Democracy is at risk when we fail to fulfill basic citizenship responsibilities.
Consider the evidence. Approximately 40 percent of eligible voters didn’t vote. Even fewer voted in the last round of congressional elections. Only immigrants receive formal citizenship training and are required to pass a test that the majority of our citizens would fail. The vast majority of citizens don’t communicate with their Congressional representatives. Most cannot even name their representative. Engaged and informed citizens are a necessary condition for effective democracy.
It’s time for a Bill of Responsibilities to re-establish the requirements of citizenship. During his first 100 days, Trump should form a non-partisan panel of citizens (who would be compensated for their work) to develop a citizen Bill of Responsibilities before the end of 2017. This panel should, at a minimum, provide four sets of recommendations to the president, Congress, and all citizens, that:
- Require eligible voters to vote in presidential and congressional elections. Other countries do this. We should too.
- Develop common voter rules that will simplify voter registration and voting, provide adequate anti-fraud protections, and unify disparate state by state approaches
- Identify primary and secondary school curricula additions that ensure all high school graduates understand citizen responsibilities, engage early on in policy debates, and develop the critical thinking skills to make informed voting choices
- Provide a system of rewards and penalties to encourage citizens to fulfill their responsibilities. Citizenship should be earned.
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