You’ve all heard the reasons why you should vote and the complaints about people who don’t vote. These arguments are usually made from principle. I was wondering what would happen if there economic incentives in the picture. So, the question to you is this: How much would you pay to vote?
Of course, casting a ballot doesn’t cost anything in the US (and probably everywhere else?) So for this experiment, pretend that it’s November 6, 2012. You are driving to your polling place just before it closes, and you can’t find anywhere to park except for a pay lot with an unscrupulous owner. If you want to stop and vote, you’ll have to pay him. Would you turn around rather than pay $5? How about $50 or $100?
If it matters, assume the GOP has nominated Mitt Romney for president.
Nothing since I live in Alaska and my vote means nothing. Though the same could’ve been said when I lived in California. There are always complaints about people not voting, but an uninformed voter is just as bad if not worse than non-voter.
You don’t need the hypothetical to answer what would happen- Southern US states had poll taxes into the late 1800s because it prevented freed slaves and to some extent poor whites from voting. It causes de facto disenfranchisement of anyone without enough discretionary funds to spend on the vote, regardless of what they would have valued that right at.
Asking what people with discretionary funds would be willing to pay to vote will provide you with a meaningless number, I think.
EDIT/ADD: Meaningless assuming you’re trying to pin down what the actual monetary value of the right to vote is. I certainly don’t disagree there is one, and if you’re trying to measure something else then disregard.
Poll taxes are discriminatory, but this question is not about poll taxes. It’s about the indirect costs of voting, which every voter has to pay. These costs can be trivial if you walk to your polling place and don’t have to wait in line, or considerable if you have to interrupt your work, drive a long way to your polling place, and/or wait in line. It’s hard to quantify those costs. I’m asking about parking expenses because they are much easier to quantify.
The reason I’m asking is to get a sense of what it would take to turn a voter into a non-voter, and therefore a sense of how hard it would be to actively prevent people from voting. We already know that a lot of people don’t vote, but the usual explanation is “my vote doesn’t matter”. That’s a legitimate argument, but it implies that cost is not really a factor. However, my hunch is that a small increase in costs would actually have a big effect. I don’t think the experience of the 1800s is necessarily applicable today.
Given the recent attention to campaign finance, I think it might also be interesting to compare the most one would pay to vote with the most one would contribute to a campaign in order to influence the vote of others.
Ok, I get what you’re asking. I disagree with you on whether the 1800s experience is still relevant- particularly since it specifically shows that a small increase in the direct cost of voting causes people to be unable to vote, but ymmv.
The thing is what you are describing is a poll tax*, even though it’s not being collected by the government. If the local board of election commissioners put the only polling place in a location where only people who could spend money had access to it, I think the poll location’s placement would be challengeable on 14th amendment Equal Protection grounds. (I’m not a lawyer)
(In order to not skew your poll, I voted Shit Voterz… I’d probably park illegally and risk getting my car being towed if I couldn’t afford the parking fee. But I’m one of those people who votes in every election. And I would raise hell about the situation afterward…)
Edit: *-As I understand it, a poll tax has never been understood to be a revenue mechanism, but is specifically a financial barrier to voting enacted so as to discriminate against specific groups.
I get it, but A: it’s hard to separate the ideas when you’re talking about the monetary value of voting and and B: the parking thought experiment doesn’t work past a reasonable amount of money. It seems absurd to just pick the highest number to signify “I’m voting, try and stop me, assholes.”
EDIT: Some stuff you just can’t do this sort of math with. You can reasonably ask “what would your maximum cash outlay be to save a pet from premature death halfway through it’s life,” but you can’t get an intelligible answer if instead of pet you substitute child.