A recent survey by NYU’s journalism school found that 66 percent of NYU students would trade their right to vote in the 2008 election for one year of free tuition.  Twenty percent said they would trade their vote for an iPod.  About half said they would give up voting forever for $1 million. 

Considering the way some people vote, I’d call that last one a bargain.

But seriously, folks, Jonah Goldberg cites this survey in his latest NRO column, wherein he posits that perhaps young people are willing to sell their vote cheap because it is cheap.  In his words, “A heartbeat and existence on this planet for 18 years are the only qualifications to vote for American citizens.”  He then asks the following:

Would it be so awful if voters had to pass the same test of basic civic literacy that immigrants must pass to become citizens? What if we made the right to vote something to brag about? Something to aspire to? Is high turnout among people willing to hawk their vote for an iPod really that much better than high turnout among people who hold their franchise dear?

I have often wondered this same thing.  If just living here makes you qualified to vote, why do immigrants have to know what year the Constitution was written and which rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment?  I mean, they’re already swearing an oath that no natural-born citizen has to make.  If it’s so important for Joe Foreignborn to know who our enemies were in World War II and how many stripes are on the flag, why is it totally unimportant for those of us who were merely born here and have done nothing to demonstrate our loyalty to the government of this land?  (For a sample of the U.S. citizenship test, click here.)  I would happily give my blessing to taxpayer-funded civic literacy courses for all.  Maybe while we were at it, we could teach some people to read, too.  Heck, throw in a lecture on how to use a condom, for all I care.  What’s time to a hog?  (No, I don’t know what that means.  I just felt like saying it.)

Do you think requiring a basic civic literacy test before (initial) enfranchisement is unjust or unconstitutional?  (Or is that un-Constitutional?)  I won’t ask you whether you’d sell your vote, or how much you’d sell it for, because that’s just tacky.  I will give you some friendly advice, though, if you decide your vote is for sale.  You have to have a lot more than $1 million in the bank before it stops mattering who makes the laws.  That’s all I got for you.

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