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Jewish World Review April 13, 2001 / 20 Nissan, 5761


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Consumer Reports

Should dolts be allowed to vote? -- BOULDER, Colo. -- And now, for the centerpiece political debate at the midpoint of the Conference on World Affairs, a panel has the temerity to question a fundamental concept of American democracy: the right of stupid people to vote.

Idiot suffrage pushed all other national crises off the stage at the end of 2000. Few agenda-setters have tackled the issue head on; most prefer more polite debates about the relevance of the Electoral College and voting machine standards.

Wednesday, the talk was all about the role of dolts in participatory government, at all levels.

"Would it be more relevant to ask if stupid people should be allowed to be president?" said columnist Molly Ivins, who has repeatedly criticized President Bush in her nationally syndicated columns.

The five panelists played to a packed audience, about 250 inside the UMC Center Ballroom at the University of Colorado, where the conference continues until Friday.

The one-liners from panelists drew applause, as did several serious points.

"For me, the question is, should we allow stupid systems to count the vote," said Sean Kelly, a professor of political science at Niagara University in upstate New York. Technology is at fault, Kelly said, "for what is taken as individual stupidity."

But the title of the discussion "Should stupid people be allowed to vote?" set the day's tone. Simon Hoggart, a journalist from Great Britain, offered his own overhaul of the American experiment.

"Let's look at the stock value of every corporation at the time of the election, and give that corporation a number of votes according to its size," Hoggart said. "Therefore, G.E. would cast 82 votes for Bush; Time-Warner, 79 for Bush; and Microsoft, 8,497 for Bush."

The crowd erupted with laughter as Hoggart continued: "It's simpler, fairer, and would have the advantage of giving us exactly the result we have today."

His point: "It's a mistake to choose the system you think will give you the result you want. The only reason you choose a system is because it is absolutely fair."

Ivins, Kelly and Hoggart were joined on the panel by Joan Higman Davies, a human rights activist and former candidate for British Parliament, and Dan Odescalchi, a political consultant.

In the end, the panelists acknowledged they had carried out a rather one-sided argument.

"Of course, we're all going to be in favor of stupid people voting," Hoggart said. "This is Boulder, for G-d's sake."

Owen S. Good writes for the Denver Rocky Mountain News. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, SHNS