Consider Internet voting. In the conventional view, the only legitimate criticism of online voting is its susceptibility to fraud. Almost no one questions its advisability if it worked - even though online voting assumes that we desperately need to hear from people who otherwise couldn't be bothered to get off the couch. Voting fetishists often liken democracy to a national "conversation" or "dialogue." So, tell me: What intelligent conversation is aided by the intrusion of Beavis and Butt-Head?
What is surprising about Doc Osterloh's wacky idea is that the franchise maximizers hate it. The New York Times dubbed it "daft" and "one of the cheesier propositions on the November ballot." USA Today called it "tawdry." Fair enough.
But I think part of the reason they're so scandalized is that Osterloh is taking their logic to its natural conclusion. Advocates of increasing voter turnout already frame the issue in terms of "what's in it for you." MTV's condescending Choose or Lose campaign, which aims to get 18- to 30-year-olds to vote, says it all right there in the name; the gravy train is leaving the station, and the ballot is your ticket onboard.
Just beneath the surface of much of this voter activism is the assumption that increased turnout would move American politics to the left, by redistributing wealth to the poor and disenfranchised. There's probably some merit here, which explains why so many get-out-the-vote groups are proxies for the Democratic Party. But that doesn't change the fact that they are trolling for votes among people who don't appear to take their citizenship very seriously. Osterloh's bribery scheme merely exposes this motivation in a way that embarrasses voter activists.
Osterloh admits that he's motivated by more than democracy worship. "One of the goals that I've had in my lifetime is to see that all Americans have health care like every other major country on Earth. One of the ways to do that is to make sure that everybody votes." At least he's honest about it.