- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

It looks like Arizonans are seriously considering turning their elections into cash-doling lotteries. Proposition 200, a turnout-the-vote gimmick that creates a $1 million cash prize for a single lucky voter each election has won over about two-fifths of the state, to judge by a September KAET public television and Arizona State University poll. Luckily, the poll also shows that there are still 47 percent who think, as we do, that Proposition 200 is a bad idea. It’s up to Arizonans to show that good citizenship isn’t analogous to lifting oneself off the couch for a Powerball ticket. No, it takes a good deal more than that.

The point is motives. People vote because they know it’s the right thing to do. They vote at the cost and inconvenience of a few hours’ lost work productivity, unhappy bosses, trouble in commuting or day-care or babysitting arrangements, because they know they’re helping guide the ship of state or town or nation. The motivation is civic duty.

What’s next? We don’t ever want to be forced to endure “Who Wants to be a Millionaire Town Councilor” on television, but that absurdity draws ever closer with what’s being proposed in Arizona. An initiative that seeks to supplant civic-mindedness with pecuniary motives makes a fundamental break with the spirit of our voting traditions. This should never be.

Mark Osterloh, the mind behind Proposition 200, was quoted recently in the Arizona Republic as calling this ballot-for-bucks proposal the very idea of capitalism. Since when are elections avatars of capitalism? Majority rule, yes. Transparency and fairness, always. But not capitalism; elections aren’t a business enterprise. They’re democracy. You can’t buy democracy.

If helping guide the nation and the community on national security, taxes, immigration, education and the panoply of other matters which hang in the balance on Tuesday aren’t enough to spur a voter’s self-interest, perhaps that voter shouldn’t be voting. He should stay on the couch.

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