Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

March 26, 2014

Not voting shouldn't be a choice for Americans

When this November we elect the people to lead our country, maybe 40 percent or even fewer will go to vote. Is it too late to stop this disgrace?

To take a page from “Nudge,” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, we might try “nudging” people to vote. Here’s one way: a personal, guilt-inducing letter of invitation to everyone to vote, mailed by every secretary of state to every citizen, registered or not, for whom there is a driver’s license or state identification of any kind.

Some may groan: If increasing turnout is the goal, why not change the election date to Sunday? Why not mail a ballot to everyone? Indeed, why not have compulsory voting?

But apart from starting brawls, all those things require a change in the law. Nothing, not one thing, stops the secretary of state of Illinois, or Massachusetts, or California, from just sending out an innocent little letter inviting citizens to vote, and reminding them of their civic obligation to do so.

At the moment, polarization is driving our politics, and our divided government leads to gridlock, which frustrates voters and makes it all seem pointless. Naming and shaming people who don’t vote has the potential to change that.

You might say: “Bah, humbug. No letter of invitation will have any effect on me.” You probably don’t even care what your neighbors are doing.

But we don’t care about you. By your very reading of this op-ed article, you have already demonstrated a higher-than- average propensity to vote. The purpose here is to prey on people who don’t know what they ought to do.

This little epiphany came to me of late while traveling in a foreign country, where they always do things differently — and in particular, it happened on a trip in September to Berlin, just before the national elections. A friend there handed me such a letter of invitation — to be sure, more stiffly Teutonic than feel-good American in style. Yet reading it, I felt, well … nudged, and even envious that I had no chance to be a good German.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Remember the pledge Editor:The county board chairman is not being factual with his recent comments concerning the Public Safety Tax Pledge made by the 2004-2010 County Board.First of all, the debt we were facing was caused by the foolish actions of nine board members of

    July 31, 2014

  • Back to the future for death penalty? The surreal national debate over the death penalty reached a climax of sorts July 23 in a prison execution chamber in Florence, Arizona. Double murderer Joseph Wood was put to death by lethal injection shortly after his lawyers went to the Supreme Co

    July 31, 2014

  • Reduce property tax Editor:The regular July meeting of the Rend Lake Conservancy District Board of Trustees is always interesting, and this year was no different. It is at this meeting that the board makes the annual tax levy for the district. Like every year, the debat

    July 31, 2014

  • Away from the tyranny ‘Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency,” the late poet Maya Angelou reflected in an interview with USA Today in 1988. “We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”What a poem Angelou might have written about

    July 31, 2014

  • No Headline Provided House and Senate conferees have agreed on a $17 billion bill to address the scandal over poor health-care service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is now on a fast track to pass Congress before its August recess, showing that Re

    July 31, 2014

  • Shackled by 'dead men' In theory, the American people’s elected representatives decide every so often how much to tax the public and how to allocate the revenue among various priorities, both short-term and long-term. In practice, however, Congress and the president have a

    July 31, 2014

  • Close the tax loophole that sends US corporations overseas Since we last overhauled our federal tax code, in 1986, countries around the world have lowered their tax rates, leaving the United States with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed word. At the same time, the system has become full of inef

    July 29, 2014

  • Israel and the U.S.: Whose survival instinct is stronger? There’s something darkly coincidental in the fact that the latest weapon to be deployed against the survival instinct of both Israel and the United States is an alleged “heartlessness” when it comes to children. The people of Israel are castigated in

    July 29, 2014

  • College cost isn't big problem for poor students To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting mo

    July 29, 2014

  • Ducks, geese a blessing I would like to respond to the “Geese and ducks causing problems in Veterans Park” article that was published in the Mt. Vernon Register-News on July 16, 2014. I must share that I do understand that at times there have been a great number of the Cana

    July 29, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks