Electoral Reform – The Multiple Vote

by PAUL HOLLRAH January 14, 2009

In a recent column I discussed the very real threat to the continued existence of our republic that is posed by uninformed, misinformed, and indifferent voters. The column drew a significant amount of comment… most of it positive.

The most interesting response came from a reader who pointed to a 1953 novel titled, In the Wet, by British novelist Nevil Shute. Although the basic plot is an interesting and engaging one – involving the adventures of a half-aboriginal Australian pilot who is assigned to fly the Queen of England – a quick search of the Internet tells us that what readers remember most from the book is the concept of the “multiple vote,” described therein as a necessary democratic reform.

Under the “multiple vote” concept, each person over a certain age was enfranchised with one vote. However, individuals were able to increase their franchise to as many as seven votes if they met certain criteria. For example: additional votes could be acquired if the voter: a) had a college degree or had served in the military, b) had raised two children to the age of 14 without getting divorced, c) had earned a living by working overseas for at least two years, d) had been an official of a Christian church, or e) had a high level of earned income. A seventh vote could be earned, at the Queen’s sole discretion, for distinguished service to the nation or for acts of extraordinary heroism.
The concept of the multiple vote did not originate with Shute. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “Multiple votes have been known in history. Until the late 1940s, the graduates of Oxford University and Cambridge University sent representatives to Parliament. The graduates of the National University of Ireland and of Trinity College are still represented in the upper house of Ireland's parliament…”
Another reader reminded me that there was once a great nation, Sparta, that took the principles outlined in my column to heart. In order to be a candidate for public office in Sparta, an individual had to have the following qualifications:
·         He had to be at least 60 years of age.
·         He had to be able to contribute food and sustenance to his constituency, i.e. he had to be a taxpayer.
·         He had to have dedicated his entire life to service to his country. In Sparta, that meant serving in the military for 41 years.  
·         He had to abide by the Rule of Law… whether or not he agreed with the law. 
These were the very durable requirements for public office in Sparta, which dominated Greece for almost 600 years.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the Nevil Shute model and the Sparta model, both of which were designed to give increased voting power to those who contributed most to the society, is the Lani Guinere model. Many readers will remember Guinere as Bill Clinton's 1993 nominee for Assistant Attorney General and head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. 
As the first tenured black female professor at Harvard Law School, Guinere championed a voting reform proposal called “cumulative voting,” a concept most often used in local elections where the goal is to give greater voting power to minorities and to those at the lower end of the economic ladder.
In some instances of cumulative voting, such as an election in which five seats are to be filled and the ballot contains the names of ten candidates, each voter is given five votes. The voter is then free to distribute his/her five votes equally among the five preferred candidates, or to give all five votes to a single candidate. In other venues, voters simply check off the preferred candidates and his/her allotted votes are then distributed equally among those candidates.
This may be a perfectly acceptable system in local elections, such as school board and city council elections. However, when the media disclosed Guinere’s support for the cumulative voting system and voters began to think in terms of applying the cumulative voting concept to other elections, such as congressional elections, the chances for her Senate confirmation began to dim. Clinton eventually withdrew her nomination.
As a first principle, a multiple vote system in 21st century America should be designed to favor those who have put forth the greatest effort to be economically self-sufficient, and those who contribute most to society. In other words, those who have demonstrated that they understand the importance of making good choices in their lives would be rewarded. Just as a suggestion, a new American voting system might confer additional votes to all those of voting age, as follows:
  • One additional vote for those with a college degree and/or active duty military service.
  • One additional vote for those with 20 years or more of demonstrated voluntary civilian service to church, community, state, or nation.
  • One additional vote for individuals who have raised at least one child to age 16 without being divorced.
  • One additional vote for those without a felony criminal record.
  • One additional vote for those who own their principal place of residence, mortgage free.
 And lest liberals cry “foul” and begin to gather all of their victimized minorities under their protective wings, it should be noted that the opportunity to accumulate six votes would be open to all and closed to none. Those who have achieved and lived the American Dream, those who have made good choices in their lives and who have served their communities and their nation without resorting to criminal activity, would be given a well-deserved advantage at the polls.
Can it ever happen? Probably not… at least not so long as liberals control the White House and/or hold majorities in at least one house of Congress. It is precisely the under-educated, the uninformed, and the indifferent voters, and those who can be convinced that they are in some way “victims” of all the rest of us, who are essential to liberal success at the polls. 
If we can’t get liberals to agree to the notion that voters should be required to dip a finger into a vial of indelible ink after voting, to make sure they don’t vote more than once, let alone show the same photo ID they’re required to show when they make a $10 purchase at the local Wal-Mart, the chance that they would agree to a system of multiple votes is extremely remote.
So if you want to know the politics of friends or relatives who say they never discuss politics or religion, there’s an easy way to find out. Just run this idea up the flag pole. If they salute it, they’re probably conservatives; if they try to shoot it down, they’re probably liberals.  

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Paul Hollrah is a Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Heritage Institute

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