Bring Back The Poll Tax—With A Twist

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who is a slightly more feminine version of Rachel Maddow, agrees with numerous articles at liberal outlets (The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Slate, etc.) that blame the current gridlock in Washington on American’s Constitution. It’s the Constitution’s fault, they say, because no single branch of government has greater power than another, and therefore the Democrat-run Senate can’t simply do whatever it wants. The Constitution set up a system of checks and balances to prevent dictatorial governing, and Chris Hayes, who actually gets paid to say this stuff, says this is a bad thing.

To his credit, though, Hayes does have some guts in criticizing one of America’s founding documents. Actually, scratch that; it takes no courage whatsoever for a liberal to criticize the Constitution in front of a wholly liberal audience who agree with him. Were Hayes a popular conservative, it might be a different story.

Yes, the Constitution is probably the best governing document ever written. (I say “probably” because I haven’t read the others.) But yes, there are things in it that I take issue with. Here is just one problem with the Constitution:

The Twenty-Sixth Amendment is bull. It essentially states that all American citizens aged 18 and over can vote in elections. Eighteen-year-olds are idiots. Most are, anyway. Some are geniuses, however, and could be trusted to make a knowledgeable vote, and that’s where my solution comes into play.

Every person age 18 and over—every person—must take a test to ensure they know enough about the government and about American and British history to vote. All voting will be done electronically on those touch-screens they currently use at most voting stations, prior to casting your vote. You will be asked a series of questions, let’s say ten of them, each of them multiple choice, and if you get, say, more than one wrong, your voting session expires and you’re voting card (did I mention we all would have voting cards?) would cease working until the next election date. (This is just brainstorming, people; don’t get hung up on the details right now.) This would mean lots of people—and I mean lots—would not get a say in that election.

Tough. If you’re ignorant, you should not be affecting the course of an entire country and thus affecting the lives of others. The questions in the tests would change from election to election, and nobody would know before voting what questions would be asked. In fact, the ten that appear on your screen would be ten random ones that are pulled from a database of thousands of other basic questions so that if you successfully answer them, you can’t slip the next person in line a piece of paper with the answers you successfully gave.

Does this amount to a poll tax? The Twenty-Fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964, put an end to the practice of paying fees in order to vote. This isn’t a monetary fee by any means, but in a metaphorical sense, I guess this test idea sort of is like a poll tax: it’s a tax on the brain. So if you want to call it a poll tax, fine, it’s a poll tax. I don’t care. Repeal both the Twenty-Sixth and the Twenty-Fourth Amendments.

Because—let’s not be afraid to say it—only certain people should be voting.