Why not fewer voters?

There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine. The fact that we believe unqualified doctors to be a public menace but act as though unqualified voters were just stars in the splendid constellation of democracy indicates how little real esteem we actually have for the vote, in spite of our public pieties.

There are tradeoffs in voting, as there are in all things. Democrats prefer to minimize attention paid to voting fraud and eligibility enforcement, but even a little bit of fraud or improper voting is something that should be discouraged and, if possible, prevented. It is — spare me your sob stories — something that should be prosecuted in most cases. It is a fact that many of the things that would be useful in discouraging and preventing voting fraud would also tend to make voting somewhat more difficult for at least some part of the population. Republicans generally think that tradeoff is worth it, and Democrats generally don’t. Is there motivated reasoning at work there? Of course. But the mere presence of political self-interest does not tell us whether a policy is a good one or a bad one.

One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing . . . if you haven’t met the average American voter.