Beyond this, there is a cynicism among the poor about the viability and efficacy of the entire political process. A "what difference will my vote make?" attitude seems more prevalent among lower wage earners than among those who earn more for their work.
Now comes Mark Osterloh with one of the "bright ideas" for 2006, at least as determined by the annual review conducted by The New York Times Magazine (Rebecca Skloot, page 34, December 10, 2006).
Here's how his idea would work.
Each person who casts a vote would also be entered into a special state lottery in Osterloh's home state, Arizona. At the conclusion of each state election one person would be selected to win $1 million. The payout would come from the state's unclaimed lottery fund.
The odds are interesting when compared to other state and regional games of chance. If 2 million Arizonans vote, as they did in 2004, in the next national election, the odds of winning would be 1 in 2 million, as compared to 1 in 146 million for recent Powerball games!
With what remained in the unclaimed gaming fund, Osterloh would award 1,700 prizes of $1,000 each. Such a move increases the odds of winning something to 1 in 2,500.
Osterloh believes that odds like these, especially for low-income workers, would increase voter turnout, while costing voters nothing.
Critics say that the idea "degrades democracy."
Osterloh is amused.
"Excuse me?" he says. "Getting all those people to vote will degrade democracy? Isn't that the definition of democracy?"
Osterloh is so serious about his idea that he got it on the ballot in Arizona last November.
Voters didn't approve it.
As the Times Magazine notes, "It is quite possible. . .that his target audience didn't show up to vote."