Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Civics Test to Vote?

At the recent Tea Party Convention in Nashville, former House member Tom Tancredo stirred up a hornet's nest by saying people in this country should be required to pass a civics test before being allowed to vote.

Naturally, Liberals went ballistic, calling Tancredo's idea a racist idea straight from the days of Jim Crow. [Tom Tancredo and the right-wing mind and What fuels the grass-roots rage] Such tests had been used in the past to prevent African Americans from voting. []
"As used by the states, the literacy test gained infamy as a means for denying suffrage to African-Americans. Adopted by a number of southern states, the literacy test was applied in a patently unfair manner, as it was used to disfranchise many literate blacks while allowing many illiterate whites to vote. The literacy test, combined with other discriminatory requirements, effectively disfranchised the vast majority of African-Americans in the South from the 1890s until the 1960s."

Although literacy tests were used in the past to discriminate, it doesn't necessarily follow that a civics test is completely without merit. As Jonah Goldberg pointed out in a opinion piece in the LA Times in 2007, far too many American are completely clueless regarding politics and how our political system works. Far too many Americans cannot tell you the number of Senators allocated each State, who their particular Senators are or name all three branches of government.

It should be pointed out that immigrants wishing to become American citizens are required to pass a civics test. The study guide for this test lists 100 questions.The civics test is an oral test and the USCIS Officer will ask the applicant up to 10 of the 100 civics questions. An applicant must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.

So then, is the test given applicants for citizenship racist? If a naturalized citizen is expected to know basic American civics and history, then why not require a native born citizen to know the answers to the same questions before granting them the priviledge to vote?

Here is a small sampling of questions the applicant is expected to answer:

#1. What is the supreme law of the land?

#3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?

#8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?

#14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?

#59. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?

#60. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?

#69. Who is the “Father of Our Country”?

#89. What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?

#94. What is the capital of the United States?

#100. Name two national U.S. holidays.

I've listed ten questions....picked at random. If you cannot answer 6 out of the 10 I have a final question for you.

Will you vote for Obama again (like you did the first time)?


Al said...

"why not require a native born citizen to know the answers to the same questions before granting them the priviledge to vote?"

Because when most of those turning 18 who had a public school education fail the test regardless of race, creed or color, the truth about how lousy our public schools are will come out.

Amanda West said...

Wow. I was suprised how many of those questions I couldn't answer.

I should do some reviewing. But I think it sounds like a good idea.

I think if you're going to vote on something that is going to effect us all, you should be educated about it.

Sounds fair. Not racist.