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:
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.
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.