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Voters Should Pass a Minimal Civics Test

August 18, 2008

I have never been an advocate of the popular notion that "everyone should vote." Some people look at me as if I am somehow un-American when I say that I am not in favor of encouraging people to vote who would otherwise never darken the door of a polling place. I really don't want someone on the streets of Hollywood, who just failed to identify the vice president of the United States on one of Jay Leno's "Jay-Walking" segments, helping to select the person who will lead my government for the next four years.

So here is a basic, common-sense test that every American wishing to exercise the right to vote should answer (I'm sure in this dumbed-down era in which we live we will have to come up with multiple choice answers to make it easier, but here are some preliminary questions):

   1. Name the three branches of the federal government.
   2. Name the current president and vice president of the United States.
   3. How long have they served?
   4. How long is the president allowed to serve?
   5. How many members are there in the U.S. House of Representatives?
   6. How are House Members chosen?
   7. How long is their term in office?
   8. How long are they allowed to serve?
   9. Name the current speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  10. Which party currently holds the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives?
  11. How many members are there in the U.S. Senate?
  12. How are U.S. Senators normally chosen?
  13. How long is a U.S. Senator's term in office?
  14. How long are they allowed to serve?
  15. Name the current majority leader of the U.S. Senate.
  16. Which party currently holds the majority in the U.S. Senate?
  17. How many individuals currently sit on the United States Supreme Court?
  18. Name three of them.
  19. How are members of the U.S. Supreme Court selected?
  20. How long can Supreme Court Justices serve?
  21. What is an electoral vote?
  22. How many electoral votes are currently required in order to elect the president and vice president?
  23. How is the president selected if he/she fails to receive the required number of electoral votes?
  24. How is the vice president selected if he/she fails to receive the required number of electoral votes?
  25. What is an executive order?
  26. How is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed?
  27. How many constitutional conventions has the United States had?

If a potential voter could not answer at least 18 of these questions (two-thirds), he/she should not be allowed to vote. How did you do? Need to study up? Answers are below:

1) Executive, Legislative, Judicial;
2) George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney;
3) Since January 20, 2001;
4) Two four-year terms (or no more than ten years if serving the remainder of a previous term);
5) 435;
6) By popular vote within their state congressional district;
7) Two years;
8) No limit;
9) Nancy Pelosi;
10) Democrat;
11) 100 [two from each state];
12) By statewide popular vote within their state;
13) Six years;
14) No limit;
15) Harry Reid;
16) Democrat;
17) Nine;
18) the nine [in no particular order] are: John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Paul Stevens, Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy;
19) Nominated by the president, approved by a simple majority of the U.S. Senate;
20) Life;
21) Each state receives one electoral vote for each member of its congressional delegation;
22) 270;
23) By a vote of the U.S. House of Representatives;
24) By a vote of the U.S. Senate;
25) a presidential decree requiring no congressional approval;
26) By a vote of two-thirds of the congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures or through a constitutional convention;
27) One

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Copyright ©2008 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.