TUCSON, July 13 — To anyone who ever said, “I wouldn’t vote for that bum for a million bucks,” Arizona may be calling your bluff.
A proposal to award $1 million in every general election to one lucky resident, chosen by lottery, simply for voting — no matter for whom — has qualified for the November ballot.
My first reaction to this was "hell, why not? It might even get more people to register."
Then I thought about it for 30 seconds. Usually I hate the argument that low registration and turnout are fine because they mean only the most motivated, informed citizens make decisions. But I suspect that of the people who under this new plan voted only to get a shot at a million bucks, a nontrivial fraction would vote only for one person in one office: the name that appeared first on the ballot. That would make it seriously advantageous to be listed first, and that in turn could lead to real problems. I don't know how it works in Arizona, but in New York, for example, order on the ballot follows the results of the last gubernatorial election. If we were to adopt the idea here, it would be harder then ever to dislodge an incumbent governor.
Other states assign ballot order randomly. But if it's no good to hand one party a permanent advantage, why is it better to give a random party a temporary advantage?
The Times, in its inimitable way, describes my concern correctly but with great condescension:
Editorial writers, bloggers and others have panned the idea as bribery and say it may draw people simply trying to cash in without studying candidates or issues.
I must say it's eerie to have them reporting on my opinions before I've formed them consciously. I know Left Behinds is an indispensable resource for opinion leaders (rivaling even The Note), but to dispatch a reporter to crouch by my bed, whisper a story in my ear, and record my murmured, dream-state reactions, and then report them, well, it stinks of desperation. It also makes me wonder how they got a key to my apartment.
And I am not quoted by name, which considering all the trouble they went to is both surprising and insulting.