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The Mail

A Prole Tax?

To answer Rosalind Ellis Heid’s question (“Save the Date,” The Mail, Aug. 25), the reason the date of the primary election is not on political propaganda is the limited amount of space available and the assumption that the average voter is smart enough to learn when to vote.

Ms. Heid’s complaint inadvertently reveals a flaw with the American voting system. The problem is that we allow just about anyone to vote without regard to whether they possess the intelligence or knowledge to make informed choices. City Paper’s coverage of the elections speaks for itself. People are, despite Baltimore’s abysmal state, reelecting the same people to represent them. Does anyone honestly think that the current crop of Baltimore City politicians are getting reelected because informed voters decided they are doing good work? No, we all know these people are reelected thanks to party-line voters and idiots who vote for the people they recognize on the ballot.

We need to make voting exclusive. Voting requirements should be tightened to prevent any old rube, dolt, or ill-informed malcontent from possessing the franchise. The quickest and cheapest method of doing this is to implement political literacy tests. People must be required to demonstrate a basic understanding of the American political system. I propose that every Maryland voter pass the same American government test given to Maryland high school students to register to vote and then once every ten years after that to continue to maintain the privilege to vote. Also, to vote in a particular race, voters must select the current occupant of that office in a multiple choice test.

I can hear the howling about literacy tests. Tragically literacy tests are tainted by their prior use as a method of disenfranchising African-Americans. While this is unfortunate, it must also be remembered that much of society was geared toward keeping African-Americans down. Firefighters, dogs, the police, and trial by jury were all used to oppress African-Americans. Nobody advocates getting rid of dogs just because of prior bad acts by those who used them. Literacy tests should be given the same courtesy.

I would be partially disenfranchised. Shamefully, I know little about my local government. I am unable to pick the Orphans’ Court judges, Register of Wills, or my County Councilman out from a line-up. Under my system, I would be unable to vote for those positions.

You need remember that Maryland essentially mandates political literacy tests to do many things. If kids want to attend college or enlist in the military, they need to earn a diploma. To earn a diploma, they must pass a series of tests, including one proving they possess a modicum of knowledge regarding our government. It hardly seems fair to demand that those willing to fight in America’s wars possess a greater knowledge of American government than those whose votes decide who will send them. Nor is it fair that the federal government requires individuals seeking citizenship and the franchise prove their knowledge of American government while absolving those who obtained citizenship the baby way from learning such information.

Matthew Hood


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