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While drafting the constitution of the Terrestric Republic I came to the realization that I don’t know how to determine whether any given citizen is eligible to vote in elections or not. Using age only works when there are only humans to consider because our minds generally all develop at a similar pace. However, in the 22nd century Terra is inhabited by persons of many different species from different planets, as well as sentient robots with full citizen rights.

While a 3-year-old human can be confidently said to be too young to make substantial political decisions and a 30-year-old human is clearly old enough, an alien species may still be in its larva stage of development at the age of 30 Earth years while another might already be fully adult at just 3, so a universal minimum age for all citizens would not work. Similarly, a species may not develop on a more or less fixed timeline at all and thus have no concept of physical age as an indicator of matureness. While they generally do get more mature as time goes on, each individual’s life cycle is so differently paced that any attempt at setting a ‘legal age’ becomes laughable.

The age problem is not as severe for robots and sentient AIs. It currently stands that machines have to take a test of citizenship like any foreigner would, essentially to prove that they are “sentient enough” to be recognized as an independent person, and since mechanical creatures don’t develop like biological creatures they can simply be given full voting rights as soon as they become citizens. Immigrants from other stars obviously also have to take such tests before they are able to vote, but once they’re citizens their children are automatically granted Terrestric citizenship at birth.

One idea I had was that the Terrestric government could simply look at the extraterrestrials’ home worlds and copy their respective voting laws, but I see several problems with that approach:

  1. Parts of Terra’s laws would essentially be written by foreign nations’ governments, and Terra would just have to trust them to not do anything mischievous with that power.
  2. Some alien species originate on planets that are divided into several countries, each governed by a different entity and with different voting laws.
  3. Some alien species originate on planets that aren’t ruled democratically and thus have no native voting laws, or they don’t have any definite known origins at all and presently only live as minorities on other planets.

My question is: How can the government of the Terrestric Republic decide as fairly and objectively as possible when each and every citizen regardless of species becomes eligible to vote in elections without being seen as discriminatory? I’ve been trying to avoid clichés like voting rights based on IQ because I don’t want to needlessly restrict access to voting – having to register manually is bad enough already – but I fear something like that might be the only feasible option.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Azuaron, sphennings, Secespitus, Bellerophon Oct 19 '17 at 20:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Given that our own species seems to be incapable of fairly and objectively who among our own species is eligible to vote in elections without being seen as discriminatory. I'm unsure how we'd be able to solve the more general problem for an arbitrary set of species. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Oct 19 '17 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ You're just going to have to figure it out on a case-by-case basis. $\endgroup$ – Azuaron Oct 19 '17 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ "any attempt at setting a ‘legal age’ becomes laughable." The notion of legal age is already ludicrious and laughable. It's outdated, meaningless and the only reasons it still exists are that firstly it makes voting rights (relatively) simple and secondly because of familiarity/tradition. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Oct 19 '17 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ The question is too broad, and opinion-based - it's asking us to define what "eligible" should be. That's a matter of opinion and politics...domains of the author. On Earth, the age criteria is a political compromise. If super-intelligent porpoises became voters, it would be simple enough to legislate them a separate age (or some other) criteria...unless the politics worked out differently. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Oct 19 '17 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ You're also going to have to account for "exotic" aliens... if you have a group mind alien living on Earth, it may account for 50% of the biomass of a town. How many votes does it get? 1? The number of bodies it inhabits? How about aliens who hibernate during September? Can they register proxies? How about symbiotic alien triads? How about non-corporeal energy beings? Dude. Age of franchise is the least of your worries... $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 19 '17 at 20:12
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Use an automatically-generated civics test. Create a bank of several thousand relevant questions regarding how the government works, and an additional bank of "current issue" questions, and randomly select some arbitrary relatively small number from each to present to an applicant for voting. If the applicant answers correctly a sufficient number to show that (a) they understand the principles of the government's operations and limitations of each branch, and (b) an awareness of current issues, then permit them to vote, regardless of age, species, et cetera. Yes, this conceivably means that you might well have the occasional precocious 8-year-old human having the vote, while a particularly apathetic and unknowledgeable 35-year-old human doesn't - but I don't see that as a flaw.

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    $\begingroup$ That is turning pretty much into "voting rights based on IQ". $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 19 '17 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander Intelligence relative to some expected intelligence for the age, and awareness of current events, are two very different things... $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 19 '17 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Kjörling the test suggested in the answer is much bigger than just "current events", and I expect the results to strongly correlate with one's IQ. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 19 '17 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ IQ is, as far as I am concerned, nothing but a measure of how well people can perform on IQ tests. The test proposed is not attempting to measure intelligence, but (1) understanding of the extant government structure, responsibilities, and limitations, and (2) understanding and awareness of current issues relevant to government functioning. (more...) $\endgroup$ – Jeff Zeitlin Oct 19 '17 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ (...more) Failing the first part disqualifies because I do not feel that one can adequately participate if one doesn't understand what one is participating in, and failing (2) disqualifies because I do not feel that that one can adequately participate if one is not willing to keep oneself informed of what will be affected by one's participation. Passing both parts, regardless of age, intelligence, social status, wealth, et cetera, indicates an ability and willingness to be a good citizen, and thus encouraged to participate. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Zeitlin Oct 19 '17 at 20:00

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