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April 12th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Should basic citizenship test be part of voter registration?

ALT TEXT

(PHOTO CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

One of the requirements for becoming a citizen of the United States is passing a written civics test. Questions include: What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? Who is Commander in Chief of the military? What is the highest court in the United States?

Pretty easy, right?

Well last month, Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. citizenship test to see if they could pass it if they had to. 38% failed. Questions like why we fought the Cold War stumped 73%. Defining the Bill of Rights tripped up 44%. 29% couldn't name our current vice president. And 6% weren't sure when we celebrate Independence Day.

But it's not just civics and American history many Americans aren't "getting." There is a general disconnect between what many voters think and what actually goes on in Washington. According to a CNN poll, most Americans think that the government spends a lot more money on programs like foreign aid and public broadcasting than it actually does. Many Americans support cuts to those programs even though they amount to very little of the overall budget. When it comes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid - the ones that really cost our government the big bucks - most Americans want to avoid cuts.

In a column for CNN.com, contributor LZ Granderson says that too many ignorant voters in this country may be to blame for too many incompetent men and women in Congress. Granderson suggests weeding out "some of the ignorant by making people who want to vote first pass a test." He suggests the same citizenship test immigrants must pass.

Here’s my question to you: Should a basic citizenship test be part of the voter registration process?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Mar in Tampa, Florida:
No. It is hard enough to get people to vote now. If you require that they pass a test in order to vote, the turnout will be even more dismal.

Loren in Chicago:
No, we must suffer fools gladly. Remember that these types of tests were endemic in the South to prevent Blacks from voting. It may be good citizenship to know how our government functions, but you can't legislate that.

Greg in Arkansas:
The test would be a good idea for voters if, and only if, all candidates were required to pass a more stringent test to demonstrate their understanding of the job they expect us to elect them to.

Eve in Texas:
Why require something that will be struck down by courts? I'd like to see proof of citizenship.

Mike in Maine:
A test is a bad idea for obvious reasons. Instead, we need to teach the next generation that it is their civic duty to vote only after they have taken the time to learn something about whom or what they are voting for. If everyone did that now, do you really think we'd be stuck with the crowd we now have in D.C.?

Cheryl in Bluffton, South Carolina:
What an intriguing question, Jack! It's tempting in order to eliminate low-information voters, but it would add a layer of bureaucracy, and after all, Americans have a right to be dumb or to believe in whatever foolishness they choose to.

David:
I am a High school U.S. history teacher. I found this test online as well. I decided to give it to my students and after they took it and scored pretty well, I gave it to the other teachers and administrators in the school. The students did much better than the teachers. But I am not in support of the weeding out of the "less informed" because it goes against the right to vote to all American citizens.

Pete in Georgia:
Jack, what are you trying to do give the Democrats a heart attack?


Filed under: Voter Registration
soundoff (283 Responses)
  1. Lisa in San Jose

    Absolutely–as long as *I*'m the one who gets to determine what is on it!

    The problem with such tests is that eventually someone in power gains control of the test-writing process and skews it to put opposition supporters at a disadvantage.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  2. Jess Chapman

    I am a lifelong Canadian. I have done a few online citizenship tests in preparation for my eventual emigration to the U.S. There is nothing in those tests that American citizens don't need to know. It's very basic information that everyone should know by the time they graduate high school. Requiring it to vote would be overkill; however, I don't see a problem with requiring it to run for office, or making it a state-standardized examination for high-school seniors.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  3. Max S.

    Yes! How is basic citizenship not taught in our elementary schools anymore. Our children should be learning about our political system and the government, so that they can make informed decisions over the course of their lifetime. Get educated, and be informed.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  4. maggieb

    maybe, but we know for sure that a birthcertificate should be a Mandate for any one to be allowed on any State ballot. Those running for any office should be mandated to show an American Birth certificate

    Houston Texas

    April 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Conor in Chicago

    Sure Jack. Let's bring the Poll Tax back too. Is it not clear to you yet that the Republican Party is essentially trying to turn this country into a Christian Nationalist nation in which White Christians rule and the rest of us serve or do you still hold out hope that they are just a little over the top?

    April 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Sufficient ID should be required, to prevent illegals, from accessing the voting polls.

    If government is not going to stop illegal immigration, indeed they seem to be actually ordering the Border Patrol to allow it, then by all means we have to be sure that only CITIZENS of this country are accessing the polls.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  7. robert in north carolina

    Basic citizenship has changed so much since WWII that I am not so sure that I even know any longer what it means.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Ms. Lou Mullin

    No, for one reason. The senior citizens would not vote and by and large, they are probably the biggest voting population. However, a picture ID should be a part of it. Jack: Most of the country only knows what they hear on whatever channel they listen to and NO ONE ever talks about citizenship.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  9. Paul Austin Texas

    I do not think so because many of our young citizens for example may give the answer that George and Martha Washington are the owners of the Washington Redskins football team. Also some can not tell you their location on a map let alone U.S. history and their rights.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  10. Ed Reed

    It's too late now, the crazies have already been elected.

    Ed
    Texas

    April 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  11. Bizz, Quarryville Pennsylvania

    No it should not because it would only be used as a ploy to stop certain groups from voting, especially in the south. Texas is worried about the Hispanic vote and would use any method to interfere with them voting.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  12. Bradley, Portland, OR

    It'll never happen.

    It would immediately knock out a majority of Republican voters.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  13. Tom Bulger, Canandaigua

    If it were not used to exclude minorities, and dissenting opinions, then yes.

    In practical terms, it would be impossible to devise a fair and valid test of civic competency.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Jane (Minnesota)

    I don't think it should be part of voter registration, it should be a mandatory requirement for a student to graduate from high school. As much as I hate to say it – no diploma – or citizenship – no voting is sounding better and better to me -

    especially when there are news outlets out there that report on their morning show that typical planned parenthood women's services can be obtained Walgreen's;we have a certain portion of the population that only gets it's "news" information at this source.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  15. Richard, in Kansas

    Absolutly! You should also have to take a class and pass a test before being allowed to make more little Americans.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  16. Wilhelm von Nord Bach

    it should BUT that will never happen because it smacks of the phony "literacy tests" used in the South to supress the Black vote during the "Jim Crow" era.

    it would be great IF people knew more about the issues and candidates than what the see on some 30 second attack ad.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  17. David of Alexandria VA

    Absolutely, jack. You have to have a license to drive and You have to be a citizen to vote - if authorities want proof of either one you should be required to show them. 12 million illegals voting could be enough to swing an election over the rights of citizens. How could anyone (ANYONE) dispute the need to keep non-citizens from voting????

    April 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  18. B.J., Quincy, Il

    No , you will have even less people voting if you do that.What good will it do anyway ? With the Supreme Court decision our next President will be bought and paid for.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  19. Gordon NJ

    While I assume the impetus for this idea comes from tea party conservatives, these divine-right Americans might themselves at a disadvantage compared to naturalized Americans who already had to study hard to pass the citizenship test.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  20. Loren, Chicago

    No, we must suffer fools gladly. Remember that these types of tests were endemic in the South to prevent Blacks from voting. It may be good citizenship to know how our government functions, but you can't legislate that.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  21. Jon

    Beyond a no-brainer. Voting is one of the basic rights of citizenship. Knowing that we have tens of millions of non-citizens living here who could influence elections with illegitimate votes should convince any rational person that proof of citizenship should be mandated for voters. Voting is a privilege of citizenship, and it diminishes the rights of the citizens when non-citizens get to vote. Which other country should I, as an American citizen, be allowed to vote in? It's insane.

    Jon
    Lima, Ohio

    April 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  22. Pete in Georgia

    Jack, what are you trying to do give the Democrats a heart attack ???

    April 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  23. Mike S., Dayton

    Yes, I'm sure administering the testing of a hundred million voters would not increase our deficit at all. Ya think?

    April 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  24. Eve Lemon

    Why require something that will be struck down by courts. I'd like to see proof of citizenship. Eve, Texas

    April 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  25. Carl

    Jack,

    No, why should it be, illegal aliens don't have to take it to vote.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  26. Steve, Clifton, VA

    I have always believed that citizenship was established before you ran for public office and/or for voter registration. If it were not than please tell me why millions of people live in the shadows because they are not legal citizens? This johnny come lately after the fact is nothing more than political theater. Do we really believe that one could register to vote if they were not a legal citizen? Do we really believe that our system of legal checks and balances is so flawed that the system would not catch it before anyone dared approach a voter registration process?

    April 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  27. s in fl

    No, Jack. It's absolutely ridiculous. It's obviously just another disgusting attempt by the GOP to cull the Democratic voter rolls. How about lie detector tests for every GOP talking head that spouts complete fantasies in interviews with virtually zero pushback? Or maybe literacy tests for Teabaggers?

    April 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  28. Mar Tampa

    NO it is hard enough to get people to vote now so if you require that they have to pass a test to register the voter turnout will be more dismal.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  29. Cheryl in Bluffton, SC

    What an intriguing question, Jack! It's tempting in order to eliminate low-information voters, but it would add a layer of bureaucracy, and after all, Americans have a right to be dumb or to believe in whatever foolishness they choose to.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  30. Ralph

    No, let's address, fund, and fix our failing schools first so that the next generation of voters can read, write, recite and understand citizenship and politics and vote accordingly.
    Ralph – Corpus Christi, Texas

    April 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  31. Tom (Atlanta)

    Citizenship, absolutely. Now, as for a test of citizenship something appropriate be required. I don't think we're talking about a background check here, but how about a birth certificate, passport showing citizenship. I don't see that as unreasonable. To be President yes, but to vote no. (Just kidding).

