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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Prop. 200: Do the ends justify the means?

    Proposition 200, the “”Arizona Voter Reward Act”” will ask Arizonans to decide whether to establish a random drawing for those who have voted in state elections, with a first prize of at least one million dollars. Should Arizona voters pass the measure?

    Voting is a right, not a lottery

    This November, Arizona voters will be asked to cast their ballots on a series of important initiatives, including measures that address border security, tax cuts and an increase in the minimum wage. They will also be asked to vote on another proposal – one which equates our electoral process with a game of “”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”” by awarding one random voter that game show’s top prize, just for casting a ballot.

    By turning one of our greatest civil liberties and one of our most important civic duties into a Scratcher’s ticket, the “”Arizona Voter Reward Act”” is an insult to democracy and an affront to Arizona voters.

    G. Jack Chin, a professor at the James E. Rogers College of Law, described the initiative this way: “”This is cute and clever, but even though it responds to a real problem, it does so in a way that threatens to degrade the process.””ÿ

    Aside from the issue of degrading our democracy, this proposal is, in the words of Prof. Chin, “”clearly illegal.””ÿ

    One federal statute makes it a crime for anyone who “”makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote or to vote for or against any candidate.”” The opportunity to win $1 million alone is probably an “”expenditure”” for purposes of this statute, and granting the actual cash award to one lucky voter almost certainly runs afoul of this law. ÿ

    The sage behind this proposal, Mark Osterloh, is a failed electoral candidate turned political gadfly who can now add an assault to our civil liberties to his list of nonaccomplishments. Osterloh is a former doctor and failed gubernatorial candidate who also ran unsuccessfully three times for the state legislature.ÿ

    As a law school graduate, Osterloh should also know better than to propose this legal nonsense. But, he maintains that, despite the obstacles, Americans “”need a carrot”” to participate in democracy.ÿ

    Well, Sir, respectfully, Americans and Arizonans do not need a financial carrot to do their civic duty.


    Abbey Golden

    Voters vote because they want a say in how they are governed. They do not vote on the off chance that they will get rich by doing so. If anything, voters need to be inspired by the system in which they cast their ballot. They need to be reassured that by exercising their civic responsibilities, they are serving the greater good. Both of these goals are undermined by turning polling places into Powerball stations.ÿ

    Surely, there are other ways states may increase voter turnout, including offering more voting by mail, increasing the number of registration locations and holding elections on more convenient days or over a longer balloting period.ÿ

    But the bigger point is this: Far too many people have sacrificed far too much to turn the right to vote into a novelty, a frivolous sweepstakes. Brave men and women who declared their independence from tyranny did not do so to have their right to participate in democracy dishonored in this way. Martin Luther King Jr. did not march to Montgomery to watch the promise of the Voting Rights Act be embarrassed by a lottery.ÿ

    Thoughtful Arizonans will reject this absurd proposal in November and put an end to this sad chapter in Arizona politics. In a democracy, that is their right.ÿ

    Jon Riches is a third-year law student. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


    More voters a bargain, even at twice the price

    Every election, we hear about how important it is for citizens to vote. “”It’s your civic responsibility,”” “”it’s patriotic”” and so on.

    And without fail, every time the turnout is low.

    For all the benefits of democracy and all of the effects elections ultimately have on people’s lives, only half of citizens register to vote, and of those, only half actually do vote.

    So why can’t we bribe people? Mothers bribe their kids to get good grades. Guys bribe attractive girls with free drinks and dinner. Employers bribe workers with year-end bonuses.

    Compared to the large amounts of wasteful government spending, $1 million isn’t very much. If it brings an extra 50,000 to the polls it’s worth it in spades.

    However, unlike the merits of voting, there are valid criticisms of Proposition 200. For one, if the proposition itself is illegal, that’s another matter entirely.

    The main criticism of Prop. 200 is that it will bring the wrong type of voters to the polls.

    True, I’m sure there are some who will show up, haphazardly mark a few boxes and leave. Others will not be educated in the issues or on the candidates.

    But if there are people who are voting more or less randomly, won’t they cancel each other out? And won’t the potential reward inspire others to at least learn something?

    I also guarantee that it brings some educated voters who don’t see it worth their effort to go to the polls or mail in a ballot. The workers who would rather earn an extra hour of overtime pay or the mothers who would rather be with their kids may not find voting worth the time it takes. But for a chance at $1 million?

    Over time, the effect will become more positive. The people that vote will be at least marginally more interested in politics and about educating themselves on the issues for future elections. Maybe they will tell their kids they voted, and their kids will learn to vote.

    Moreover, this is the type of experiment on which a federalist system thrives. Arizona can give it a shot and see what happens. If it goes well, others states can adopt it, or if it goes poorly, the country isn’t ruined and Arizona can end the experiment.

    I fear the real opposition to the proposition is that some think the marginal voter will be a liberal one. Mark Osterloh, the force behind Prop. 200, has been an advocate of universal health care and has said that if everyone votes, it will have a chance. But the decision to support a higher turnout shouldn’t be based on what the extra voters will vote for.

    “”The will of the people”” has always really meant “”the will of the voting people,”” and the more people who vote, the better chance democracy has of fulfilling its purpose.

    Ryan Johnson is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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