Citizenship & Voting

Voting is an ineluctable part of citizenship in a modern representative democracy. But Jefferson thought that it was very difficult to be a good citizen who casts a responsible vote even if he also thought that every yeoman farmer (who was white) should have the vote. Jefferson proposed universal elementary education so that citizens would be literate enough so that they could evaluate whether the candidates would represent their interests. That would enable a lot of people to vote and at the same time vote sensibly. The history of voting behavior in the United States, however, suggests that there are a great many things that interfere with the voter offering up in his or her vote his or her best judgment about what is good for his or her faction and for the nation as a whole, and so the promise of democracy as a system of government which justifies itself as having been empowered by the people is called into question.

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