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Polling tests: I actually like the idea

Of course, my thoughts bear no resemblance to the “literacy tests” that were used until recently to prevent blacks from voting. Just suppose….

A national committee — maybe from the Smithsonian — puts together a list of 25 questions and answers regarding federal office and government. A similar committee in each state draws up with a list of 25 questions and answers regarding state office and government, and each municipality, county or other local district would have a committee come up with another 25 questions and answers regarding local office and government. These questions would NOT be about candidates, issues or other topical materials, but on constitutions, city charters, the election process, and the like. The questions and their answers would be included in voter information pamphlets.

Before receiving a ballot, each voter would stand in front of testing kiosk, which will randomly select five questions from the national, state and local lists, mixed up in a random order. Response would be multiple choice from four possible answers, one correct and three not, also given in a random order. A voter would have to get the correct answer on at least 12 of the 15 questions before they could get a ballot (it would be open book, after all; no excuse for getting fewer.) You may take the test twice, with each test getting another random selection of questions. If you cannot pass this open book civics exam after two tries, you are too ignorant to be allowed to vote safely.

Areas that use touch-screen and similar voting technology (don't get me started), the ballot would come up only after a passing score. For mail-in ballots, a test scantron would be included with the ballot and must be filled in and passed before the ballot will be counted. Again, the test is open book with the answers in the voter information book.

Many voting districts make elections materials available in languages other than English, and this test would be no different. If you use a Spanish ballot, you can take the test in Spanish; if Korean, then Korean. This is NOT an English literacy test, but a test of basic civics.

ALL wanna-be voters would be asked the same group of questions, and there would be a clearly defined metric of defining passing and not passing, thus avoiding the potential for abuse.


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Gregory Gadow

Gregory Gadow