Sunday, August 20, 2006

Voting Lotteries

Related to the last post on voter turnout, Arizona is considering a $1 million lottery program to increase voter turnout. Basically, if you vote in Arizona, you have one lottery ticket to a possible grand prize of $1 million dollars.

This program goes right along with our current discussion of incentives and voter turnout. What do you guys think of this program? Is it a good idea? How much of an effect do you think it will have?

I think an even more interesting question is: will this program change the demographics of the people voting in Arizona?

(Source: Volokh Conspiracy)


Anonymous said...

I think the ploy could very well improve voter turnout. However, i think it will encourage people that have little or no interest in politics to vote just so that they can get the free lottery ticket. i think the overall percentage of educated voters will decline even though the total number of voter will increase

Anonymous said...

I predict that a program like this could potentially have a huge effect on voter turnout, although that effect might not necessarily be a positive one. Right now the incentive to vote and more importantly to know the candidate you are voting for is almost nonexistent (because nobody believes that, in a nation of almost 300 million people, their vote would count). A lottery program would certainly increase the number of people who would vote, but not because they took an active and educated interest in a candidate (which is the reason why someone should vote)--rather because they had the chance to win a million dollars. Therefore, while the incentive to vote would be much augmented, the incentive to know the candidate would decrease; the voting public in Arizona would shift towards an emphasis on people who without the lottery would not have voted at all (generally those less educated, or at least don’t care very much.. sorry to make a generalization). This influx of votes from people who just don't care who wins would minimize the influence of the votes from those people who do care and have invested a lot of time in making an educated choice. But I guess if all you care about is a higher percentage of voters, then it is a pretty good idea indeed.


Anonymous said...

I feel that this will definitely increase voter turnout. Many people will be voting in order to gain a “free” lottery ticket. People probably think, “hey I can save a dollar and automatically be entered into the lottery just for voting.” Who wouldn’t vote if they were automatically entered into the lottery? People might then be willing to learn more about the candidates running, but most likely, they will just be voting to enter the lottery. The demographics of people voting in Arizona will probably change. The demographics of voters could change to poorer citizen, which also could include less educated Americans. This could lead to something very negative. What if the people voting just to enter the lottery just randomly voted and didn’t actually care who won? These people could outweigh the people who do care. I think that the US does want and should have a larger voter turn out, but the people who vote should know who they feel would make the best candidate and vote accordingly.


Anonymous said...

I think that voter turnout would be much greater with this incentive, but I think that the people voting would not really care about the outcome of the vote and just be doing it for the lottery ticket. The percentage of voters will increase, but the the type of people voting will also change with it.

Anonymous said...

Voting is a citizen's civic duty. Trying to encourage people to vote through such crass commercial means degrades the entire system. Carolyn and Nicole both suggested that voters should visit the polls to express their educated choice on their leaders, not to be handed a lottery ticket. However, the very legality of this program can be called into question. A federal statute makes it illegal to "make or offer to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and to solicit, accept, or receive any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote" ( This seems like an obvious attempt to solicit votes, if not for any candidate in particular. If people refuse to vote because they think their vote does not matter, the government needs to convince them otherwise, not try to bribe them to the polls.