Patterico's Pontifications


Kevin D. Williamson on Fewer Voters

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

Kevin D. Williamson had a piece at National Review on Tuesday titled Why Not Fewer Voters? Those who actually read the piece quickly learned that it was not a proposal to reduce the number of voters for its own sake, though Williamson would clearly be fine with that. It was, in the main, an argument that voter ID laws, restrictions on ex-felons voting, and similar restrictions involve a tradeoff — but to the extent that they might result in lower voter turnout, that is not necessarily a bad thing in a democratic republic:

Categorically disenfranchising felons has always been, in my view, the intelligent default position, with re-enfranchisement on a case-by-case basis. It is likely that under such a practice some people who ought to be considered rehabilitated would be unjustly excluded. But all eligibility requirements risk excluding somebody who might make a good voter, or a better voter than someone who is eligible. There are plenty of very smart and responsible 16-year-olds who would make better voters than their dim and irresponsible older siblings or their parents. That doesn’t mean we should have 16-year-old voters — I’d be more inclined to raise the voting age to 30 — it means only that categorical decision-making by its nature does not account for certain individual differences.

Similarly, asking for government-issued photo ID at the polls seem to me obviously the right thing to do, even if it would result in some otherwise eligible voters not voting. I’m not convinced that having more voters is a good thing in any case, but, even if I were, that would not be the only good, but only one good competing with other goods, one of which is seeing to it that the eligibility rules on the books are enforced so that elections may be honestly and credibly regulated.

John Scalzi, whose blog I used to read and who I did not realize had become a lazy wokester, took to Twitter to label Williamson’s column “fascist” without further analysis. I called that lazy and hyperbolic, he insulted me, and a good time was had by all. I’ll spare you the details.

In the discussion, one of Scalzi’s fans argued that if felons were treated like adults by the criminal justice system, they should be considered adults for all purposes, including voting. And, of course, any other opinion is fascism. I clarified that he meant that even a currently incarcerated serial child rapist deserves the franchise, and that any contrary opinion is fascism. He agreed. I invited him to humor me by explaining how this is so, according to any definition of fascism recognizable to the average reader. Sadly, he declined. Again, I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow.

But it got me thinking: turning that logic on its head, consider the claim we hear so often from criminal justice “reform” advocates these days, that one’s frontal cortex does not fully develop until age 25. Wouldn’t that be a reason to raise the voting age to 25? I should add that I don’t mean this proposal to be taken seriously; it’s more a jab at those who would largely excuse murders and rapes and torture by 24-year-olds than it is a serious proposal to disenfranchise voters of that age.

Anyway, Williamson has a short piece reacting to the dopey criticism of his original piece, and like the original, it’s worth a read. I don’t know that I subscribe to every aspect of both pieces, but I find them persuasive by and large, and in any event Williamson is a brilliant, provocative, and original thinker and writer.

If you bother to read past the headline, that is.

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