seeks to remedy? Low electoral participation? Is the problem that underlies low participation really that the physical act of voting is too difficult? I'm not sure that's the problem, and if it is,I'm not sure how much we want to encourage that sort of person to punch a ballot. FWIW, I simply don't buy that people "don't vote": every elligible voter votes. If you don't show up on polling day, you vote for whoever wins.

I think that before we worry about upending the electoral mechanism which has worked pretty well with only minor modifications for some time now, we should ask a more fundamental question: who is being harmed most by low turnout? Are the people who don't bother to engage with the process screwing themselves, or are they screwing other people? If it's the former, then we're talking about leading someone else's horse to the water and encouraging it to drink. If it doesn't want to, is it our place - as a disinterested party - to hold its head under water?

Terrible cynic that I am, when people talk about the need to increase voter turnout, I'm afraid, I usually assume they mean "...because that mass of voters would vote for my candidate if they showed up." I just don't have a great deal of sympathy for the folks who are too lazy to participate. There are surely greater injustices in the voting system to spend time correcting.

Posted by: Simon | May 29, 2006 11:16:13 AM

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