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ABDUL-HAKIM SHABAZZ Commentary: It's the uninformed voters, stupid

May 1, 2006

May 2 is the primary in Indiana. A lot of Hoosiers will come out and cast their ballots for the men and women they want to represent them in the general election. As of late, however, we've been hearing a lot about problems with Indiana's voting system.

Marion County has been the poster child for When Good Election Testing Goes Bad. The county has had nothing but problems with Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software Inc. The problems have ranged from ballots not being read by the electronic voting machines to ballots being misprinted. It got so bad at one point I thought to myself, "If these guys were in charge of slavery, I'd still be in Africa."

Marion County is not alone. More than 40 other counties experienced issues with ES&S. In addition, Microvote, a Broad Ripple-based company, is under investigation for alleged violations of state law and installing uncertified voting machines in a number of places. Toss in some Voter ID issues and you would think you'd have a potential disaster on your hands. Not quite. There is still one more ingredient to be added to this recipe for disaster: the voter.

I argue that, despite all the problems facing Indiana's primary, the most dangerous one of all is the voter, specifically the uneducated and uninformed voter. I know this might sound elitist, but I'm not sure everyone should come to the polls on Election Day. We don't like bad lawyers practicing law. We don't like bad doctors practicing medicine. So why would we want bad voters voting?

Bad voters make bad choices. It would be one thing if the bad choices were limited to the bad voters' sphere of influence. When bad voters come out to the polls, however, their decisions affect all of us. Most important, an uninformed voter's decision cancels out the vote of an informed voter.

Now I'm not saying we should implement a poll tax or some other kind of test. That would clearly be unconstitutional. However, you would think we could do something to discourage uninformed people from showing up. I have the perfect ad: "Do society a favor. Stay home."

Now my friends who advocate increased voter participation would say, "Abdul, if you discourage the 'uninformed' from voting, you're leaving the system open only to people who, while informed, may have a vested interest in one candidate or another for their own selfish purposes."

My response: "That's cool!" I can live with competing interests. I can live with opposing forces battling for supremacy. Heck, I can even live with the classic good versus evil. What I cannot tolerate, ladies and gentlemen, is stupid, uninformed, uneducated, unwashed, mouthbreathing, knuckle-dragging, slopingforehead, jaws-fit-for-grazing voters versus the rest of us.

If I've gone through all the time to study an issue, learn about the candidates' positions, and get involved in my community, why should my vote be canceled by someone whose last vote was on "American Idol"?

And let me take this one step further, if I may. I am a product of the MTV generation. Every election year, MTV does its "Rock the Vote" campaign to encourage people to vote. There are a number of organizations around the country that do the same. While I can respect their civic-mindedness, I have to ask this question: Do you really want someone to vote if he or she didn't think it was important to vote in the first place?

If you have to explain to people why it's important for them to cast a ballot, maybe it's best for all that they stay away.

Now I guess you could say the same for the straight-ticket voter, the person who votes only in presidential election years and a variety of other quirky scenarios. And I argue you could be right that those people hurt the process, also. What this boils down to though, folks, is a plain and simple fact. Despite the machines, despite the ballots, despite the ID, the biggest danger in this election cycle is the uninformed voter.



Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and an attorney. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.
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