    April 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  32. BESSIE

    what are we going back to when they made the afro americans take a test to still stop them from voting after they were finally given the right too ! believe me I know how that feels ,I WAS THERE !!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  33. Bonnie from NJ

    No it should not, however I would feel more comfortable if I was asked for ID when I voted. You must be a US citizen to vote, that is the test.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  34. Joe Ft Walton Bch Fl

    Of course Jack. Such a test is needed, and questions should include, who is the President Today?. Can you name your State?. Where is the White House?. It would reflect our knowledge on who we are voting for and why.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  35. BESSIE JACKSON

    what are we going back to when they made the afro americans take a test to still stop them from voting after they were finally given the right too ! believe me I know how that feels , I WAS THERE !!!! LUTHERVILLE,MD.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  36. Buster in Poughkeepsie, NY

    Heck J-Caff, a test for basic citizenship? How weak is that? Anyone who has the moxie to register to vote should get a pat on the back. 37.4 percent of the American electorate don't even bother to register. And you know what else Homie, I should get a pat on the back for using the word moxie. I'm sure 67.6 percent of the electorate don't even know what that means.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  37. RickFromDetroit

    I think it is time to go beyond the basics of citizenship and identification and utilize the technology that is available. We can then eliminate or reduce many of the problems that technology has given us, or "fight fire with fire," but do not allow our rights to personal privacy be violated.

    A National ID Card should be required by everyone and it should be the primary form of identification. This card could be linked to all government and private sector computers and would be the only card you would need to carry. It would be required by the Federal Government the same as the Driver License or State Issued ID Card is required by many states.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  38. Greg in Arkansas

    The test would be a good idea for voters if... and....ONLY.. if ALL candidates were required to pass a more stringent test to demonstrate their understanding of the job they expect us to elect them to.

    After listening to some of the outrageous statements from candidates these past few years, I am convinced that it takes uninformed voters to elect uninformed candidates...and.... the result has been an unending foolishness and a lack of progress from our elected "leaders" when we need them the most.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  39. Dave in Phoenix

    Yes, then maybe these Tea Partiers will quit running around trying to re-invent the founding fathers intentions with our constitution.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  40. Rich McKinney, Texas

    In Texas Jack we are working on passing legislation that requires a Texas ID or Drivers license each time you vote. In order to get one you must produce proper documentation. Up until now all you had to do was apply for a voter registration card and it was sent to you by mail and you only had to present that paper voter registration card and you were allowed to vote. I could have taken any paper card into a voting place and they would have allowed me to vote. I don't know that a basic citizenship test would make any difference Jack for the simple reason that a lot of Americans can't tell you anything about America other then that they are fairly sure they might live here. That is still debatable.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  41. dennis north carolina

    NO,this would give a certain group a way to refuse a person the right to vote. proof of citizenship and residence are all that is required of a person to vote.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  42. BILL, WI

    To vote the person must be a citizen. Period. The citizenship test should be administered to recent immigtrants who choose to become a citizen and it will be their citizenship card that would fulfill that requirement. But the sad reality is that we live in a country that has about a 30% dropout rate, all of the folks in this category will fail the citizenship test. Even more shocking is that of High School graduates taking the Armed Forces Entrance exam, 25% fail this basic test. That means in this country if the citizenship test was given at the polling station about 55% taking the test would probably fail.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  43. Scott in Bellingham

    Jack, your question may imply a notion that the privilege to vote should require a passing level of knowledge of citizenship.

    Only 1 out of 10 Manhattan HS graduates can read the word "stop" except it goes up to 1 out of 2 if you show a picture of the word on a red octagonal background. Only 1 out of 12 Manhattan HS graduates know paper comes from wood pulp.

    Our forefathers did not frame literacy as a prerequisite to vote under our Constitution.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  44. Steve,New York

    I thought when you came to this country and wanted to be a citizen, you had to learn to speak English and you had to pass a test. My grandparents came to this country over 50 years ago and they had to pass a test.
    What happenned?? You mean to tell me you can become a citizen and you don't have to speak English and you can be illiterate??
    Am I understanding correctly your question?? If this is true there is something wrong here. This must be a Democratic/Liberal social policy
    to get the illiterate vote??

    April 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  45. Kevin of SD CA

    They need to take a comprehensive test to register and a basic test every year thereafter!

    April 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  46. Joe Tyrrell

    Of course, representation without citizenship is unconsitutional.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  47. Remo, from beautiful downtown Pflugerville Texas

    You have to take a test to dirve a car right. Being able to drive the country might require a test as well. As "Forest Gump said; Stupid is as Stupid does".

    April 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  48. John from Alabama

    Jack: We have accepted being born in America as the measure of citizenship. This is a tradition for over 240 years. Maybe, if we failed students in high school, who did not pass America history it might change their thinking. Citizenship has been and will remain a place of birthright. Test for citizenship, and all the attorneys will fight it in court.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  49. Craig R. McNees

    tampa, fl surely you jest jack, here in tampa our leaders wave just about all requirements to get illegals to register to vote, as they haven't given up on the corrupt voting process as we have here in florida. in our recent election over 78% of the registered voters didn't want any of the candidates in office. besides, illegals also get to check off the box that they are illegal and don't have to serve on jury duty then, so what is the down side to them?

    April 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  50. Troy Spier

    It would seem logical to have a basic citizenship test as a requirement to register to vote, but we cannot really expect the citizens of the United States to understand the law when we see it manipulated and misconstrued by our already-elected politicians all the time.

    Fleetwood, PA

    April 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  51. Sandstone.

    "Well you would think, with all this talk about stealing an individuals personal identity; that the voting system would be much more serious anyway. I know it is a bit late and stupid?? Or is it? But in England during Wll we all had to have an Identity Card. A couple of my relatives still have theirs, even though it's not needed? or is it?? It would be so easy to issue cards today, with all this Tech. But there is so much paranoia?? Why?? Do you want security or not?? What is the gripe??

    April 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  52. Mr. D

    What, a test before voting? That would violate the right of every citizen to be clueless in terms of what the country is all about. That's asking too much in the present day "politically correct" mindset that is sinking this country.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  53. Gary - Woodhaven, Michigan

    If basing being an American and having the rights of all Americans is based on any degree of intelligence, then good God we would have no government as no one could run.

    It is up to those running to educate and teach the populous to rid the ignorance, but then it is hard to separate the lies from the truth, the ideology and pedagogy from the reality in any election, as this perpetuates stupidity.

    And by the way, didn't we shamefully manipulate the use of this type of test after the voting bill passed in the 60's to purposely restrict a peoples' civic rights?

    April 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  54. JENNA IN ROSEVILLE CA

    Should a basic citizenship test be part of the voter registration process?

    Sure Jack, let's start with the TEATARDS and those in the House and Senate that support them i.e. Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul, Tom McClintock, etc.. Then make those running for office take the test too.. And the talking heads that give all these TEATARDS carte blanch on the air, let them take the same test too.

    If these folks who claim to know everything there is to know about this nation and the US Constitution fail, then they can't vote nor keep their seats, or run for any office. And the talking heads that fail need to go OFF the air.

    Now that works for me.

    Jenna
    Roseville CA

    April 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  55. John ....... Marlton NJ

    Jack, sadly there is no cure for stupid... I've suggested removing 'warning' labels from things and the 'stupid problem' would solve itself.

    As far as the 38% failure rate on a citizen test, its an improvement to the nearly 50% rate of urban high school graduates that can't pass a post graduation high school competency test.

    .

    April 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  56. Dee in New Paris Ohio

    Jack, considering some of the antics in Congress lately, how about giving potential candidates the test! And NO CHEATING, like having their campaign managers look the answers up for them!

    Not only does it seem that the average American has no clue what is going on, but our elected representatives seem to be a little light on the knowledge, too.

    BTW, once again, in this question, you (and I guess CNN) mention ENTITLEMENTS, like they are the only reason we are in such a bad financial state. PLEASE, if you want to mention anything about spending, PLEASE, mention the 2 BILLION dollars a month it csts to keep our troops in the wars!

    Maybe this is part of the reason the average American knows so little, and what they know is very often wrong. You guys are not doing a very good job of talking about what is REALLY going on in Washington. I know it is pathetic that many people ar clueless, but it is also pathetic that the media only gives part of the facts!

    And as for the general public thinking it is OK to cut things like foreign aid and public broadcasting, and not knowing how much it really costs to fund such programs compared to the total budget, maybe that is because the average American can't do math, either!

    April 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  57. Barbara, Phoenix

    No. it is one of our fundamental rights as citizens that we do not have to "earn" every time we want to use it. It will potentially be discriminatory and start us down a slippery slope where we lose more rights because we cannot meet political criteria to hold on to them.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  58. Tom in Desoto, TX

    The republican plan of dumbing America is on course. Further cuts in education will help fulfill the plan. Employment will not be a problem for the masses as they will find work in the military is far off lands to become cannon fodder so the wealthy merchants of death will reap in trillions. There is no reason for the population to know what's going on, just sign up for the next concocted war the republicans want. Oh yea, what a John Wayne movie while you're at it. (PS: John Wayne always made sure he avoided the military.)

    April 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  59. Jenny from Nanuet, NY

    No-but people running for Congress should have to pass such a test before being allowed to run.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  60. david-seattle

    what , more tests to hide the fact we still only have a 2-party monopoly that derails theintegrity of ourcountry so special interests can have thier way and shady politiicians can hold on to power for no other reason than the money worhsipping powermongering hippocrits who repress us with derailed trade policy? Maybe weshould have a test applied to sitting politicians to find out ,once and for all, who is paying them off and what favors they do that make us a second rate nation with crappy paying jobs that bypass us for advancement cuz affirmative action requires a lottery pick of succes, that further destroys integrity of leadership

    April 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  61. Chris. Hillsborough, NJ

    Yes! While I don’t mean to undermine our democratic system, it scares me how little some people know when casting a vote. The very least a potential voter should possess is a basic understanding of what it means to be a United States citizen and live in a country where casting a vote directly impacts the way our country is run. If potential voters cannot pass a basic citizenship test, then clearly they lack the competency to decide what’s best for our country.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  62. Mike in St. Paul

    No way. The fact is that people who do not know when we celebrate Independence Day (or thought it was a trick question and guessed wrong) will be affected by the outcome of an election and so should have their say. Sure, there are people who don't know what the Fourth of July means and as a result would be disenfranchised of voting rights. You can rest assured that those people are going to be the ones who step on a landmine in a hot, sandy, unpleasant place they had never heard of before that. This country already tried a voter registration test. You had to be a white, male, land owner.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  63. Mary Steele Yorktown VA

    No, proof of citizenship should be the only factor! Voting is for citizens only and anybody can memorize answers to a test!

