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Monday, May 10, 2010

Ballot Test

In 1964 the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, it eliminated a Poll Tax as a requirement to cast a ballot in any Federal election. In the next few years the United States Supreme Court knocked down as unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause the imposition of Poll Taxes for state or local elections. By 1966 Poll Taxes were eliminated in all states through Federal lawsuits. The purpose of a Poll Tax is to limit the size of an electorate, only those who can afford to buy a ballot could cast one.

Another way to limit access to ballot boxes is the use of a literacy test. Before receiving a ballot a voter must proof he or she can read in English. The justification being that if you cannot read how can you properly vote and know for whom you are voting? Literacy tests while not specifically banned in the Constitution as Poll Taxes are have been ruled unconstitutional, for the most part, by the courts.

Laws and judicial rulings protect the right of American citizens to vote. It is the most fundamental and important right of all citizens, our voice in determining who shall govern us. But who are we voting for? What, if any, restrictions are there on who can be placed on a ballot?

In general the only requirements for most jurisdictions to be eligible for a ballot are age, citizenship, eligibility to vote, residency and whatever the local rules are for getting on the ballot by collecting signatures and/or paying a filing fee.

It seems simple to me. To become a fire fighter or police officer you must pass a series of exams and have a minimum qualification criteria. To enlist in the military you must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam. To work for most branches of government you must take and pass a Civil Service exam or similar aptitude test. To argue a law case on behalf of another before a judge representing the judicial branch of the government you must pass a state bar exam.

But to govern and make rules and policies for fire fighters and police officers there is not test. To hold office and determine the budgets or duty of our military personnel there is not test. To preside over the management of civil servants, appoint and/or confirm judges, and make the laws upon which they rule, you merely need to win an election.

Shouldn't there be some intellectual standard, some basic knowledge, some degree of exhibiting an understanding of our Constitution and simple principles of economics before someone is eligible to govern us? In looking at the laws passed, the statements made, the arguments made in debates by elected officials, from local through national, I am amazed at the seeming lack of understanding of basic economics or the Constitution by many of them.

I propose that before someone is eligible to be placed on a ballot to be elected to represent any citizens of the United States that they pass a basic test, or at minimum take the test with their results made public. The test should include topics that are relevant to their jurisdiction and representation and should encompass economics to show an understanding of budgets and fiscal policy, the Constitution and government, United States history and geography.

Here are some sample questions I propose, feel free to add your own in the Comments section below:
  • How many amendments are there to the U.S. Constitution?
  • Name four states considered in the United States Midwest.
  • If demand is constant and supply increases what happens to prices?
  • What is the Bill of Rights?
  • Name two causes of inflation.
  • The primary source of illegal immigration into the United States is from its Southern or Northern borders?
  • Who were our Allies in World War II?
  • What is the "velocity of the dollar" and is better during times of recession to have a high or low velocity?
  • Are our income tax laws regressive or progressive?
  • Are sales taxes regressive or progressive?
  • Which Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states "their shall be a separation of Church and State?"
  • Name five states that border Canada.
  • Can/do tax revenues increase if gradual income tax rates are reduced?
  • What are the three branches of government?
  • Why do we have an Electoral College?
  • How is the Constitution amended?
  • What is the size of the city/county/state/federal debt?
  • What is GDP?
  • Which of the following are specific rights enumerated in the Constitution: education, health care, ownership of a gun, retirement/social security benefits, privacy?
  • Which branch of the government is most important and why?
  • Increasing the number of individuals employed by the government is good for the economy in the short and long term. True or false and why?

Should our political candidates who will be voting to tax us, to restrict our liberties with more and more legislation, soon to be controlling our access to health care, determining the debt our children and grandchildren will be burdened with, should they not have some equal and level examination by which the voters can measure them? Rather than endorsements and fliers from the standard groups would you not rather receive a copy of their Ballot Test Results and answers to a wide variety of questions?

What questions do you feel someone should be able to answer before representing you?


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