Bad Reasons To Take Away Voting Rights

I had one of my disability "hot buttons" pushed while watching one of my atheist call-in shows the other night.

"The Hang Up" is a weekly YouTube show hosted by American atheist and activist Matt Dillahunty on Jimmy Snow's "The Line" channel. I rarely miss it. It's always fun to see Matt spar with theists, like he did weekly for years on the Atheist Community of Austin's "Atheist Experience" show on Sundays (and on a whole bunch of other shows/debates/channels), but there's the added fun on this show of seeing him talk freely about American politics - his politics, other peoples' politics, what he thinks about other peoples' politics...

It's exhilarating. One of the things that I love about atheism is that when you take the religious...stuff...out of thorny issues of our day and approach them logically, they get un-thorny very quickly.  When the cloud of religion indoctrination sits over everything, it's difficult to see how that could work. But once it starts to lift, it's amazing how clear it all becomes. I never would have believed it, back in the years when I was religious.

Now, when Matt Dillahunty starts talking about issues like church and state separation, bodily autonomy rights, First Amendment issue, how the US handling the "the Backstreet Boys Reunion Tour" (his code for COVID-19 on channels where he couldn't explicitly talk about it), etc. I find myself cheering, because most of the time I agree with him right down to the soul I don't believe I possess.

Voting Rights and IQ

He doesn't talk about disability a lot. But the other night he addressed a comment that had come in on the YouTube live chat while he and Jimmy Snow had been talking to a caller, about how the voting age should be restricted to people with an IQ of over 100, over the age of 25.  

"That's such bullshit," I said, as Matt said. "It's an awful idea. It's a deplorable idea."

When I worked with intellectually disabled people, I remember telling colleagues that we should really be more to include the people we supported in the voting process at all stages, and not just because, at Matt explains, IQ tests say more about how well people complete IQ tests than they do about a person's level of intelligence:

  • Matt doesn't mention (although I'm sure he's aware of the issues) concerns about IQ tests being biased in ways that cause performance differences along a number of lines, including racial and ethnic. 
  • The assumption that a higher IQ guarantees that a person's vote is based on an informed stance on the candidates' positions is a dangerous one. Plenty of people who have lower IQs can understand a political party's platform well enough to determine, for the issues that concern them, what candidates believe, and vote based on those determinations, while plenty of people with higher IQs will vote for their brother-in-law regardless of which party he belongs to and whether they agree with its platform. 
  • Even independent of IQ, the idea that only people who are "smart enough" should be able to vote is ableism at its purest and (arguably) most dangerous. It's an idea that says, "Even though the US believes that all adults have a say in how their government is doesn't apply to people who aren't smart enough."  Once that sort of restriction based on intellectual capacity starts happening, where does it stop?  

It's a shame it's still so hard for people to see that ideas like restricting the vote based on IQ are a giant fucking step backward for any country.

Not About Brain Development

Raising the voting age to 25 is problematic as well. I agree with Jimmy that it comes from the oft-repeated statistic (I found it here, here, here, here, and here with a simple Google search) that the human brain doesn't finish developing until age 25. It's not false, but Jimmy and Matt have got this one right, also: Increases in maturity during that gap between 18 and 25 are also products of experiencing and dealing with new events and situations. It's about life experience, potentially more than physical brain development, and you can't guarantee how rich everyone's life experience will be in those seven years. The highest-stress periods of my life happened between 18 and 25, but by no means will they be that way for everyone!      

Assumptions (beyond assuming that people have the capacity to learn and to make responsible decisions based on that learning) hurt, bottom line. Some people may need support to participate in the voting process, but it should be provided to them. Human rights are human rights, not ones that some humans get and others don't - once we start forgetting start, we start losing our own humanity. 

(My opinion only, of course.) 

American friends, please vote on November 8th!  

Watch this discussion on YouTube, from 1:15:00 to 1:17:00