    Yorktown VA

    April 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  64. Scott Stodden

    Not To People Who Are Legal Citizens Of This Country No! The Illegals And Immigrants Unless They Are A National Citizen Shouldn't Even Be Allowed To Vote Unless They Take That Test. I Was Born In America So Why Would I Have To Take Any Test?

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

    April 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  65. Ralph Nelson

    No. It was used by both the Democratic Party (before President Johnson) and Republican Party to deny blacks the right to vote. Remember the Voting Rights Act? Leave it alone. More of the rich trying to screw the poor and control the country. Have you noticed how all our problems started in 1978?.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  66. Mike in Minneapolis

    Jack,
    Voter registration won't make a difference, only a small % of immigrants feel the need to vote.
    The other option(s) should be – Be able to speak, read & understand English, and you PROVE you're not a criminal & can do an honest days work – then we'll give you the right to be here, have a drivers license, legally work here & you must provide 2 years US military service. And after that – you might be considered eligible for benefits, unemployment, welfare, etc...

    April 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  67. Josh from New Orleans

    If we are going to make people take a test, then we should teach civics and government in our schools. Maybe the we could replace it with the time we teach about creationism.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  68. Ros - Illinois

    NO, this is a plan by the Republicans to only let people vote that they can control. I am so sick of the way the t-party is threatening anyone that doesn't do like they want. Who died and made them ruler? Ever since they started getting attention they started thinking they are in control. I would never ever vote for anyone they are backing.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  69. Ray in Knoxville

    Jack, ideas like this harken back to the Jim Crow South and bring back big concerns (unless you're a white Southerner, that is.)

    April 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  70. Linda in Arizona

    Sure and let's impose an IQ test while we're at it. And since you're so worried about the deficit, how about a nice poll tax? What idiocy.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  71. Robby Bowling

    Why require anything that would offend anybody. I thought the idea was to let every illegal have a say in a country they don't belong , hate or care less about. For that matter let's let the whole world vote in our elections, our president seems to care more about their opinions than ours.This is all about getting votes & political correctness. What will we do after we realize that we gave away the ranch to only see it destroyed in front of our eyes. We have become a nation of fools. God help us. Dallas

    April 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  72. steve - virginia beach

    The government test you described should be given to students to determine whether teachers and parents are doing their jobs. The only citizenship test for voting should be a hospital-issued birth certificate with the delivering doctor's or other witness' signature.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  73. Amanda from San Fran

    Unfortunately NO. Sadly the uninformed masses have every right to vote however they want to. ever heard the saying "never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups?" result= President Obama.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  74. andyz Lynn, MA

    No way! The system works. It's the immigration system/laws that require immediate attention. Find any other member nation in the U.N. that allows illegals into their country and provides them free everything. Do a little research. And Jack, you erudite, maven of political commentary, explain to me why illegals get free medical care, when legal citizens have to pay and pay and pay. To get the most from America, I should have been born in Mexico.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  75. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    No, because there is a total disconnect between generations. The younger generation only care about the here and now and not the history of how we got here. And you can't expect our older generation to remember history when they have more important things to remember, like taking their medication on time.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  76. Cal (Maui)

    No, that's just part of our right after being born American Citizen's to go through life blissfully ignorant of how this country was born and the process we went through in forming this nation.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  77. Thom Richer

    Another indicator of how far right we are going in this country. So many indicators that Germany exhibited during the Nazi reign are rearing their ugly heads today. Maybe not so overt but they are festering and ooze into our politics and lives with a similar result. Government control and loss of freedoms.

    No, whether ignorant or educated or rich or poor, every citizen has the same right to vote based solely on his or her citizenship. We are already an elitist society and this would only make it more so. we are close to being what we ran from...a class society. Lets put freedoms back to America for all.

    Thom Richer
    Negaunee, MI

    April 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  78. David

    Clearly, Jack, a citizenship test would be one that you'd have trouble with as well. Social Security does NOT "cost our government big bucks"–Social Security is entirely paid out of employee/employer contributions and is prohibited by law from spending money beyond that funding. That's why Social Security has not contributed one dime to the deficit.
    In addition to questions like this, whose correct answer might well be subjectively determined, maybe we should institute a poll tax, literacy test, and picture ID requirement.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  79. Greg Turman

    Jack;

    A test would just prove that 51% of the population is stupid. Why not require a birth certificate or social security card?

    You can not fix stupid, it would be the end of the democrat party.

    Gregory Turman
    Dallas,Texas

    April 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  80. Gladys Shaw

    Absolutely – especially anyone running for public office.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  81. Jesusdude from D.C.

    For convicted felons, YES!

    April 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  82. Ed'sKate

    Absolutely not.
    If tests should be given to anyone, it is to the nitwits being elected to Congress!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  83. Annie, Atlanta

    This is a really bad idea. Instead, how about non corporate owned media. This commercial infotainment trash that qualifies as news these days is going to be our undoing. Or we could set up a board with broad powers to fine corporations when their "news people" spread lies. Cutting into those corporate profits may turn things around.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  84. John Cohn

    To dive a car or pilot a plane I have to pass a series of tests. Yet, for my most important privilage, voting, no test. Does not make sense to me! While we're at it ; hoow about some proof of citizenship before registering to vote. Not as in Fall River where they takie our word for it.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  85. Jonathan Poe

    Yes, because people are ignorant about how the US government works. But, I don't think it is entirely voters faults. US government structure and policy is always changing; so how are we supposed to keep up? And does it really come down to who has the best ideas for government or who is the most popular? When we, the American people, start caring about issues is when educated voting will matter. Until then, don't hold your breath!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  86. william b.

    Why not ? Our immigration system is not working because illegals are still getting federal help. So if they are not verified then their vote should not count. By allowing everyone to vote but cannot past the citizenship test we might as well allow the rest of the world to vote right along with us as if it was some sort of global American idol contest. The point is we are attempting to crack down on votes that do not count, and this is not a bad idea. For those that take the citizenship test during voting it would not be any different than those who take the naturalization test to become citizens and anyone with a pulse who was born here and pays attention to the country they live in should be able to answer such simple questions as who is the current commander in chief ? The point is l believe the parties who are against it are counting on those illegal and ignorant votes in the future elections.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  87. Jimmy--Florida

    I would say no... only because when I relocated to another state and wanted to drive my car and even though I have a valid driver's license, I had to produce a birth certificate. I think that ought to be enough to register to vote... btw, that was asked of me when I did change my license. What party, etc. So the birth certificate did the job. I do agree with one of your posters from Tampa: that was ever mandated, and just because of the "hassle" voter turnout would be toast even though most of if not all registered are legal.

    I asked a friend of my kid's a question once: how many branches of government are there... she said... 5... and I just walked away... 17yrs old...wow.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  88. Meredith in Oregon

    YES!!! It seems ridiculous that immigrants have to pass the test to become citizens (and then vote). But people who are born in the US, no matter how stupid they are, can vote because it is a birthright.

    And I am stunned that only 38% of Americans failed. I would have thought the number was much higher.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  89. J. Smith

    Ignorance is a remarkable thing. Just look at the comments on your preceding question, for example. Does it bother newmen that their viewers could possible have so much misinformation? Kinda a sounds like someone isn't doing their job.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  90. Fran from Rockville

    A big fat emphatic No!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  91. Craig Van Fleet

    I am not in favor of a citizenship test. It has been a while since 3rd grade Social Studies, but an intelligence test..I am all for that!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  92. Larry Kay

    Voters should pass a basic citizenship test and also have at least some teeth.

    Larry
    New Brunswick NJ

    April 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  93. Dan

    I think it's only fair that we, as citizens, should have to take the test before we're allowed to vote. It's really sad that immigrants know more about our history than we do.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  94. Brett

    Absolutely, too many ignorant people have too much say, and not a clue as to what they are actually talking about.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  95. dave

    NO address our ignorance first with our school systems

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  96. Chis Hardy

    That would never work. The median IQ out there is about 89. That means there are a LOT of stupid people.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  97. Joseph Kraatz, Oceanside, CA

    Well, elections would sure become cheaper since less than 5% of the population could vote. No, I like the present system knowing full well that nothing but bozos and looney tunes will go to congress.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  98. Sylvia

    As sad as it is that most Americans don't know this basic information that immigrants must learn, it would be against the law. It hearkens back to the qualification tests that black people were forced to endure for so long after they gained the right to vote.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  99. Renee Peoria,Ill

    Nice idea but that would leave the tea party out in the cold. Not to mention tea party candidates. If voters need to pass the test then those running for office should definately be tested. Half of them wouldn't be in office now if they had to know American history in order to be on the ballot.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  100. Tom DeBoni

    How about a service test, rather than a literacy test: Only those who have spent a year or two in some form of public service – the military, volunteerism, government internship, etc. – have the right to vote. Then, while they are in service getting a personal appreciation for what they will be participating in, they can also receive civics/government schooling, so when they do participate, they'll understand it.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  101. Dr. Eugene Williams

    Yes. We all suffer from too much government by the uninformed.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  102. Woody

    Absolutely! We need to go back to only property owners voting. We are the only ones that pay for the rest!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  103. Ryan

    Yes. As was said long ago, an intelligent persons vote should not have the same value as the town idiot's.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  104. Bob Waggoner

    I'm not suprised. Civic classes were cut from the federal budget under Regan

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  105. Karl in Flint

    Can you say unconstitutional? It sounds good but I fear in the South, it will not be administered equally. We’ve been around that block before. How about we just start funding our schools again like we did decades ago when we weren’t producing entire generations of idiots like we are today? When I went to high school in the early 60’s, seniors were required to take a semester each of government and economics. Too many today can’t even pronounce these words, much less spell or define them. The rich get richer and the dumb get dumber.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  106. Joshua Dinsmore

    It does seem like it would work Jack. Lets face it there are a lot of people in this country that are so incompetent that they vote for idiots like Michelle Bachmann. I get the feeling that anyone who is a part of the Tea Party Movement would fail that test, and I'm ok with that.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  107. Matthew Lindner

    Absolutely, use the current basic citizenship and then freeze it. Put law in place so that it can no longer be changed. This would free the possibility of politicians using it to skew the voting process.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  108. robb

    No, but is it too much to ask for a return of Civics class? I didn't get it. I went to an American public school, but I went out and learned things anyway. If critical thinking skills are put on the back burner, so will follow intelligence.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  109. Joe Bates,La Crescenta, Ca.

