Thoughts on Voting

I have an essay at Law and Liberty today discussing the multiple controversies surrounding voting reforms proposed by both sides. I argue that voting reforms should not make voting harder for some groups than for others, nor should they create gratuitous obstacles for anyone. But those reforms should preserve voting as a fundamentally civic and therefore public act, at least in normal circumstances. That is not to question the secret ballot. It is to say that the civic hustle and bustle of voting can help induce contemplation of the common good in a way that simply putting a stamp on a ballot at home does not.

Two other points: First, it is not good for either party, or for the country, to change voting rules (or, I would argue, campaign finance rules) simply to make elections more competitive. That sees politics through the eyes of politicians rather than voters. Moreover, candidates should compete through persuasion. Relieving them of that responsibility by changing the rules to encourage more even elections simply masks underlying pathologies. Second, if conservatives argue that voting should require a reasonable degree of effort and deliberation (as I do), they should also entertain reforms that emphasis the “reasonable” along with the “effort.” Those include adequately staffed polling places, perhaps making Election Day a national holiday, and the like.

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