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Should we have intelligence thresholds for voting?

In one of my graduate courses (cognitive psychology in case anyone wants to know), we do Oxford-style debates, where a question/argument is posed, and you either argue For or Against the posed question/argument. Today's debate was about intelligence thresholds, and whether we should have them for colleges, jobs, gun ownership, and voting. It turned out to be an interesting debate amongst us psychology graduate students ... And the major topic we got especially heated on was the issue of voting.

So I am interested to hear what you guys think? Should we have intelligence thresholds for voting?

(For a bit of context, part of the "heat" was how do or should we define and measure intelligence? ... some said the only way to measure it was via cognitive ability tests -- IQ score -- while others stated that this limits the concept of intelligence and how it can be measured, such as skills/aptitudes/abilities/processes.)

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evestrat 8 Apr 12

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An intelligence threshold for voting may seem discriminative because it may not accurately reflect whether someone has a fair understanding of politics when it comes to voting. Having said that, even some of the smartest people can make poor choices.

ABack Level 6 Apr 12, 2018

@evestrat a philosophical or even political argument might be that it doesn't matter that the people make the wrong or ill-informed choice; it simply matters that they make a choice! By which I mean; it doesn't make any difference really, it affects the process of Democracy and achieves a Government which can preside over the masses and it preserves the "society".



I think intelligence is the wrong threshold. It should be about knowledge of the system.



No, voting requires good judgement, not intelligence.

Surely good judgement derives from intelligence?

@triumph56 Not in my experience, but haven't looked into research on the topic.


We did away with these things during The Sixties for a good reason. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed the use of testing for literacy and intelligence as a component of voter registration.


I don't think there should be one for voting--too easily abused. However, I do think there should be one for running for office, and the higher the office, the more stringent the requirements should be. This will in no way invalidate the uniquely American belief that 'anyone can become President,' because you still won't have to be born nobility or wealthy, just have a working mind and a connexion to reality. And if people think that's unfair, they should remember that all kinds of other jobs and careers have all kinds of prerequisites, so why shouldn't running a major superpower have them?

@Hellbent okay, so not 'uniquely.'


No, but we should have mandatory voting as they do in other countries. Too many people opt out of their civic duty and that's why we're in the situation we are in now.

GwenC Level 7 Apr 12, 2018

But what might the results look like if instead of 35% of the population voting it was more like 97%? It would catch all the students, the people who can't wait for hours at a polling station due to voter suppression, and the ambivalent intellectuals who just assumed we wouldn't do something so stupid as elect a reality show star at they didn't turn out to vote.


There are a few more complex issues to consider IMHO.

If you define the methodology of how to measure intelligence, at what threshold does one apply the right to vote?

Are you distinguishing between Inteligence and knowledge (define knowledge and set the qualifying criteria for voting) An informed knowledge of a subject area might be recognised as a suitable criteria to vote on something encompassing that subject matter. Should I get to vote on things I understand the complexities of and not the things that I know nothing about? What is I'm intelligent but lack knowledge of anythin- do I qualify for a vote?

If you were slightly sub-threshold, then learnt a bit more or got a bit more intelligent, would you then be able to vote. How would you police such as system and administrate it!

Would it be in the interests of the intelligent people who choose the ruling powers/government, to improve intelect or knowledge, through schooling, if it would dilute the power of their individual votes?

Would an aging population, experiencing sinility, dementia, Alzhiemers, lose their votes. Would the elderly become unrepresented by their lose of voting rights.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I think I've reached the stage that I conclude that it wouldn't be a good or practical idea to restrict voting rights based on any other criteria than a minimum age.

In the UK in 2016, we had a Referendum vote on whether to Remain or Leave the European Union. The lack of knowledge concerning the complex framework of issues, was hardly understood by anyone. The result to Leave was largely blamed on the lack of Intelligence and critical thinking capabilities, that showed itself in a popular Nationalism and Pariotism "illusion" and a xenophobia and racism of Foreign nationals. I encountered great intellectual minds like Stephen Fry and also complete morons like Joey Essex, and the value of their vote was equal. That seemed shocking and unfair, and yet I fear that any alternative weighting in the value of their vote, would, particularly in the long term, be much more shocking and unfair. It would be the first step towards an ultimate totalitarian Dirctatorship and supresion and destruction of the masses.

