08/25/08 — One-stop worry: Instant registration does not make educated voters

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One-stop worry: Instant registration does not make educated voters

It is one of the hallmarks of the U.S.'s democratic system -- everyone who is not a felon or who is of age, can cast a ballot in any election.

Well, there are some limits. You have to live in the community that is choosing its representatives if it is a local contest, and if you vote in the primary, you have to declare one party affiliation or the other.

But what Wayne County officials are preparing for this fall should scare anyone who is wondering what is happening to the face of the electorate in the U.S.

And it should motivate a whole lot of other people to get out and vote themselves.

The new one-stop voter registration program in North Carolina will allow anyone with the proper identification to go to a site, sign up to vote and to cast a ballot right there.

And for some this is a convenience that will make it possible for them to get interested in the process and will allow them to have a voice in the future of their country.

For others, it will be an orchestrated march to the polls, with uninformed voters merely checking the boxes they are told to check.

In other words, there will be plenty of people at the polls this fall who will have no idea why they are there -- except that someone told them to go.

The best part of a democracy is that it is open to everyone and that anyone who abides by the law has a chance to have a say in his or her country's future.

But the worst part about a democracy is that there are plenty of people who have no interest in becoming informed voters -- or even to be aware of the issues that are facing this nation. And those people have an equal say in decisions that will affect all of us.

There is nothing wrong with making it possible for more voters to take part in the upcoming elections. What is sad is that we have to make it so easy to get people to participate.

If the predicted rise in voter registrations really stemmed from people who were active and interested in the issues this nation faces, that would be tremendous.

But there is something wrong with having casting a vote more like stopping off to pick something up from the grocery store -- an afterthought.

It almost seems like those who want to take advantage of the privilege should have to earn it -- either through expending real effort or educating themselves about the candidates who are running.

Perhaps there should be a qualification process for anyone who wants to be registered as a voter.

The phrase "Get out the vote" would have a whole new meaning then.

Published in Editorials on August 25, 2008 11:03 AM