“There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters.”

As Time magazine reports, low voter turnouts worry some people:

In Los Angeles, as in many cities, voter turnout for local elections tends to be pathetic. In 2013, only 16% of registered voters weighed in on an election that would help determine the city council, mayor, school board, and a potential tax increase. In other words, 84% of registered voters didn’t bother to vote. And the number of potential voters is much higher, of course, since plenty of eligible voters aren’t registered.

To get people more involved—and prevent further embarrassment—the city is now considering a pilot program that would use lottery-type cash prizes as enticement to get locals to participate in elections. The Los Angeles Times reported that on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the city council begin offering cash prizes to voters randomly as soon as next year. “Maybe it’s $25,000 maybe it’s $50,000,” said [Ethics] Commission President Nathan Hochman. “That’s where the pilot program comes in—to figure out what … number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box.”

The idea of cash prizes began circulating in California in June, soon after news spread that voter turnout for a primary election was only 18% statewide, and worst of all in Los Angeles County, where the figure was 13%. On Southern California Public Radio, Fernando Guerra, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, suggested a radical solution to increasing voter turnout: Enter all voters automatically into a $1 million lottery.

But then,

“Wouldn’t we get a lot of people who know nothing about politics or the candidates jumping in and voting and just checking the box so they could get a million bucks?” the radio host asked Guerra.

“Absolutely,” Guerra responded. But, he added, that might not be a bad thing. “That might produce better results. There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters.”

Other people are not so nice as the LA Ethics Commission. For some people, it’s “Vote – or Else!”.

2 Responses

  1. “Np data to show” is more about how any such data might be collected and analyzed than about the underlying issue.

    The “informed voter” posited by the question is mostly not that better informed than the “unformed voter”. If we really want to see a difference we need to examine the intensely informed voter, such as one gets if the voters are locked in a room to decide a well-structured question with an abundance of deep evidence and analysis to become experts on. Not one voter in a million is likely to develop that outside such a structured situation.


  2. I agree. I find this matter-of-fact statement rather insightful (although perhaps unintentionally so) about the meaninglessness of voting – “informed” as well as “uninformed”.


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