    How about a gullibility test?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  110. Ron, WA

    While I know it will be deemed unconstitutional, all Americans who graduate high school should have to pass a basic citizenship or pay a $100 fine to vote – make them prove our free public education was good for something! Those who didn’t graduate already pay a fine it’s called poverty & shame.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  111. Nancy

    Ha! In order to vote you don't even have to prove you're a citizen by showing an ID and now you want people to pass a 4th grade level civics test? As if...

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  112. Ajay

    Of course! When people get their citizenship, they are required to know a lot about our national history. When voters have the power to change the course of our nation, we should also, at minimum, know what is going on. An uninformed, or undereducated voter is similar to having a plumber give you open heart surgery – NOT viable!!

    From Greensboro, NC

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  113. barry

    the test is crazy to even think about. lets say we do a common sence test and make sure these book smart people know their ass from a hole in the ground. all these educated people in gov. and look where we are. call it how ya want, but educated people has us screwed.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  114. Jacqueline Mongeot

    When we applied to immigrate to America at the American Embassy we were given a booklet outlining basic information about the Constitution and general rules governing most states in United States. We had an American citizen who sponsored us. It took about 6 months of correspondence and meetings before we received our green cards in the 50's. 5 years later, we were able to apply for citizenship. My husband, our daughter and I passed the test with the Judge's congratulations. We were able to vote. We were surprised to find out that many "born" Americans did not know that the College Electoral official number of votes determined who would be President, not the popular vote. Yet, the instructions on elections are taught in the H.S. Social Studies classes before graduation. What is wrong with the obligation to be well informed before an election.?
    Jacqueline. San Diego California

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  115. Gary H. Boyd

    yes, Jack there should be such a test but it won't happen. However, if it did, those who support Barack Obama would be the big losers and he'd be out of office in a heartbeat. Stupidity breeds stupidity. A democracy requires intelligence and America's level of that is fading fast.

    Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  116. Liane Waselus, Phoenix, AZ

    Fabulous idea. And while you're at it, why not a basic intelligence test for those who want to represent us in Congress? That should shape things up considerably, I think.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  117. chris

    YES. It would be a good support for the American educational system where we attempt to teach kids about the basics.
    AND, perhaps we should have the same test for the people who are running for office at every level from local to national. No pass, no candidacy, no fund raising, no election. Having and informed leadership...what a concept.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  118. Joel

    Voters shouldn't be tested but the people running for office should be tested!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  119. barry from nj

    Jack,

    I think an American citizen of age should be entitled to the rights given from our constitution. However, it makes you think about the competency when you see the state of today's congressmen and women, the incompetence and general lack of knowlege, aka Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, etc..etc..etc.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  120. Isabel from Bokeelia

    While I agree that a more educated voter base would be a boon, I think that the actual candidates running for Congress should face an entrance qualification examination. That exam should include civics, budgetary, and process issues. If our elected representatives had a competency test to pass, they might actually intelligent discourse as opposed to spouting ridiculous rhetoric.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  121. Peter G. Wendler

    I would be willing to take a 'Civics Test' in order to vote, if those running for Congress would be required to take an 'Ethics Test.' Not sure that one would make it out of committee...

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  122. frank thomas

    How about a basic test for anyone running for public office, that would have weeded out a majority of the newley elected so-called T party candidates who have now decided they run the government.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  123. Mohamed Warsangeli

    Hello Jack
    I am Canadian, I read that test of the U.S Citizenship
    it is very basic information and more like grade 4 quiz.
    To add that kind of a test on the voter list, then i guess it indicates again how most Americans, have voted for G.W.Bush twice.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  124. Birddog in Mississippi

    No, we shouldn't give the voters a test. We should, however, factcheck every single thing that candidates, talk show hosts, radio personalities and the like say. Oh yeah – that's what you guys are supposed to do. How about starting with Paul Ryan's fantasy plan to make everybody under 55 pay for every cent of our debt.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  125. Nick

    Yes, except for voters over the retirement age.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  126. Brian Bott

    It's a good idea. That it's currently illegal, doesn't make it a bad idea. It was illegal for women and many minorities to vote and those laws were changed ... our legal system evolves over time. A qualification exam would be a helpful pre condition for politicians and political and economic pundits as well.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  127. Mike Galwey

    NO,not nessesary,if we have "ignorant citizens" its because we cant get the truth out of any politician,one party is saying one thing the other party is saying the the reverse,hows anyone to know what the truth is. Im fed up with them all,I vote for responsible leadership,I guess thats been a waste of time lately

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  128. Mike in Maine

    Jack,
    A test is a bad idea for obvious reasons. Instead, we need to teach the next generation that is their civic duty to vote only after they have taken the time to learn something about who or what they are voting for. If everyone did that now do you really think we'd be stuck with the crowd we now have in D.C.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  129. Mike, Alberta Canada.

    I'd LOVE to have a way to make it so only people of a certain intelligence could vote!
    Its always amused me that a high school drop out with little political knowledge has as much of a vote as politiical intellectual.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  130. aTeaClown

    A literacy test too, please.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  131. Eddie

    Yes of course, what is good for the goose is goose for the gander! They say computers are only as smart as the people who are in front of them; this also applies to our elected officials, who are not and could not be smarter than the people who elected them. May be then we can have some adults in Washington.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  132. Jim, Nicholson PA

    Absolutely there should be a test. How can you expect uninformed voters to elect quality leaders when they don't understand the fundamentals of how government works? If its unconstitutional then I have a great suggestion for the next amendment to the constitution. Our current system is no different from allowing the deaf, dumb and blind to have a driver's license.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  133. David Tanner

    While such a suggestion is compelling, I don't think so. After all, that would leave the Republicans without a voting base.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  134. Old Guy

    Rather than a test, how about the media start holding both parties to the truth. When Gingish or Palin tell a whopper, come right out and say they were lying. Maybe the public is so poorly informed because the media is not doing its job to report the truth

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  135. Mohamed Warsangeli

    Hello Jack
    I am Canadian, I read that test of the U.S Citizenship
    it is very basic information and more like grade 4 quiz.
    To add that kind of a test on the voter list, then i guess it indicates again how most Americans, have voted for G.W.Bush twice.
    Mohamed Warsangeli
    Toronto, Canada

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  136. Elizabeth

    Absolutely. I'm a naturalized citizen (50 years ago) and have found that I know more about the U.S. Government, the Constitution to mention a few than people who were born in this country. It's so sad because not only don't they know about the U.S. the no absolutely nothing about Europe, Africa and Asia. Another reason why American businesses have relocated to Eastern Europe and China.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  137. iIsrael Nwidor

    I think that some basic questions need to asked the voter to be sure that they know something about the country in which they live. There are so many ignorant American around.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  138. wade carter

    it would be the same as when i was in school. some people would figure out how to cheat on the test and the dishonest people would still be running the country.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  139. G. Bonner

    Of course Jack had to poison the well with his comments. The founders had it right. If you don't have skin in the game you shouldn't vote. We getting to the point where those that depend on government will out number those that produce. When that happens...the game is over.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  140. Val

    Sounds like a great idea – if testing were targeted to just one segment of the populace, it would certainly be deemed unconstitutional – but if we all have to take the test, at least the voters will be more apt to make an INFORMED decision on who they vote for. Of course this would be opening up the door for abuse of the test!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  141. Randy C- Maryland

    That's unconstitutional, and the last thing elected officials want is an educated electorate, which would make it more difficult for them to manage public opinion via hot button issues and sound bytes.
    A better solution would be for our media to consider voter education to be part of their job, along with impartial reporting, by challenging our officials when they try to spin public opinion, rather than being complicit in their actions.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  142. Richard

    Sure that will be a good idea. But do you think Republicans and the crazy tea party people will agree to it. I don't think so Jack.
    Richard

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  143. Kalfeer

    Testing did not pass constitutional muster in the 60's because it unilaterally targeted one specific demographic. Of course, bleeding liberals would cry foul if any attempt were made to try to encourage an educated, informed voter base. But why? Why should it be unthinkable to insist that those who vote for the most important positions in our government have some basic understanding of what they are voting for, much less WHY they have that right? Drivers are required to pass written and practical driving tests in order to prove they have a modicum of mastery of actually DRIVING before they are allowed to operate a dangerous vehicle on the roads. Yet, no competency at all is required to cast votes for the people who decide the destiny of this nation. Look at our deficit and tell me who is more dangerous: an uneducated driver, or a member of congress voting to lard their district at the expense of the rest of the country. At lease, I question the difference.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  144. Lee Gray

