The Corner

Politics & Policy

Don’t Make Democracy More Like The Internet

Hillary Clinton wants automatic, universal voter registration. No doubt this has focus-tested very well. But it is, of course, a terrible idea. 

And not just because it would certainly be devastating to the electoral prospects of conservatives. I’m actually in favor of policies that would have similar effects, like restoring the franchise to ex-cons. 

But the view of democracy associated with the desire for universal or near-universal participation (we already have near-universal franchise) is facile and vicious. The need to register to vote is just about the most modest restriction on ballot access I can think of, which is why it works so well as a democratic filter: It improves democratic hygiene because the people who can’t be bothered to register (as opposed to those who refuse to vote as a means of protest) are, except in unusual cases, civic idiots. 

If you want an idea of what political discourse looks like when you so dramatically lower the burden of participation that civic idiots elect to join the fray, I give you the Internet. 

Again, every American who wants to vote, and who can meet basic, minimally onerous requirements for doing so — like registering at a municipal office — should be able to, consequences be damned. But that doesn’t mean we have to encourage these dolts.

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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