Try 3 months for $3

OK, those of you who are still trying to get my vote — it’s too late, I voted already (It’s easy, just head to your county courthouse auditor’s office with your driver’s license or something else that says you’re a resident. They’ll have you sign an affidavit saying that you are you and they’ll give you a ballot and the rest is up to you.)

The sad part of this process is that more folks don’t vote than do vote, like 70 percent don’t and 30 percent do. This hasn’t changed much over the years. However, back when I was in the Legislature, I did introduce a bill that fined people $100 if they didn’t vote. This was 1987, like pre-cellphone, pre-internet and all the other amazing gizmos that control our lives today. As I recall, we actually had to find a book by heading to the library, perusing the card catalog, writing down a series of numbers called the Dewey Decimal System then following numbered aisles/walls of books looking for numbers on the backs of books that matched the numbers on your list. Then you’d head up to the checkout desk and get to use the books for two weeks before you were fined or had a warrant sent out for your arrest. A pox was placed onto those of us who actually lost the book. I much prefer just saying “Hey, Google” and getting answers to my questions.

Anyway, I thought my $100 fine would be a good incentive and here’s how it would have worked. When you voted you got a stamp to place on your state income tax form as proof. As well, your name would be recorded as voted in your county auditor’s office. If you didn’t have a stamp on your income tax form $100 was added to your taxes.

Everyone, especially me, thought it was a great idea except for something called the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It didn’t take long for the legal eagles to inform me that “silence” is considered a form of speech and it therefore seems that one cannot be fined for enacting their right to not participate in their government. So much for that approach.

Being undaunted, I found out that you can reward someone for their participation, you just can’t punish them. So I reversed the language in the bill so that if you voted you would get $100 for taking part in an election. The original bill fined people $100 for not voting, therefore it generated a significant revenue source. The revised draft said that you’d be paid $100 for voting — thus the rub.

Let’s say there are 500,000 eligible voters who vote, that’s $50 million worth of fines or payouts per election. Therefore the revised version of $50 million leaving the state’s coffers required passage of another bill that raised taxes to accommodate the expenditures. This part did not go over well, but I had the bills introduced anyway.

I gave the concept my best shot, talked about engaging our citizens in our government and I could see the nods of agreement … paying folks to vote was a good idea, getting folks to accept a $100 tax increase didn’t go over very well. I was accused of having a great idea that proposed a financial pickle that no legislator in their right mind would risk their careers over.

For the record, I still think it’s a good idea because that 70-30 number bothers me. If we the people don’t participate in governing ourselves tyrants will continue to rule the world. Get out there and vote.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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