Universal suffrage is an important liberal achievement, and yet the fear of "mob rule" is not unfounded. The solution should not lay in taking away the right to vote from people who are not "serious enough". Some US states remove people from the voters lists if they did not vote in a set number of years. Or if they did not apply for the correct form of an ID 3 weeks before the election. This is unfair and it is not a solution.
Instead, the solution lies in expanding the rights even more. Every voter will get an extra right: an option to not vote. And this option should be rewarded mildly.
The technical details of the system are simple. Once the voter is in the booth, she is presented with two machines: a "voting" and "vote atm" one. The voter can only use one or another.
If the voter decides to use the "atm" (by placing her ballot there) the "atm" dispenses a certain amount of money. The ballot is then shredded. The "voting" machine works as usual and there is no other reward for the voter.
The choice made should remain concealed. Just as much as the vote itself.
This immediately solves several entrenched problems in the existing election systems around the globe:
- Direct vote purchase. Whatever the amount a corrupt politician may have offered, the reward of pocketing the bride and shredding the ballot will be greater.
- Low voter turnout. The fear of loosing out on small reward would drive more people to the stations. And it may happen that more of them, once at the station, would choose to vote.
- Voters who do not take elections seriously (voting randomly or for the candidate with most silly name) will be more likely to shred the ballot.
- Boycott campaigns would be able to succeed a bit more, because they would have an action to promote. Instead of a more vague list of options they are using now (take ballot home, mark nothing, mark everything, draw a picture on a ballot, etc).
This will make every vote that ended up in the ballot box to be more valuable; while not oppressing any group in particular. It will not infringe on anyone's voting rights, because the decision to not vote will be a free choice made by the voter herself.
The reward should not be too significant. First, it would not be easy for governments to stomach much. Second, it should not screw up the incentive to vote. I suggest the countries to set the reward to be in the area of the average grocery store bill.
I believe such system would be able to alleviate the fears of a "mob rule" while keeping the liberal spirit alive.