Improving Democracy (Pie-chart Representation)

Recently I’ve been ruminating over a very interesting article entitled “Democracy Without Elections” by Australian journalist and fellow tweep (heavy twitter user), Austin G Mackell.

To fully understand what follows in this article, you should probably read his first. What Austin proposes represents a pathway toward replacing ‘representative’ democracy with ‘direct’ democratic participation in decision making, through allowing electors to choose positions on actual policy proposals before they are voted on.

While I support direct democratic participation as a desired end-goal I do not believe we are yet at a place in history where we can achieve this, despite rapid technological advancement. On the other hand, contained within Austin’s suggestions are other very practical methods for reforming the way political representation is determined within a parliamentary system, to allow increasing levels of citizen participation and ensure more equitable representation.

Part of this is achieved via making the vote ‘fluid’ – giving the voter the power to change who they support as their representative at their own demand. But that part will become a post of its own.

For now it is necessary to understand a proposed new system for allocating your “vote”.

What I will suggest here is not quite the same as Austin’s suggestion but rather my take on what might be called ‘pie chart representation’ – an idea where a vote is a ‘pot’ of political influence which the voter can distribute to support candidates for parliament. I will then go on to explain how a new Parliamentary system based around this method of ‘voting’ might operate different from existing systems.

For the sake of an easy, arbitrary number to work with each person would be assigned 100 ‘voting points’ or ‘V’ for each election (working from the assumption that ‘fluid’ voting has not taken off yet). You would assign those points to each candidate according to how much of your support you would like to give them in Parliament.

Lets say there are 4 candidates in your local electorate. Candidate 1 is a stand-out representative for you and you know them personally, you want to put most of your support behind him. Candidate 2 represents the party you are usually aligned with and Candidate 3 is a friend from your local sports club or church, so you want to support them both a bit too. But Candidate 4 is a racist, extreme person who you do not at all want your vote to go towards.

You are also a strong supporter of democracy so you don’t want to waste any of your vote points. You decide to give 70% of your ‘voting points’ (70V) to Candidate 1, Candidate 2 gets 20% and Candidate 3 the final 10%. It would look something like this:

100V

If this scenario or similar was reproduced through-out the electorate, Candidate 1 would clearly become the representative for that electorate. If there are two (or more) representatives for that electorate (such as in an upper-house seat in the Australian system), then they would be allocated according to the highest number of ‘V’ points received. In this case Candidate 2 would get the second seat and Candidate 3 the third.

That is all pretty simple and straight forward. Your vote now gets to count only towards those candidates you actually want to support, and you can determine just how much of your voting influence goes to them. You also have the option not to appoint any ‘V’ points in protest of a lack of representation.

The concept here would be to expand upon these reforms in how your ‘vote’ is distributed to candidates and then use the candidates total number of ‘V’ points to determine their voting power in Parliament.

Unfortunately it’s going to get a little complex to explain here but please stay with me, as I attempt to set up a situation which might help understand.

Lets say your Parliament has a total of 5 electorates, with each of these electorates representing 2,000 voting points, for a total of 10,000 voting points in Parliament. In order to become a ‘representative’ in Parliament, a candidate would require a set minimum percentage of the total V points for their electorate (for this example, we will say 10%).

Electors who have given V points to candidates who fail to achieve this minimum requirement would then be given the option to re-allocate these points to other candidates or else see them divided evenly amongst those candidates who did reach the minimum.

In your electorate the ‘V’ point distribution was as follows:   2000V

As such your electorate would end up with 3 representatives in Parliament.

For sake of explanation, lets assume that all V points from Candidate O are distributed as evenly as possible, with 33 V points each going to Candidates Y and Z, and 34 going to candidate X.

When voting on a bill in Parliament, Candidate X thus gets to vote with the power of 1034 “V” points, Candidate Y with the power of 633 “V” points, and Candidate  Z with the power  of 333 “V” points.

This would allow for MUCH greater representation within Parliament for those who DID NOT vote for Candidate X, who received a majority of votes after distribution and would thus under the current system receive the full 2000 voting points allocated for their electorate, despite having only received the direct approval of 50% of the electorate.

Such a system is inherently more representative for those who support independent candidates or ‘minor parties’, whose voting power is often ‘wasted’ or transferred to someone they do NOT support, under existing systems.

This would force a massive increase in cross-party negotiation and compromise, allowing good policy to actually passed when it would often be blocked as a result of tribalism in the two-party system, where each party seeks primarily to discredit the other in hope of seizing power at he next election.

Note: this idea (like this article) is a work in progress, it is designed to stimulate thought about potential achievable positive democratic reforms and is absolutely open for constructive criticism/debate. The author fully recognises there is a need for rigorous testing and de-bugging of the theory itself and the practicalities of implementation.

2 thoughts on “Improving Democracy (Pie-chart Representation)”

  1. hey!

    great to see other Aussie bloggers discussing these kind of ideas.

    where your idea is similar to mine: a) making uneven the voting weights of different representatives based on their actual popularity, rather than standardizing so that someone who got 51% of the vote in an area doesn’t vote with the same weight as if they had 99. b) allowing voters to mix and match

    However the main differences are c) it seems to me your system still forces people to choose representatives (rather than just one at least) from their local area, rather than giving them the option of splitting their vote between candidates standing to represent their geographical community or some broader group, such as Catholics, homosexuals or environmentalists. d) your system seems to rely on a four yearly election cycle rather than, as in mine, allowing it all to occur in real time. This gives up on some of the extra accountability the system is designed to create, I guess as a trade off for lack of hassles from a voters point of view.

    However, I’m not sure what the usefulness of a half way step would be… once you’ve got the voting system out to tinker with why not do a total rebuild? it’s been over a hundred years basically since we set the system up the way it is now.

    1. Yes I agree, the greater system I have in mind would move entirely over to a fluid-vote system as proposed by you, which I will discuss in a new post.

      However, I thought I could bring this post forward to try and spark more debate about the need for better representation. My expanded idea gets much more complex and deals even more directly with your point C) by including a further “point system” called “I points” (short for Issue points). The reason I have started with a half-step post is because this is one reform that can be bought in WITHOUT a requirement for full electronic voting infrastructure.

      The usefulness of a half-step would be increased representation in Parliament for minor parties and independents in the short term. When ‘fluid voting’ is added in to this system however, as you suggest, it would become MUCH more responsive to the demands of the population.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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