[EM] direct democracy / proxy system proposal

James Green-Armytage jarmyta at antioch-college.edu
Wed Oct 22 21:28:22 PDT 2003

Dear election methods fans,

	Here is my proposal for a direct democracy system that incorporates a
proxy system. Please let me know if I am repeating someone else's ideas.

	Each voter is able to have a standing list of proxies. The list can be
ranked, although it is unlikely that any entries after the first one or
two will be important. Voters can change their proxy list at any time, and
they can also destroy it at any time and leave no substitute.
	On a given issue S, each voter has 3 options:

1. Specifically vote on the issue. (This could include formally
2. Indicate a specific proxies or ranked list of proxies, other than those
indicated on their standing list, just for the purpose of their vote on
issue S.
3. Do nothing, in which case their voting power goes in the direction
indicated by their standing proxy list (assuming that they have such a
list on file).

	If a voter specifically votes on the issue, then of course their vote
registers directly.
	If a voter indicates a new proxy list specifically for issue S, the
effect for that issue is the same as if they had indicated their standing
proxy list by default. In either case, a proxy list is indicated.
	If voter A indicates voter B as his first proxy, and voter B votes
directly on the issue, then the weight of voter A's vote is added to voter
B's and cast the same way.
	If voter A indicates voter B as his first proxy, voter B indicates voter
C as her first proxy, and voter C votes directly on the issue, then both A
and B's vote are cast as C's vote is cast. And so on.
	If voter A indicates voter B as his first proxy, and voter B makes no
indication at all of his vote (that is, doesn't vote on the issue, doesn't
indicate a proxy for the issue, and doesn't have a standing proxy list),
then A's vote is transferred to the next proxy on his ranked list, instead
of to B.

	A paradox might arise if A indicates B as his first proxy, B indicates C
as her first proxy, and C indicates A as his first proxy.
	One (somewhat arbitrary) rule I have devised to resolve this is as
	In the above case I would define a path such that A's vote has traveled
the path A-->B, then the path B-->C, and then the path C-->A.
	The rule is that a vote should not travel along the same path twice.
Hence, once A's vote returns to A, it should not once again move from A to
B. Instead, it should travel to the next proxy as ranked on A's proxy
list. The same will go for B and C's votes in this example.
	This rule is not especially important, since such paradoxes are not a
serious concern, and other rules are possible. Still, one must have at
least some rule to resolve this. 
	Another possible rule is that a vote shouldn't be assigned to the same
person twice. Hence in the example above A's vote would be transferred to
C's next choice, rather than being assigned to A once again.
	As for the voting method used to decide the actual issue, that is left
open here. For a single winner issue, I would tend to prefer beatpath or
ranked pairs. For a multiple winner issue where proportional
representation is appropriate, I would tend to prefer Meek STV, local
CPO-STV or CPO-STV. Other methods are possible, though.

	The reason I think that it would be good to have a proxy system is that
people will not necessarily have the time to become educated on a given
issue, but perhaps they know of someone who might, and whose views they
tend to agree with. And in turn, it is possible that this person won't
have time to become educated on this particular issue, but knows someone
who might, and so on.
	The reason I think that it would be good to allow people to allow
different proxies for different issues is that it will enable people to
indicate people who are knowledgeable in the field that the issue relates
to. For example, if the issue is relevant to the environment, then the
voter may indicate an environmentalist, or a staff member of an NGO that
deals with the environment. Or the voter may just delegate her vote to
someone whom she knows has educated themselves well about that issue in
particular. Even though an average voter would not always be able to make
these distinctions, their proxies and their proxies' proxies might.

	I do not intend to suggest that such a proxy system would make a
legislature of elected representatives unnecessary. I think that it would
serve as a complement rather than a replacement to representative
	Indeed, the official strength / bindingness of such a direct vote is left
open, that is, whether it creates law in itself, whether it is subject to
amendments, revisions, vetoes, etc. There might be many situations where
it is attractive to have such a direct vote, but have it not be legally
binding. That is, where the public are able to express their opinion
actively (rather than through the use of randomly sampled polls, etc.),
but the final decision is left to the traditional structures of
	Actually, this non-binding vote might be the best place to start from, in
order to build public participation and trust before investing legal power
in it.

	Of course, the communication medium that would support this process is a
difficult problem, which is already under debate. The internet is the
obvious choice, but then there is the issue of security, that is the worry
that someone may be able to hack into the system and change the outcome of
the vote. Also there is the issue of access, that is the fact that not
everyone has equal access to the internet. However, if such problems are
ever satisfactorily addressed, I hope that the resulting system of direct
democracy will look something like the above.

James Green-Armytage

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