    Why shouldn't we have to pass a citizenship test. It's the least we can do to help get our country back in the hands of responsible representatives, if there are such people. It's very obvious a large block of people cast their vote based on sex, good looks, color, etc. If they understood the dynamics of why they are voting perhaps it would make a difference. I still believe this is a great country and the best is yet to come. Call me a dreamer?
    Pigeon Forge, TN

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  145. Michael-New Jersey

    I would think yes... If someone is not smart enough to pass a test with basic questions like who is the the chief of staff and what are the two bodies of the Congress, I do not want them electing my representatives for my community.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  146. Jessy from Florida

    If "Questions like why we fought the Cold War stumped 73%", then we definitely should impose a test to weed out the ignorant. Why should we entrust the fate of our voting system to a bunch of people who don't even know why we got involved in the Cold War?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  147. Johann Herrera

    Absolutely, I believe that a huge part of the problem with Washington is that the wrong people are getting elected and for the wrong reasons. It is sad to say but a lot of Americans are ignorant and appear to have blinders on, which doesn't allow them to make rational and educated decisions. I say go a step further and have some sort of meeting or presentations in each voting centers providing all the info on current topics and issues, which I guaranteed a lot of people are mis-informed about.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  148. Nancy, Tennessee

    Making sure the voters are literate will not help elect good people to office in Congress and the Presidency. We need a way to get rid of politicians before their terms are up if they promise one thing and march into Washington and do a 180 degree turn. I don't think the current group of Republicans would have been elected if the general population had known they would push for the tax cuts to be extended for the wealthiest Americans. Now as Republicans plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare, many people are wondering what else they will do to the most vunerable Americans. Yes, they are for the rich and the rest of Americans can take a hike. Trickle down economics has never worked and never will because greed stops this theory in its tracks. No new jobs will be born from the trickle down theory of Andrew Carnegie.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  149. Francia Stone

    Usually I enjoy your comments and suggestions, but today's question just mortified me. We've already had a "citizen's" test years ago in order to keep the Black population in the South from voting. Maybe after we install another test, we legalize slavery again. Even the question, Mr. Cafferty is insulting to the American people. We are all witnessing the backward steps our country is taking financially, but the suggestion of taking backward steps socially is absolutely abhorrent.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  150. Mitch

    As a high school student, I say that it is time we start stressing US History like we do with math and science. If you can't answer simple questions like those, you should not go into a voting booth and vote for potential leaders of our nation. I am not saying we need a test to prove this, I am simply saying learning history is more vital to the preservation of our nation than having everyone become masters of science and math... I am also not saying that those subjects are pointless, I just think US History should be stressed more than it currently is.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  151. Andrew

    Since immigrants are expected to do at least as well, the rest of us won't have a problem with it...right?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  152. Yengi

    Of course! Why didn't anyone think of that sooner? When we revise the constitution that should be in it!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  153. Dave Glasker

    I have been saying this for years, but let's go one step further. Let's stop the insane amounts of money that go into these campaigns. Elections are beauty contests. That's why we are in the mess we are in.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  154. Peter G. Wendler

    I would be willing to take a 'Civics Test' in order to vote, if those running for Congress would be required to take an 'Ethics Test." Not sure that one would make it out of committee...

    Peter G. Wendler – Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  155. margaret

    Great idea – high school students and college students should be given the test as well as a requirement for graduation. All who wish to vote should have at least some basic knowledge of civics and government in the United States. ALL candidates should receive a more extensive and in dept test regarding the workings of our government and their scores should be published.
    Honestly, the test given to immigrants wishing to become citizens are terribly simple – but it woud be interesting to see the scores "earned" by our current elected officials.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  156. Darren Johnson

    No, I think that would be disastrous, as there would only be a few hundred people left to vote.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  157. Gregory

    Although Thomas Jefferson did say, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people" it would be unconstitutional to have citizenship test to vote. The goal is to increase our civic education for all citizens. There are many other ways to do this. Since all high schools require that students take a US Government course in order to graduate, we should evaluate how well these courses are being taught and make improvements where necessary. For the general citizenry to be so ignorant as the tests show must mean that our high school courses are somehow lacking.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  158. John

    You have got to be kidding. We can't even get 50% of our idiots to vote. Were we to require a test for basic intelligence of our government, who would be left to vote these chuckle-heads running our government?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  159. Erick

    I think it was Churchill who said "The best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter" and boy was he right!
    Speaking with friends and strangers on political issues constantly reminds me of that quote by Churchill. MOST people in this country are either uniformed or misinformed. it's a shame and I can't help but to think that's how these freshman congressmen got voted in...SCARY!

    Erick
    Arlington Va.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  160. Evelyn

    Mandatory citizenship testing before voting? Lack of knowledge is the issue here. Educating the nation should be the goal. Geography, History, Civics should be the main focus. Sad, but true, immigrants actually know more about the History of the United States than citizens by birth. It is a privilege that is taken for granted by many, however they (citizens) are nothing more than victims of an education system that is clearly failing.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  161. Mike McCraney

    Absolutely!
    I'd also like to see the demographics of the responses to the question, it would be hilarious! Election after election, I hear on CNN that the democrats are relying on the uneducated, unemployed, minority, downtrodden, homeless, etc., etc. Care to take a wild guess at which side of the aisle will be in violent opposition?
    You have to take a written exam to get a driver's license, I say we start the same policy. You'd actually eliminate so many people who vote purely on race, nationality or other biases.
    It will never happen though, because the democrats will rise up and squash any attempt to institute such a policy. They'd lose the critical voting constituency they rely on!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  162. LeRoy

    Absolutly. The ignorance of the voters is unbelievable. Not only do they lack knowledge of how the country is supposed the function, they cast their votes along party lines and know next to nothin about the candidates themselves. They might as well vote for a bunch bannanas.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  163. Darren Johnson

    No, I think that would be disastrous, as there would only be a few hundred people left to vote.

    Darren in Fairbanks, Alaska

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  164. Dennis Arcadipane

    No. If we put more money into education instead of less, someday we would have more intelegent voters, and politicians.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  165. Timothy Fagan

    Yes! But does our vote or anything we do as American citizens matter anymore? If we took a step back would we still call America a Democracy? How many would vote for the end of 3 wars and an end to corporate tax loops. A majority for sure. Well? Why doesn't our "vote" matter on those issues?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  166. Dawn (Bermuda)

    Jack as much as I would love to have a citizenship test before one can vote, as it would probably eliminate the Tea Bagger's from elections, such a test would also take away an inalienable right to have one's voice heard even if its the voice of ignorance. The real issue is education which unfortunately, our citizens aren't getting.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  167. Stuart

    It's a great idea. Unfortunately, as your poll suggests, unless you include a lot of softballs like "Which goes better on a hotdog – ketchup or mustard?" a large portion of voters won't doing very well. The really sad thing is that a large portion of Congress wouldn't doing very well either.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  168. Bob in Texas

    I think there should be some sort of a test for politicians before they are allowed to run. Some of those guys are knuckle heads. And yes there should be a test for voters.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  169. Stacey Lee

    No! But there should be a lie detector test for all these idiots(TEA PARTY) who make all these claim. If the economy is a reflection of what took place 3 years ago. How could Press Obama be the cause of the mess we're in

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  170. Tim

    Knowing that such action to register a voter of both civil and constitutional protections, I firmly say NO...

    However, as an aside to the idiocy that many Americans seems to have when BLINDLY electing inept, incompetent representatives to a goverment meant to represent the People of this country, then I would say YES...

    I personally believe ALL americans need mandatory refresher courses about the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights (which contain all of the amendments delineating our basic rights), and the Constitution, which gives each and every one us our responsibilities to manage our elected officials, and our government overall (WE, the People, ARE the legal Checks and Balances after all); we make these politicians and we can break them; they are obligated to us, and not the other way around...

    So, should there be other stipulations? Perhaps...with the elections coming up, time will tell if this baggage in Washington wakes up as well.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  171. Michael in New York

    It is rather disgraceful that many American Citizens are not aware of there enviorment (Civics, Laws, etc.). But often times the folks that need government the most, often lack a voice either by choice or lack of will. However let's not leave it to the Brightest and the Richest to make all of our choices with there Votes. Rock the Vote!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  172. Layne Alleman

    Jack, It would take way too much to get that type of law enacted, and the nitwits already have plenty on their plate. What I would like to see is a "truth in reporting" type of law that would hold the jabber-jaws accountable for the out-right lies that, right now, is acceptable in our current "news cycle". Layne A. Antioch, Il.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  173. David M

    YES, It would seem to me that those who know the answers to the basic, important, questions about our government have an overriding right to know their government is based upon competent action, and not governance based upon ignorance. It's not effective, democratic, government when those who don't even know what their government is about are allowed to alter it at whim. David M. San Francisco, CA

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  174. Eugene Mosley

    This will never pass. The political system depends on ignorant voters who respond to rhetoric rather than reason. Adoption of the plan would eliminate a large number of voters.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  175. George Cassutto

    If civics teachers like myself were given the resources to do an effective job, maybe Americans would do better on their tests.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  176. Celine

    Sorry, testing isn't the answer and is illegal. But this really shows how ignorant most Americans are. Education is one program that should be fully funded, even for the terminally stupid.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  177. Chad of the AF

    I would go even further than a test only for voting. Citizens are constantly having benefits and even constitutional rights handed to them without knowing the signifigance of what they do have let alone what it takes to have those same things granted for them. If everyone had to test to get what they have they would take less things for granted and perhaps allocate resources better and perhaps even depend on the goverment that is "oh so bad" less in the first place.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  178. Teresa Stansel

    Yes, we could instantly eliminate the tea party, the theocrats posing as traditional values voters and Michelle Bachman in one fell swoop. Ignorant, scaling boating and a lack of genuine critical thinking is what is turning America into a 3rd world country. A voter should be required to know that Hawaii is a state in America.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  179. J Tweed

    As an Immigrant I have always understood the importance of civics and most importantly how/why the government should be the same as the people and the American Ignorance accompanied by arrogance definitely speaks to the constant failing governance policies.. Americans need to learn this nation was built on Ideas and as Idealist the biggest challenge lies to how we adapt to changes and definitely this kind of Ignorance is the start to FAILURE!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  180. Barbara T. - Las Vegas, NV

    What a wonderful thought, but that will never happen. I'd be happy if I was asked for ID.

