I hardly ever read Jonah Goldberg's columns, but I scanned this one and, though there are lots of "maybes" scattered about, I think he's actually serious. The GOP elites strike again:
Too uninformed to vote?, by Jonah Goldberg, Commentary, LA Times: ...Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens? ... If you threaten to take the vote away from the certifiably uninformed, voter turnout will almost certainly get a boost.
Voter turnout will get a boost? An increase the price of something does not, except in the most unusual of circumstances, cause a "boost" in the quantity demanded. Thus, increasing the price of voting by requiring people to pass a test will exclude some people who would have voted otherwise and, since it's unlikely those who get excluded would be scattered randomly across the population of voters, this will exclude particular groups of people from the political process.
I don't see why individuals or groups should be excluded from expressing their preferences in the voting booth over, say, issues such as the war or building a local school or anything else just because they don't know how many years a senator serves, how cloture works, or precisely how a bill becomes a law.
If we are going to go this route, why not test for knowledge of the issues too, not just the functions of government? Thus, when a vote on tax issues comes up, if someone like Jonah "Economics makes my brain itch" Goldberg checks the box that says "tax cuts pay for themselves," then he should not be allowed to vote on that issue. We could apply the same rule in the Senate and House. Can't tell a Sunni from a Shiite? Sit this one out. Don't know the difference between MySpace and YouTube? No votes for you on digital technology issues. The internet is a "series of tubes" you say? You sit down too. Seems like the president should follow the same rules as everyone else, doesn't it? So, for example, if the president can't speak English properly, a word like "nuclear" perhaps, no signing bills in this area until competency has been established. This is, after all, an English speaking country. Vice president too. Shoot someone in the face with a shotgun? That shows a certain lack of competency, so let's leave firearm related legislation to someone else.
I'm not serious of course, we should make it easier to vote, not harder, and we should do our best at education, but I don't understand the desire to make it more difficult for others to participate in the political process.