Phew! Now add that little lot to your Poll! Lol

@evestrat good post btw. ?


Voting isn't the issue, how about a requirement for running for office?


While I have some emotional leaning toward such a requirementk I am old enough to know how southern states used such requirements to disenfranchise Black and Hispanic voters. That knowledge makes me think that it is better to tolerate some stupid people to prevent discrimination against specific ethnicities.


Haha - if they brought this in now, based on his ability to string together a coherent sentence, Trump probably wouldn’t even qualify to vote at the next election.

He loves to say he's a smart guy, a really smart guy. My IQ is off the scale!

But seriously, he must have a certain degree of Inteligence, to appear to be that dumb 😉


I voted no.
I don't know what type of test could be fair across the board.
Someone might excel in one area of intelligence while being miserable in another.


Who or what determines that threshold? No


So who would determine what it means to be intelligent?

@evestrat It was mostly rhetorical anyway.


It's been attempted in the past. It targets the poor and minorities, primarily and unfairly.
It was used for decades, in the South, to keep blacks from voting.
It's been suggested for juries as well.
While it is always ideal to have a well-informed populace making truly informed decisions, it's also not right to keep any citizen from participating based on something so arbitrary.

@evestrat Kind of feel like I don't need to respond. You covered it all pretty well your own self. 😉


With the history of rules around voting including our new voter ID rules (which burn my biskets) I would say NO - unless they can be proven to be completely and verifiably unbiased - I don't think this is possible!

Good point!

@LEPeff thanks!


I think there needs to be intelligence thresholds for runnning for office.

It is different here, we have compulsory voting, so the lack of intelligence is less of an issue in candidates. It is the stupid voters here I worry about.

We'll, at least that might have kept shit-for-brains out of the WH.


Not comfortable with intellect determining a person's rights. That sounds like the first creak in the opening of Pandora's Box.

Deb57 Level 8 Apr 12, 2018

I think we gave the whole representative democracy thing a fair shot, but it obviously isn't working. Anarchy anyone?

Anarchy, no. Anarchism, yes.


Anybody who pays taxes should be allowed to vote. If you're willing to exempt the inendowed, then fine.

But frequently the intellectually limited live off of tax dollars instead of paying them.

@LEPeff only because of the increasing sophistication of automation. society is leaving little room for the intellectually inept.

@Hicks66 do you really think that the intellectually inept as you call them should be able to make decisions on how our country is run?

@LEPeff yep. if they pay taxes. No taxation without equal representation.

@Hicks66 I agree, but as I said before frequently the intellectually limited limited do not pay taxes, but live off of our tax dollars.

@LEPeff I heard you but it isn't absolute, is it? Of course some will be exempt from both responsibility and privilege.


Not exactly your point but who would pay for this? Who would decide what testing to use?

Excellent point!

@evestrat and it sounded like there was no agreement on how to to test for

@evestrat flex that brain


I agree that the word and concept of intelligence is a loaded word/concept. An objective evaluation of intelligence is IQ. I would suggest a bold concept: to segment the electorate into specialties they can vote on. Let me explain. Citizen voters would take a test, say, every 5 years. Within the test IQ and knowledge in certain fields are evaluated. Voters with an average IQ or above (100+ i.e. average) are allowed to vote in any election. If you do not meet the IQ threshold then your saviness in certains fields of knowledge will permit you to vote for specific fields like judges, public works, medical examiner. This implies that many levels of government are voted rather than assigned the position. Also the sniff test also applies to candidates.

Unfortunately, there is no objective no accurate measure of IQ. There isn't even a standard IQ test or scoring. The only established standard is the average will be 100 ... albeit that all current tests are subjective and inaccurate.


Being a citizen is the only requirement.


This was an actual test used to suppress the black vote in Louisiana in 1964. It was only given if a poll worker deemed the person not intelligent enough to vote.

And obviously the correct answer was a matter of interpretation by the reviewer.


The unintellignt will, invariably, demand their right to vote and then not use it.

Perhaps there could be an online test on basic democracy and the philosophy of the different political ideaologies. Pass that and your vote counts twice.


No would scare off some voters.

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