    I can't buy anything with my credit cards without providing my ID, but I can vote just by stating my name and address. Several times I have offered ID and was told it was not needed! So a basic citizenship quiz will never, ever happen. Why start keeping voting legal now?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  181. Victoria

    Requiring a test to vote would put the teabaggers in an unusual position. They could go out and campaign for candidates but few, if any, would be able to vote. It's highly doubtful that teabaggers could pass any test that required even half a brain! Literacy test? Fail. Sobriety test? Fail. Perhaps a few could pass an eye test. Probably not, though!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  182. mark koenig

    Doesn't seem like a good idea, seems like discrimination based on IQ. Better education in primary schooling leads to more well informed voters at least on the basics that a test like this would measure. Then why not weed out even more people, how about only people who have all of that knowledge plus keep up with current events and why not throw in there a minimal understanding of economics since that issue seems to be important every election? Where do you set the 'intelligence' limit, how do you define a 'well-informed voter'? How many of us would even still be left eligible in a system that would truly only see the most well-informed of voters involved in the process? And then would that small percentage really still be the majority rule kind of democracy we believe ourselves to be?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  183. Michael Paul Sauder

    Q. What would passing a civics test prove? A. One's knowledge of civics. If you want to give votes a test, test them on what they are about to vote one. For example, Q. Why are you voting for this candidate? A. I agree with his stance on cutting military spending, an area America out paces the world by leaps and bounds.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  184. Dan Schlig

    Yes, absolutely. We should amend the constitution to allow it. I wish you would also ask party affiliation with that poll. I’ll bet you will find that the majority of those who can’t pass the citizen test also affiliate themselves with the anti-intellectual Republican Party.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  185. Mikke in Delaware

    I am a natural born citizen, my wife is a naturalized citizen. We both feel that voters shoul;d be subject to a citizenship test., however, people will only vote for those who provide them money and free things.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  186. John

    Maybe if Congressional seats were filled by lottery instead of elections more Americans would demand more civic knowledge of themselves and their neighbors. The sad reality is most Americans just don’t feel anything they do can make a difference, which is reflected in how few vote to begin with.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  187. Ken

    Gotta love Jim Crow legislation. Why not bring back the Poll tax while you are at it?

    The only good thing about this is that millions of inbred, white Southerners would be excluded because of their lack of knowledge of history or anything else.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  188. Dennis McCallister

    Tell me why people who don't own property in a jurisdiction are allowed to vote on raising property taxes?
    What is their interest in raising the taxes on already over taxed working people.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  189. Anita

    Jack, not only for voter registration, but for candidates as well. That should remove at least some of the nutcases out there!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  190. Jack - Jamison, Pa.

    How about a simple test like, "Who is your State Rep. or who is your state Senator, or who is your congressman/senators? Maybe we'll get people who vote for the person rather than the corresponding box that matches their voter registration card.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  191. David

    I am a High school US history teacher. I found this test online as well. I decided to give it to my students and after they took it and scored pretty well, I gave it to the other teachers and administrators in the school. The students did much better than the teachers, but I am not in support of the weeding out of the "less informed" because it goes against the right to vote to all American citizens.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  192. Prat P. Chicago

    Yes, if you make all the pols, especially Ms. Michelle Bachman take the test.....

    Remember the shot heard the world came from New Hampshire?

    Ha! A test for voters? Heck no, the politicians want the voters to be dumber......so that we get the Govt. We deserve. !!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  193. Sally in Texas

    Would Donald Trump pass it? Yes. Is he smarter than my pet poodle? No.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  194. David A Whitaker

    Yes Jack most of the Republicans would not past the test, if they don't listen to Fox News they wouldn't have a clue.

    David
    Martinsburg, WV

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  195. Roslyn Manley

    To be fair, the test would need to be the same as that given to potential citizens. I believe it would be a great idea for all voters to demonstrate a basic knowledge of citizenship in the U.S. Unfortunately, the concept is probably unconstitutional.

    If, however, such a test on citizenship were required, we would probably lose a sizable portion of the electorate. I wonder what the results might be when a more knowledgeable electorate evaluated campaigns? I suspect Republicans would lose more voters than the Democrats. Unfortunately, I doubt we will ever find out.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  196. Chuck M. La Garita CO.

    Jack, I don't care if a voter passes a test or not. Intellegence should not be a reason to stop a voter. However, not being able to prove citizenship should be. Our government continues to look in all the wrong places to resolve important issues. Proving citizenship is much more important
    than passing a test when it comes to voting.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  197. Fran Beilowitz

    No, Mr. Cafferty. We already tried this "citizen's test" in the South to keep the Black Americans from voting.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  198. Ken

    Gotta love Jim Crow legislation. Why not bring back the Poll tax while you are at it?

    The only good thing about this is that millions of inbred, white Southerners would be excluded because of their lack of knowledge of history or anything else.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  199. Anonymous

    If we're going to do that, why don't we just bring literacy tests back?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  200. james

    so we leave out those we don't want voting? sounds like a politicians move. how about we require testing for anyone wanting to run for office. maybe, a polygraph and ethics test. let's weed out the liars and criminals in office before we start going after voters.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  201. Ken

    Gotta love Jim Crow legislation. Why not bring back the Poll tax while you are at it? The only good thing about this is that millions of inbred, white Southerners would be excluded because of their lack of knowledge of history or anything else.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  202. JD

    Actually, you can't as such a move will illegal. It would essentially violate many of the provisions of the Voting Act of 1965. Specifically, it violates the founding rule established by the act. That is the Voting Act of 1965 specifically prohibits "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."

    Just because some people may recall pieces of history better than others, means nothing and it baselessly "disqualifies" a person if they do not remember from a constitutionally protected right afforded to all in this country. Allowing this step to stand in spite of the illegality, is but a stealthy attempt to curtail sectors of the voting public.

    Shame on who ever proposed this now and in the past. Shame on all of us if we allow it to stand.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  203. farsight

    The test would have to be dumbed down to 8th grade level. Too many of us have a comic book mentality. Maybe that's what is needed for the average American to learn about government. Put the information our in comic book form. What a country !!!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  204. Bill

    I completely agree with Mr Granderson. We have many ignorant people who vote based on race or gender or because their church says to. Also, if we make immigrants take this test, are we making a double standard? I remember learning in 5th Grade History that immigration used to be as simple as giving your name to the people at Ellis Island and taking a medical exam. How did it become such an extensive and constricting process? What happened to
    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" ?

    Also, this process would be completely Constitutional. The amendments say, "The right of citizens...to vote shall not be denied or abridged...on account of race, color,..[or] sex."

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  205. Eric W.

    I think it's outrageous that someone who is going to vote, thus help to shape our country via politics, lacks basic civic knowledge. This comes to a disturbing head on at least one popular late-night talk show, where people are polled on very basic (often civic) information and can't answer the questions correctly. While this may be entertaining to some, to me it's a sad, scary and pathetic commentary on how lazy and complacent some Americans have become, especially our youth. Test yes! They need to pay attention and learn what's important to our communities and our country and be educated before they vote. High time they put down the Play Stations and cell phones and pick up a history book or ten!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  206. Bob

    Jack,

    The left says absolutely no. The right says absolutely yes. I guess it's about a 50/50 split wouldn't you say.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  207. Cathy Seattle

    The people running for office are the ones that need the tests. We have a Majority Leader in the House that does not even know how bills become law, and a tea party favorite that never can seem to get her history right. THEY are the ones that wield the power in this country, and they are the ones that need to pass a test.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  208. Ken

    In a word–NO! Requiring citizens to take tests in order to vote harkens back to the day of Jim Crow. Perhaps not the same, but similar enough to cause concern.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  209. c bielby

    As a young women I remember a candidate taking my children to register to vote (for him) in a mayoral race. They did as he requested without little concern for his political platform. If your only concern is the rhetoric of fear mongers and extreemists perhaps there should be some kind of tests! You don't need a Harvard education to know how to vote but you should be able to discern between 24 hour cable pundits and the real issues.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  210. Robert Mooberry

    How about requiring a high school diploma or GED to vote?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  211. Julie in NY

    YES!! Require anybody that wants to have a say in our government to know a little about it. I don't think that just because a person is born in this country they should be able to vote. I think everyone who wants to have a say should "have a little skin in the game". And being able to pass a very basic test about our government is not too much to ask.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  212. Barrie Locke

    I say YES based on the pathetic results of this poll. And we should cross-reference the respondents with their school systems and take a look at the curriculum and the teachers. I bet, based on the quality of answers, that the results would be the same even if we'd asked what date we celebrate the 4th of July.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  213. Danny in DeKalb

    I don't think Wolf was right when he said this would be unconstitutional. The Constitution prohibits a poll tax, specifically, and racial discrimination generally. Surely a non-race based test could be devised–like the immigration test which, after all, is mainly administerd to non-whites.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  214. Jimboob

    I think it would be ok... Sort of like being free, white and 21. The most important thing, I believe, would be for candidates to take a test to prove they were smart enough to preform the duties of the office they were seeking.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  215. douglas

    I think it should be required for all americans especially members of congress I bet more then half of them wouldn't pass

    April 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  216. JoMo

    A test to register to vote won't help, that just covers basic US History. The issues the country is facing is involves more than just basic knowledge of the US, it requires basic finance, economics, math and other topics. We vote to have representatives REPRESENT the PEOPLE, no matter who gets voted into the office it seems the PEOPLE are not represented, these so called representatives serve lobbying groups, big business, self interest, they serve everyone else but the PEOPLE.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  217. tomd

    Before the test is given, the first qualification is that one should be a LEGAL CITIZEN of this country. We have too many non citizens voting here in California!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  218. Stuart in Connecticut

    I'm all for it. Unfortunately, unless you include a slew of softballs such as "What goes better on a hotdog – ketchup or mustard?" most voters probably won't pass. And the really sad thing is that most of Congress probably wouldn't pass either.

