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Voting Tax

Wikipedia’s article on Poll tax says among other things, “…a tax formerly required for voting in parts of the United States that was often designed to disenfranchise poor people…”.  It also lists state identification cards to prevent voter fraud as a potential poll tax of sorts.  Even those states that provide free identification cards are suspect because traveling to the government office can be prohibitive for the homeless and because there may be a cost to acquire the documents needed for identification.

I’m not sure I’ve come to a firm conclusion on a poll tax.  I know I don’t believe we should institute an Oligarchy.  You could have a good oligarchy for a time, but it would become corrupt sooner rather than later.  On the other hand I’m not sure a small barrier to the privilege of voting would be a bad thing.  Think about it; do we really want to be bending over backwards so that people who refuse to work a few hours at minimum wage can help decide the course of government?

If we don’t require voters to be verified before they vote (as we often don’t here in the states) voter fraud will increase regardless of any federal penalties.  A small fee would not have the privacy concerns (which I don’t necessarily agree with) that an identification card would have, but it would have a similar effect of keeping would be repeat voters from voting again.  Some would say this would only prevent this type of fraud for the poor, but since each individual only gets one vote anyway a wealthier person committing this fraud would be easier to catch as they pass out the poll tax funds.  Of course this is the situation we are already in to some extent as the wealthy finance rides to voting locations for those they want to vote a particular way.  This is not illegal even though it has the same effect.

Of course a poll tax is by no means a cure all.  A poll tax would be a minor impediment to an electorate that sees no problem in using their 60% vote to take income from the 40% that are wealthier.  Of course this doesn’t change either the 40% or 60% in relation to one another it just lowers them both, but that’s another topic.

Perhaps the poll tax should be directly tied to the cost of the election.  Citizens are paying for the election indirectly now, so why not pay for it directly.  Normally I am against any new tax proposals, but in this case I’ll make an exception.  A tax tied directly to the benefit would be equitable, voluntary, and simple.  It would be interesting to see what would happen if a state re-instated a poll tax.

Categories: Politics
  1. Karis
    December 12, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    I had never heard of anything like this, but it does seem that something needs to be done.

  2. Michael
    December 29, 2008 at 2:45 am

    How about we go back to only land owners having a vote? That would cut out a lot of the democracy-crazed mob!

  3. Leigh Riffel
    January 5, 2009 at 2:47 am

    Limiting the vote to land owners would indeed cut out many uniformed voters or the democracy-crazed mob as you say, but I’m not sure I want to disenfranchise renters. It is perfectly legitimate to rent and even desirable for many. Occupation, income level, marital status and other issues may require renting as I’m sure you understand.

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