Will Vote for Beer Money

A novel idea and one with (some) merit: an Arizona political activist, Dr. Mark Osterloh, proposes to increase Election Day turnout, in his state, by giving everyone who votes a shot at a million dollar prize.

The question will be posed to voters statewide in a yes/no referendum on the ballot this November. If passed, it will be effective retroactively – which means the amount, drawn from unclaimed state lottery prizes, will be awarded that very day.

The proposal has its detractors — like the columnist who asked,

‘What sort of voters will this prize attract? The kind who fill out their ballots like a pick-3 ticket? Yikes!’

Yikes, indeed. What sort of voters will it attract? The Legally Eligible sort. You uppity fuck.

Specifically, I’d guess it’ll attract voters who stand to gain the most should they win a cool mil. In other words, Poor People — the ones statistically least likely to go to the polls.

Trouble is: what happens when they Lose?

The proposal’s crafter seemingly hopes to tap into America’s potent electoral Wild-Card — the 50% of those who’re eligible but regularly don’t vote. An admirable strategic ploy; one wonders — had they been so enticed — whether a few thousand more voters would’ve braved the conspiratorially long polling-place lines, in cities like Cleveland, and won Ohio for Kerry in ’04.

But what if they waited twelve hours, voted for Kerry, and lost anyway? That is, lost both the election and the million dollar contest — which, after all, will be won by just one lucky voter.

Permanent Psychological Disenfranchisement: they’ll never vote again.

The best way, to involve the entire electorate in America’s political process, is for candidates to address the entire electorate’s needs. Failing that, they should just pay us cash.

Or, better yet, try both.

Spare us the television & radio commercials, for one month each campaign season. No direct mail, no newspaper ads. Go out & campaign the old fashioned way — by getting drunk with your constituents at their neighborhood bars. Go to their art shows. Be a guest lecturer in their political science class. Visit our workplaces — spend an hour doing our job, and think real hard about how much you would like to be paid for that hour of your time.

Then take the money you save, on advertisements, and divide it equally between whoever casts their vote — for anyone — each Election Day.

For a mere $25 bucks I, for one, would not only vote but — even if every candidate I voted for lost (as per usual) — I’d walk away from the polls feeling positively giddy.

This year’s will be the most expensive mid-term congressional contests in Vermont history. Already, Republican US senate hopeful whoever Tarrant has dropped $4 million. Bernie Sanders lags slightly behind, having raised only $3 million. And, though Sanders – the best known & most loved politician in modern VT history – could whoop Tarrant soundly, without spending a dime, he recently announced plans to invoke the so-called Millionaire Provision The obscure clause – which applies when a wealthy candidate, like Tarrant, lavishly finances their own campaign – enables their opponent to accept donations in excess of federally mandated limits.

Looks like the bourgeois versus the bourgeoisie.

In the race for the House seat Bernie is vacating, Republican Martha Rainville, buoyed by a recent Laura Bush visit, raised $150,000 in a day. Rainville’s opponent, VT state senator Peter Welch, hosted an online chat/fundraising lunch, during the First Lady’s visit, which netted $6 grand.

At so torrid a fundraising/spending pace, I figure they’ll for sure save enough money, in that one commercial-free month, to treat the entire state to a free night of beer drinking. There are roughly 400,000 eligible voters in Vermont. That brings the vote-rebate total, at $25 a pop, to around $10 million. I bet VT’s four top candidates for national office have that much, between them, in the bank tonight.

May we have it, please?

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