    Stuart in Connecticut

    April 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  219. Lisa Mitchell

    ABSOLUTELY!!! This test should certainly be a high school requirement, never mind the voting booth! Unfortunately, we are too busy focusing on teaching HS seniors how to read! If you can play football, or basketball, academics are obsolete........a very, very sad reality.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  220. Gemma Cherioli

    Absolutely not. The very poor and uneducated may not know a thing about civics, but have a very vested interest in candidates that support programs important to them. This would completely alienate those in the country with a lower socioeconomic status and limited educational opportunities – as if they aren't alienated enough by our current system. I can't believe so many of you support this.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  221. Jan Miller

    Yes we should have a Citizenship test at poling centers. The Founding Fathers never envisioned a nation subject to moronic mob rule. The right to vote is predicated upon the belief that knowledge is the only real defense against tyranny. Those who have chosen the path of lazy, self-indulgent ignorance have elected to forfeit their right to participate in the most sacred right we Americans enjoy: our right to vote. We owe it to the generations upon generations of brave Americans who died to secure that right for us, that we will remain eternally vigilant against ignorance.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  222. Joanne

    Citizenship testing would not be worth the time and expense. Those who do not keep themselves informed will simply not vote. But then, these uninformed voters may have elected the jokers we have in Congress now.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  223. Mike E

    A test to permit voting opens up a whole realm of possibilities. Shouldn't there be a parenthood test instead of allowing just about any pair of dimwits to bring up a child? Shouldn't there be an American accent exam before allowing anyone to apply for a job which involves communicating with someone on the phone? Let's face it, based on that Newsweek poll, despite President Bush's education slogan, some adults as well as children simply should be left behind.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  224. luvcomments

    Only if the results are made available to the public. I can't wait to see how the Palin fares LOL And, no, she's not allowed to write the answers on her hands.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  225. Kathleen, Helena MT

    Jack–
    After reading the comments here, America is DOOMED.

    95% of these comments are screaming about illegal aliens. READ THE ARTICLE. The citizenship test would be aimed at Americans, not illegal aliens, or aliens of any stripe. It's the Americans who go to the polls and know nothing about what they are doing that the test would be aimed at. It's the Americans who don't know the name of the Vice President, the branches of government, etc. who are damaging our country so severely. IT IS IGNORANT VOTERS who would have to take the test.
    But all these commentors are screaming about birth certificates and illegal aliens. The stupidity just breaks my heart.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  226. Gwyn

    Of course. I think it's surprising and insulting that so many have so little faith in the ability of their fellow citizens to pass such a test, and that so many think that those who fail would be a particular race, gender, political party or religion. Let's give it a shot.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  227. Glen

    Maybe it would be better to televise certain laws or reminders before debates begin, or at places of polling. Compulsory tests would reflect badly on our already overstretched and underfunded educational system. Even mailing or emailing a pamphlet of "reminders" to registered voters would be a good idea. Tests would only serve to prove a divide between the haves and have-nots.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  228. Edward Wilkins

    How about we test the candidates as well? Most of them bought their ivy league educations and likely couldn't pass the immigration test.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  229. jean2009

    No. The only question should be are you an American citizen and registered to vote. In the past we have had people denied for their gender and the color of their skin both of which were bad ideas...so is basing voter rights on intelligence.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  230. Alex in wisconsin

    Yes and I also think there needs to be a test for mental competence. Mentally competent people can learn what they don't know. mentally incompetent people can be told about Government from now will 2050 and they will still not know the issues any better than the average 4 year old. Maybe a short video of the history of the USA should be sent out with every Census, people forget afterall.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  231. Hank

    There you go Jack, this is the exact reason why China do not give their citizen the right to vote "yet", because, just like the American citizen- many Chinese citizen are politically stupid or naive, and the CCP ain't gonna sit on their hands to allow the "idiots" to ruin the country they fought for.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  232. Julie

    Obviously this is a complex question because the Speaker of the House did NOT even know the 27th amendment to the Constitution when he stated, on camera, that no one in Congress would be paid if the Federal Government shut down last Friday. He was absolutely wrong on Congress being paid and he is "the so called" Speaker of the House. If someone in his position does not understand the Constitution and the amendments by heart what can we believe others to think. What a joke

    April 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  233. steve

    Absolutely not!!!!!! If someone cannot read that should not disqualify them from voting. unless we want to excuse them from obeying our laws or paying taxes also.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  234. Rich Crown Point Indiana

    Yes I believe so. But it was ruled unconstitutional because of it's biased use on Black America. So it's only fair to say it will be ruled unconstitutional for being too biased on Incompetent America

    April 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  235. denise

    Great idea! They should also make people pass a test to have a baby.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  236. Chris

    My first reaction is yes. But, somehow I can't escape the feeling that's not the answer. Is passing a basic test really going to raise the competency level of the average voter, or will it just raise their competency at taking said test? The American system has been so manipulated and distorted by those in power and those with loud enough voices to reach the masses, that a voter test isn't going to reverse that. But quality education would. We need to stop listening to administrators who have never spent a day at the head of a classroom. we need to stop listening to politicians who blather on and on about what they think is wrong with education. NONE of them are where the rubber meets the road. We need to shut up, sit down, and ask a teacher what's wrong. Then, and only then, do we have a hope of correcting some of these problems in the next generation.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  237. Shelby in PA

    No, voting is the beauty of democracy. But I do believe we can nip all of our problems at the root by requiring a license to become a parent in any form: biological, foster, step and / or adoptive. One criteria for the parent license could be an evaluation of one's voting participation record. This idea will decrease energy consumption, increase political knowledge and create respect for the many U.S. liberties so often taken for granted.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  238. Jim

    Jack, this is a no brainer, instead of linking voter registration to a citizen test, good idea. Link the test to securing a drivers licence, you wouldn't educate any more people on the inner working of the country, I fear, but you might clear the road of a third of the dummies, who don't care enough on their own, to learn about our great country.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  239. Graeme Woodley

    I was born in Canada, was transferred on business to the US in 1998, and became a citizen in 2008. I can assure you that not only do many Americans know less about our country than I do, they know less about tte world than most other western citizens

    April 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  240. Steve

    They dont teach civics, ethics, or government in school anymore. An ignorant, ill-informed population is easier to control.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  241. Bruce Eder

    One major problem, beyond the practical side of imposing such a test on tens of millions of voters in 50 different states and the District of Columbia, is that there are ample precedents from the US Supreme Court that seem to cut against imposing any such "qualifying" requirement for voting, beyond citizenship itself and proof of identity. So-called "poll taxes" and literacy tests were outlawed because they tended to be enforced selectively in places where they were imposed; in practice, white voters, especially middle-class and upper-class whites, never had to pass such tests or prove that they had paid such taxes, however small they were.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  242. james

    i guess no one remembers the poll tax. this was used to keep the poor from being able to vote. this is the same thing as requiring testing to vote. so, are we just repeating things because we have selectively forgotten parts of our countries history?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  243. big john

    Nope. Voting is a right. This just shows how all the money we spend on education has had very little effect. The education system in this country has failed us. We need a new system. This time without teacher unions.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  244. Susan

    Fully ONE THIRD of voters leaving the polls thought George Nethercutt would become Speaker of the House if he defeated 30-year veteran, and current Speaker Tom Foley in 1994. Nethercutt was a useless one-term waste (Contract with America anyone?) and Washington state lost its only Speaker ever and the political power that went with it. Stupidity costs.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  245. James R

    No – this is something that should be covered well in high school or junior high. The educational system has fallen apart & produces terribly ignorant adults. My feeling is that corporate America is happy with this as it breeds non-thinking, fearful, mindless consumers, who are easy marks for selling anything to.

    A test SHOULD NOT be part of the voting process. However, our educational institutions should be doing their job, providing a world class education. If this were the case, this discussion would be happening.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  246. Alex in wisconsin

    As an African American, the specter of literacy tests doesn't sit well. on the other hand, there are some seriously ignorant people who need to sit out a few election cycles so we can fix the country. Besides, Americans who don't know the basics ofthe country should not be influencing the debate saying that we need to take our country back to a false utopia.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  247. Pat

    Yes Jack, everyone should be able to spell "government" and "borders" on their protest signs before they are allowed to vote. Sorry, baggers!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  248. kathy from peoria az

    Finally Jack someone asks a question about how our voters actually vote. Yes they should take a basic test to see if they even know what is going on, not just to vote for some candidate that believes they can see Russia from her house. That is not a good enough reason to vote for anyone and that seems to be the mentality of most voters. If you listen to FOX news long enough you won't no what the truth is and that seems to be OK with the voters.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  249. Mike D.

    Jack,
    I'm a naturalized U.S. citizen and had to take the citizenship test to attain that honor. I feel that prior to receiving their voters registration card each U.S. citizen should be required to pass the citizenship test. I find that most Americans do not appreciate that wonderful and unique opportunity that we have in choosing our country's leadership. So many people in this world lack that opportunity to choose who their leaders should be. We require people to receive a license to drive, teach our children, practice medicine, practice law, hunt, fish, etc. What is wrong with requiring people to have a basic knowledge of our Constitution and government structure to be able to vote; in other words to be an influence in forming our country's future.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  250. Gale Cunningham

    Great! I'm amazed at the basic ignorance of the undereducated in this country, of which there are way too many. How about an online test covering current issues and if you fail the first time, you then have a couple of weeks to learn and fact-check before taking it again. Of course, this will mean that many people will be too lazy to vote. Better than electing idiots!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  251. Sam

    There there shouldn't be a test and clearly there never will be.

