On Tuesday, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein asked: “Should the votes of the young count more than the votes of the old?”
He put forward what he called the “out-of-the-box policy idea for the day”:
America should implement weighted voting to make voting more objective and fair, and give the young more power, because the consequences of political decisions will affect them the longest. Weighted voting would restore power to twenty and thirty year olds, where it resided before the advent of medical science. With the aid of computers, it would be easy to give everyone a Voting Score, just like we all have a credit score.
If your response to this is that it’s crazy and offensive, that all American adults are equal and so is their vote, you might want to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Senate, where a Wyoming resident’s vote is worth almost 70 times as much as a Californian’s, or the electoral college, where the presidency could be won by a candidate who loses the popular vote 4:1.
All of which is to say, we already reweight voting in this country. But we do it to give residents from small states more power. Does that really make more sense than reweighting by age, education, race, income or some other demographic characteristic?
Before suggesting that Klein be given the spanking his father never gave him, remember – this idea did not originate with Klein. One could easily get that impression, since he once whined about Republicans starting the 112th Congress by reading that old and confusing document known as the Constitution of the United States.
The suggestion actually comes from an article at Ground Report by Paul Sterne, entitled End One Man / One Vote; Shift to Age-Weighted Voting.
Among the factors Sterne looks at are “Political Understanding” which he says changes as people age. One is reminded of the maxim that says if one is not a liberal by age 20 he/she has no heart, but if one is still a liberal by age 30 he/she has no brain.
Sterne also looks at the voting rate among the different ages and notes that as one ages one is more likely to vote. To make up for this, Sterne suggests making every vote by a 20-year-old equal to 20 votes by older citizens.
Finally, he looks at something called ‘Living With The Consequences.’
Older people often vote for policies that are short-sighted and cause long-term economic hardship — for example, oversized pensions and lavish medical entitlements that increase the national debt or wars that are fought by the young. They are more likely to support policies that are repressive and out of touch with social developments. This factor would adjust for The Consequences.
Under Sterne’s plan, a vote cast by a 20-year-old would count for 4.4 votes, one vote by a 30-year-old would equal 6.7 votes, while a vote by an 80-year-old would not count at all. As one gets older, one would find his vote worth less and less. If one survives to be 100 years of age his or her vote would count for -.5 votes.
But the most shocking part of Sterne’s article was this:
It is true that this scheme would take the right to vote away from 80 year-olds (kinda like taking away their driver’s license) and actually penalize candidates who get votes from 90 and 100 year olds. But then again haven’t these folks beaten the odds and outlived all their friends and they shouldn’t be voting anyway.
Clearly, Sterne is the one who deserves a trip to the woodshed, not Klein.
Perhaps Sterne would also like to see a society where people are “disposed of” once they reach 30 years of age. Maybe Sterne could find a use for the bodies of those disposed. Those ideas were the central themes of two classic Hollywood science-fiction movies; Logan’s Run and Soylent Green.
Worse yet, Sterne apparently fails to understand the concept of “equal protection under the law.” In Sterne’s perfect world, the victims of his scheme wouldn’t even be alive.
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