Voting is important for selecting members of government and influencing policy through referendums, recalls, and other measures directly submitted to citizens.
However, it’s a lot of work to be an informed voter, and most voters are apathetic and uninformed. In the case of referendums / ballot measures that are directly voted on, most voters are not even qualified to evaluate the implications of a measure even if they actually bother to understand the text of the referendum.
Aside from the problem of bizarre ballot initiatives (such as this one banning horse meat sales: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_6_(1998)), many elections are determined not by actual merits, but rather by the success of advertisement and “get out the vote” efforts—which are heavily influenced by the amount of cash available.
Fig 1: Voting is sometimes easy and obvious…
Fig 2: But it can also be a confusing mess!
To fix this, one theory is that voters should become less apathetic. But that is not a realistic recommendation—it’s like suggesting “everyone should drive carefully!” as public policy for reducing car accidents, or “people should just eat less!” to solve the problem of obesity.
So a more realistic proposal is to allow voters to—instead of voting as usual—transfer their voting privilege to any other citizen.
This “representative” will then have his or her votes counted multiple times; for example, if 15 people transfer their vote to Representative X, then Representative X’s ballot counts for a total of 16 votes (their own, plus the 15 people who delegated their votes).
Fig 3: The idea behind this ballot delegation plan. The blue individual is the “representative,” and the red ones are the voters who are giving up their vote. In this particular instance, the blue individual would end up with a total of 7 votes instead of the default 1 vote.
Essentially, this is an informal reinvention of representative democracy. It has a few additional benefits:
- It does not require the creation of additional gerrymandered voting districts (A few good examples are available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering).
- It allows people to feel like their votes actually do count (even if voters don’t necessarily cast their own votes), which may be beneficial to the long-term health of the democratic process.
- It allows people to easily participate in the democratic process while themselves remaining totally oblivious and uninformed. Since this is the inevitable state of affairs, it’s best to plan around it rather than to remain in willful denial.
There are three additional important features that would prevent obvious methods of abuse:
- The “transfer your vote to a representative” process would be done by secret ballot, so no one could be coerced into actually transferring their vote if they didn’t want to.
- The “representative” actually does not know how many votes they command. In fact, a person could be a representative without even knowing it. This would also reduce the effectiveness of lobbying / bribing representatives, since the bribe-er would have no idea if a representative actually had as many votes as they claimed.
- There could be a limit on the total number of votes an individual could amass (perhaps 100, or 1000) to prevent single individuals from easily subverting the election process.
PROS: Could prevent elections from being decided primarily by money. Allows apathetic voters to have their uninformed and poorly justified opinions represented in the democratic process.
CONS: None! Go out and get signatures for a constitutional amendment today!