    What is happening is that rich folks apear very afraid of the rapidly changing demographics and what they see on the horizon: the 1% that have most of the income and money will be taxed much higher by the folks whom the rest of us, who don't have doodly squat, elect.

    I think that's the way it should be :)

    April 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  252. Steve

    Too bad we terach our kids nothing about civics, government, or ethics. An ignorant, -ill-informed public is much easier to control though...so good going guys!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  253. Dave

    Why do you allow degrading and polemic comments on this blog? Half of the commens only throw mud and do nothing to add to the debate. I think there is a legitimate debate to be had about basic information and facts that people need to know if they are to vote. We have moved so far from the founding fathers idea of a republican form of government to a one man one vote mentality that some rational public debate and instruction on the topic is overdue. Let's have it rather than a continual drone of hateful comments.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  254. Tired of it all

    I think that we would need some statistical verification that passing even a rudimentary test which would reflect a knowledge of the US Government, it's history and values, would result in a more informed electorate and hence better qualified Senators, Congressman, etc. It would have to be similar to the citizenship test. But I would not call it a test, just a feedback exercise that may embarrass individuals into realizing their intellectual shortcomings about our great Country.
    Some one said earlier that as an American we have a right to be stupid and they are right. We offer education to the people but if the people do not want to maximize their education, and self actualize, then that is their right. In many countries you only get an education if you are deemed intellectually worthy of one.
    Most people are uninformed and ignorant of what is going on in their own neighborhoods, let alone the US and the world. With all the talking heads today, no one has to think, just listen. Hardball or Fox, both useless.
    I think the idea of a test has merit in the abstract, but in reality I do not think it would really accomplish anything.
    The issue of illegals is brought up and I do not know what that has to do with all this, since they shouldn't vote in the first place, so a test for them is irrelevant. They should focus on the citizenship test.
    Let's just field better candidates and try to focus on reaching a middle ground. The far left and right are really ruining the whole political process. Maybe 2012 will bring a shift back to some sanity.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  255. Carol Simon

    Definitely! It's truly sad that US citizens don't even know the basics. Forget about the Cold War. What about 6% of Americans not knowing when Independence Day is?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  256. openminded19

    Test the ones who run for office. If they can't pass, they can't run.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  257. Spencer

    Absolutely there should be a basic citizenship test as part of the voter registration process, there should also be a literacy test to make sure everyone can understand the ballots, and there should be a grandfather test to ensure that the parents of the voter are citizens and not illegal imigrants who only came to the states so there children could become citizens. Sounds remarkably like the measures taken during the Civil era to prevent the newly freed slaves from exercising the rights granted by the 15th ammendment. This action also begs the question what is the role of our school system – what happened to civic classes? Let us all not forget that in practice that testing of these type eventually favors those who create the test and are inherently unfair to some if not most segments of society.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  258. Mark McKee

    There are only two groups that would have a major problems with this approach: The DNC and the RNC...

    April 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  259. amigay

    Pass a knowledge test to vote? An unqualified YES!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  260. JL

    Undeniably, the registered voters, and people in general in this nation are becoming more and more ignorant. I believe that an obligatory test that must be passed before voting would be a wonderful idea although totally unconstitutional.

    Between mind-deadening reality programs and other idiot tv shows, school budgets being vastly reduced and school curricula reduced to easily digestible "pap", there should be no wonderment at why there is a tea party, the ignoramuses in Congress who don't even understand how a law is created and their adamant though dumb followers. And of course the ever popular..."leave my Social Security and Medicare alone" from people who haven't a dim bulb clue that these are government programs but still want no government or trillions cut from the federal budget.

    I live in an total amazement ....I really do, Jack. And, bty, you are a piece of work!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  261. ben stockton, calif

    yes i agree, but the downside is that american born citizens don`t have a clue about our country and would fail a citizensship test. most people are not interested in any of that. what interest then most is the current affairs of hollywood or the latest sport scores . i personally don`t know a lot of the answer so if i would take a test i would probably fail it . i`m a 74 year senior and a navy veteran

    April 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  262. Frankfurter

    Why don't we bring back slavery too Cafferty while we're at it? Christ, lets abrogate the entire U.S. Constitution. That will make the Tea Partiers happy. Why is this crap allowed to be posted on CNN.com?

    April 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  263. KW

    I'd be curious to know how many of the 1,000 Americans questioned actually vote. (Dallas, TX)

    April 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  264. AZPete

    Awesome! Looks like most people commented without reading the entire article first. The idea would be to require everyone to pass the SAME TEST that we ALREADY administer to immigrants who are applying for US Citizenship. The test already exists. There's just not many Americans left who can pass it.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  265. Ralph in Oregon

    No, Americans do not understand the civic responsilities of our country. Nearly all voters, minus those that follow the path to researching political issues (with a balanced frame of mind – reasoning process), will vote due to an emotional responce on this or that topic. Plus voting on things that truely effect them "today". Does anyone know "which" US President paid of the national debt? Andrew Jackson and how did he do that? He created the Federal Reserve by moving the US~ Gold reserves out of the Second Bank.

    He also was a Democrat.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  266. Solomon

    It is completely reasonable to require some proof of citizenship at the polls, and the ballots should only be in one language: ENGLISH. If you're an American citizen, you should be fluent in English.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  267. Michael

    Nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires U.S. citizenship in order to be able to vote. The Constitution leaves voting eligibility standards to the states. All of the states do require U.S. citizenship however to be eligible to vote (i think there are some exceptions for school board elections in some states). I don't think the test discussed in the article would address citizenship, but rather knowledge of American history and culture. I'm not sure how people have jumped from the subject of the Article to having to prove American citizenship before voting.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  268. benjamin stewart

    Yes. While intelligence should not be a requirement for voting, basic knowledge of what one is voting for should be. Perhaps knowing the difference between the original constitution and the Bill of Rights is not necessary, but without some basic understanding of the actual positions held by the candidates, mistakes will obviously happen . The problem is, the candidate whose position is untenable, like cut taxes, raise or flatten spending, and balance the budget, will still win...

    April 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  269. Sherry

    Seriously? That's absurd discrimination and unconstitutional. I see a lot of comments pointing the finger at the education system, which I agree to an extent, but also some people just can't catch on to politics as well as others. It's the same with any subject. Not everyone has the ability to understand, regardless of how well their highschool teacher was. Their rights should not be violated due to that though. I do wish people would attempt to learn about the canidates and vote wisely, but even some who have the knowledge do not use it when they vote.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  270. Doug Dinwiddie

    Yes, potential voters should have to pass a citizenship/civics test. Provided that all candidates for public office do as well.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  271. Rich in CO

    A basic civics test in order to vote? Yes, please. I cringe when I think of Jay Leno's "Man on the Street" interviews, and realize, those people VOTE.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  272. max

    Never happen! The dems would fight it because illegal immigrants won't be able to vote along with their uninformed base.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  273. Mia

    A lot of people are focusing not on the question but rather their own warped way of thinking. A lot of American citizen would fail the test because they don't know American history or how our constitution works. This has nothing to do with illegal immigrants.

    I do believe that a major issue is that people are voting blindly and without real information as to how our government works or what the people they are voting for stand for. It has been proven that we are getting less intelligent as the years passes.. Don't test but rather educate.

    Mia in Seattle WA

    April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  274. Jim Keith

    it sounds like a good idea at face value but unfortunately it's probably unconstitutional.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  275. Madison T.

    Definitely; if you can't pass a simple test about your own government, why should you decide the future of it? Democracy's only downfall is an ignorant public, and this would be a great way to make sure the people voting for the future of our country actually know something about our country.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  276. leader

    If we had a test that required a basic level of intelligence...there wouldnt be any democratic voters!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  277. mark from florida

    jack, i think that half of the responders here need to take a test. they can't even understand the question that you asked. the question is not about illegal aliens voting or national id cards or anything like that. it is about the dumbing of america. here in florida history and civics are not even a core school course anymore because we had to fire the teachers who taught it to balance the budget. hell, sara palian would not be able to vote but she can run for office!

    April 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  278. Art in San Diego

    At first blush, it seems like a good idea. However, one has to remember that this kind of test has been used mostly in a discriminatory way for the purpose of excluding folks from voting. This risk is simply too high to justify the practice.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  279. Brian_California

    Initially, I'd say yes, definitely. But as I think more about it I start to wonder who would be creating the test. Is it right to potentially eliminate people who, through no fault of their own, did not receive quality education due to the continual defunding of education in this country? Is the real problem the general degradation of the education system? If so, then combine that with a popular media that allows the loudest, most extreme voices to be heard over the rational, giving opinion more credence than facts, not holding political leaders and "news" pundits accountable for what they say.
    Perhaps these are closer to the root of the problem rather than voter knowledge. I do however have another idea along these lines....Test political candidates before they are allowed to run and make the results public. That may go along way to showing voters who the credible candidates are.

    Those are my thoughts.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  280. Josh

    As much as I'd like the voters to be better informed, the right to vote is one of the most basic we have and can't be taken away via a "citizenship test." The Supreme Court would never rule in favor of such a thing because it's unconstitutional.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  281. Mike

    History says that this would end up a bad idea because of the literacy tests of Jim Crow and that it would result in immigrants being the most powerful voting bloc. I have taught in an Arab-American community in the city of Detroit and I can tell you that those kids knew about American democracy and citizenship than any group I have taught elsewhere. Id love to see the citizenship become part of the new common core standards for American education.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  282. Sonny

    Irony is some Americans who are born here may fail the test.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  283. Chuck

    So why are we spending so much on public education anyway? Thought it was to make good citizens in a democracy. Well, what has a test have to do with it ? What is important is which candidate can lie the most convincingly.

    April 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm |