Political Ignorance, Disparate Impact, And Voting Rights
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CNN columnist LZ Granderson is both black and gay. (Author of Gay is not the new black, July 16, 2009) He has recently written for CNN a column suggesting that ignorant people be prevented from voting by giving them a knowledge test equivalent to the citizenship test passed by Peter Brimelow and John Derbyshire.

In Don't let ignorant people vote, [April 12, 2011] he mentions that there are a lot people out there voting who probably shouldn't be trusted with the future of America. But the problem is that literacy tests have a bad reputation, from having been used to prevent black voting in the Old South. (N. B. This is not a myth—there were such tests, they were administered unfairly, allowing white people who couldn't pass to vote, and preventing black people from passing. See V. O. Key's Southern Politics, 1949.)

So Granderson writes

"So how do we weed out ignorant voters without harking back to the days of poll taxes and Jim Crow? I would start by making the U.S. Naturalization Test — given to immigrants who want to become citizens — part of the voter registration process.

If knowing the number of years a senator is elected to serve is required of anyone who wants to become a U.S. citizen, is it too much to expect that information to be common knowledge for those of us who already are? "

Law Professor Ilya Somin discussing this on The Volokh Conspiracy, says

Although Granderson summarizes the problem well, I am skeptical about his proposed solution: a government-imposed knowledge test for would-be voters. Any such test would have to adopted by incumbent legislators. Those incumbents would have strong incentives to skew the test in favor of their own supporters, disproportionately excluding Democrats if the legislature is controlled by Republicans or vice versa. In addition, incumbent politicians have incentives to exclude voters of whatever party who want to set strict limits on the legislators' own power. It’s easy to come up with a knowledge test where the questions are worded in such a way as to skew the results against opponents of the majority party, people who seek to limit government power more generally, or both.

A knowledge test for voting may be defensible in theory. But it's not a power that government can be trusted with. As Granderson admits, past experience with literacy tests and similar devices proves that there is enormous potential for abuse. Most modern legislators probably wouldn't try to skew the test on a purely racial basis, as happened in the days of Jim Crow. But they are certainly not above using it to exclude their political opponents.

Should Ignorant Voters Be Excluded From the Franchise?, April 13, 2011

Ilya Somin has done a lot of blogging on political ignorance but what he doesn't seem to get here is that blacks would automatically fail this test in larger numbers than white people, and that makes it automatically unconstitutional under the "Disparate impact" test in Griggs.

Somin, a Russian immigrant, doesn't seem to realize this, and neither does LZ Granderson.

Granderson   may be personally very bright, and be able to name all three branches of government, but he doesn't seem to realize how drastically his proposal, if adopted, would limit African-American voting power.

If only people who could name all three branches of government and tell you what happened in 1787 were allowed to vote, would Obama have been elected?

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