What if citizens could vote on laws, written and sponsored by representatives, instead of just allowing representatives to vote on their behalf? How would we run government with this type of Direct Democracy?
As we diminish the voting power of politicians, we would also be getting money out of politics.
Without changing our Constitution, without adding any new laws, and keeping the basic structure of our Republic / Representative Democracy in place, Representatives could elect to give some power back to the people. We need to be open to testing out multiple forms of Direct Democracy, with different approaches for different states, from systems that strictly limit the power of the Representative to systems that grant some necessary powers to the Representative. Consider the options:
1. No Representatives in Congress. The people sponsor and vote on every bill and the majority determines the vote on each bill. This is not a viable option under the US Constitution, which defines our system as a Republic or a Representative Democracy. This would eliminate states’ rights, and the votes of high-population areas would tend to determine the votes of the entire country. However, a Representative could decide to delegate power to his/her constituents, as in option #2.
2. Every voter has the chance to vote on each bill and the majority determines the Representative’s vote. This preserves a limited role for Representatives as those who determine which bills are able to come before Congress, and states’ rights would be preserved. The Representative would act as advisor explaining the pros and cons of each bill and recommend a position. This option requires a lot of work on the part of the voting public to constantly make sure an active minority in the Representative’s district does not determine the outcome.
3. Every voter has the chance to vote on each bill, but only if there is enough participation among registered voters (say 50%) will the majority determine the Representative’s vote. Here again, the Representative would act as advisor explaining the pros and cons of each bill and recommend a position, but the Representative is not as compelled to get constituents involved in the voting process, since the 50% threshold will seldom be met. This requires less vigilance on the part of the voting public than option #2–if they approve of their Representative–but the votes on some bills might still be determined by a relatively small group of people, say 26% of registered voters.
4. Every voter has the chance to vote on each bill, but only if there is enough participation among registered voters (say 80%) and only if there is a super-majority, 3/4 of the vote, would the constituents votes determine the Representative’s vote. In this case at least 60% of registered voters determine the vote on each bill. Most of the time, the Representative would be determining the vote. Direct Democracy might only prevail when there is a great deal of public interest in a bill.
5. The Representative has a default position of “no” on each bill unless there is some percentage of participation and/or super majority vote in favor of passing the bill. This requires much less vigilance on the part of voters, but it assumes that most new laws are either not needed or written in such a way as to be unsatisfactory in that condition. This would push members of Congress to sponsor bills that are about one subject only, short, clear, and necessary, with a well defined source of funding. This option would prevent a minority of voters from passing bills. The Representative would be required to work hard to motivate voters to pass a bill he/she favors. Recommended.
6. Liquid Direct Democracy. All voters may vote on each bill as above options 2-4, but voters may also allow the Representative to vote on their behalf. For example, if the Representative is elected by 47% of the vote in a three-way race, those voters may decide to allow the Representative to act as proxy for most legislation, but if the voter chooses, he/she can take back the vote at any time. This option would grant the Representative the greatest amount of power in decision-making, but it also provides the people with an opportunity to try to override the Representative’s vote at any time. Recommended.
7. Radical Liquid Direct Democracy. Voters have the option of allowing any person to act as their proxies, including the Representative or any other person, or the voter can exercise his/her option to vote at any time. 100% of registered voters would participate (some passively, some actively) if the elected Representative has the default vote in the case that the voters themselves do not vote or name a proxy.
Secure voting may be done online using blockchain verification (as used by Bitcoin). The number and length of bills going up for votes in each year would need to be drastically reduced in a Direct Democracy to encourage sufficient participation. Currently, very few representatives have time to read all the bills that they vote on and citizens never hear about most of them. This is an unacceptable situation.
Although the decentralization of power is the goal, we do not advocate no government whatsoever. Any society requires organized effort to improve the quality and security of the lives of its individual members, but these organized efforts should never become rigid top-down control systems unresponsive to the people who created them. The overall aim of this site is to promote more democracy and to take political control away from corporate lobbyists, party bosses, politicians, and union leaders. Visitors are invited to fill out survey forms for each issue.
Recommended US organizations that are either working towards decentralization or for more citizen participation.
One Voice Now, local public broadcasting
“America is not a true democracy, but it could be with the help of technology,” by Nicole Softness.