See if you notice a pattern here:

  • Are income tax returns mandatory? YES for everyone making more than $12,400 a year.
  • Can anyone who wants to file and pay their income taxes through the mail? YES
  • Can you file and pay your income taxes through a online form? YES
  • Will the government notify you via the mail if you forget to file a tax return? YES
  • Can you file your income tax return during a long, multi-month period, instead of just a particular day or week? YES
  • Are you automatically “registered” to pay income taxes? YES – if you want to work, receive benefits, or be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, you must have a social security number. Your income is automatically reported to the government without your intervention.
  • Can you be fined or jailed for not paying income taxes? YES
  • Can you pay your income taxes without a drivers license or photo ID? YES
  • Is jury service mandatory? YES, although you can request an exemption.
  • Are you automatically “registered” for jury duty? YES – in most counties, such as the one I live in, the court maintains a master list based on people with a drivers license or state-issued ID. There is no separate registration for jury service.
  • Will the government notify you via the mail when it’s time to serve on a jury? YES
  • Can you be fined or jailed for failing to appear for jury service? YES
  • Is registration for the draft (Selective Service) mandatory? YES – for all men between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • Is registration for the draft automatic? YES – as of 2002, any male between 18 and 25 who applies for a drivers license or state-issued ID card is automatically registered for the draft.
  • Can you be fined or jailed for failing to register for the draft? YES – a fine of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to five years.
  • Can you register for the draft via the mail? YES
  • Can you register for the draft through an online form? YES
  • Can you register for the draft without a drivers license or photo ID? YES
  • Will the government notify you by mail if a draft is instated and it’s time for you to serve in the military? YES
  • Is registering your real estate with the government mandatory? YES
  • Is registering for property tax rolls automatic? YES – when you record your deed or title with the government, which is required to prove ownership of your property, it is automatically enrolled for property taxes.
  • Are property taxes mandatory? YES, although some people may request reductions or exemptions.
  • Will the government notify you via the mail when it’s time to pay property taxes? YES
  • Can anyone who wants to pay their property taxes through the mail? YES
  • Can you pay your property taxes online? YES – in many counties, at least, including the one I live in.
  • Can you pay your property taxes during a long, multi-month period of time, instead of just a particular day or week? YES
  • Will the government notify you via the mail if you fail to pay your property taxes? YES
  • Can you be fined or jailed for failing to pay your property taxes? YES – you may even forfeit your property.
  • Can you pay your property taxes without a drivers license or photo ID? YES
  • Is registering your vehicle with the government mandatory? YES
  • Can anyone who wants to register a vehicle through the mail? YES – at least you can in Georgia, where I live.
  • Will the government notify you via the mail when it’s time to renew your vehicle registration? YES
  • Can you renew your vehicle registration through an online form? YES
  • Can you renew your registration over a long, multi-week period instead of just a particular day? YES
  • Can you be fined for operating a vehicle without registering it? YES – In Georgia it’s $100 per day.

Now let’s compare that to voting (using Georgia as an example, since it’s where I live.)

  • Is voting mandatory? NO
  • Is registering to vote mandatory? NO
  • Is registering to vote automatic? NO – regardless of whether you already have a driver’s license, have a social security number, have registered for the draft, serve on a jury, or pay income taxes, there is a completely separate registration process for voting.
  • Will the government notify you by mail that you’re eligible to register to vote? NO
  • Can you register to vote any time prior to an election? NO There are cutoff dates for registering, and they typically end a month before the corresponding election.
  • Will the government notify you by mail when it’s time to vote? NO
  • Can you vote through an online form? NO
  • Can you be fined or jailed for failure to register to vote? NO
  • Can you be fined or jailed for failure to vote? NO
  • Can anyone who wants to vote through the mail? YES, but you have to send in a request for an absentee ballot first, making it a two-step process. Both the ballot request and the ballot itself can be rejected.
  • Can you request an absentee ballot without a drivers license or photo ID? Yes, but you have to provide a Social Security Number if you lack a license or photo ID.
  • Can you vote without a drivers license or photo ID? Yes, but you have to provide a Social Security Number if you lack a license or photo ID.
  • Will the government alert you if you’re registered to vote but have failed to vote? NO
  • Can you vote over a long, multi-week period instead of just a particular day? YES, but to vote in person it’s during a four-week period with a maximum of two Saturdays and only between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM on weekdays.

The most obvious difference between the first and second list of bullet points is that the first list represents occasions when the government needs to exercise their power over you to use you as either a source of revenue, a source of information for law enforcement, to satisfy the requirements of the sixth amendment (trial by jury), or as a source of combatants in a war. The second list represents occasions when citizens need to exercise their power over the government to choose who represents and governs them. When the government wants to use and control you, the processes are automatic, easy, and mandatory. You’ll be notified and have plenty of time to perform the process. When you want to exercise control over the government, the processes are optional, difficult, multi-step, and not automatic. You won’t be notified and will have a short window in which to perform the process.

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