OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Friday, August 18, 2006 :::

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Numerous attempts to encourage, hector, drag, lure and otherwise plead with people to vote haven't exactly worked. Well, in Arizona, there's a ballot initiative that tries the only option left: money.

This measure, if approved would:

...hand a $1 million lottery award to one lucky Arizonan after each and every state primary and general election, the aim being to boost voter turnout.

It's measures like this one that give the entire initiative process a bad name.

But what is the sponsor Mark Osterloh's rationale for offering what amounts to fabulous prizes just for casting a vote?

Mr. Osterloh admits he hopes the law will "dramatically alter" the 2008 congressional elections in Arizona. But in a state dominated by conservatives, it seems just as likely that inactive GOP voters and right-leaning independents will stream to the polls. He says that's fine. Just show up.

There's a flicker of do-good logic to this, I suppose. Give people a hard incentive to vote -- in this case, the chance to win a million bucks -- and they'll stampede to the polls and democracy's ends will be served.

The author of the piece, Jill Stewart, thinks the idea has some merit:

...there's something exhilarating about the idea of dramatically shaking things up. Arizonans have jumped on fresh reform ideas like "clean elections" that are now spreading to other states. If the state launches another trend, it could catch on and lead to sweeping changes in U.S. elections. And with the odds of getting rich just for voting said to be about one in two million -- long odds, but far better than most lotteries -- Arizona elections might become more riveting even than Powerball.

Maybe so. But the interest won't be on who won the election, but which lucky voter won the jackpot.

Then again, it might make watching the returns more interesting if, say, Regis Philbin and Howie Mandel replaced Jeff Greenfield and Larry Sabato.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 8/18/2006 3 comments


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