[EM] Path to a Proxy Legislature

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Wed Mar 28 22:49:52 PDT 2007

Trees by Proxy starts at the bottom, such as village, but then extends 
upward to town, county, and state, as practice works toward perfection.

Below registering of  candidates is mentioned - makes sense for, even 
though filing a proxy is easy, such should not elect someone with no interest.

Abd and I have similar goals in different worlds.  Perhaps our having 
separate threads will clarify for readers.


On Wed, 28 Mar 2007 14:02:01 -0400 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> In discussions here under the thread "Trees by Proxy," a proxy 
> legislature was under consideration. As part of this discussion, the 
> question of practicality came up, i.e., of this or that provision, 
> which might possibly, as representing a greater change, prevent implementation.
> It occurred to me to outline a possible path from here to there.
> It begins with Asset Voting. Asset Voting preserves secret ballot at 
> the first stage but effectively becomes delegable proxy for the 
> purpose of electing the assembly. The basic concept of Asset is that 
> voters choose one or more candidates to receive their votes, called 
> Assets. If more than one is chosen, in the original version by Warren 
> Smith, voters could assign any three-place decimal fraction in the 
> range of 0 to 1 to the candidates. There are other implementations 
> which are simpler for voters, including what I called Fractional 
> Approval Asset Voting, FAAV. It is approval because the voter may 
> vote for more than one. It is fractional because if the voter votes 
> for more than one, the vote is divided among them. As a practical 
> matter, it is possible that a voter could get, say, 10 votes and 
> could destribute them as desired. In that, it is like cumulative voting.
> However, FAAV is Asset Voting because the votes then received by the 
> candidates are disposable by the candidates in order to elect 
> winners. We are here assuming a multiwinner election, and in 
> particular, of a legislature with a single district, state-wide. A 
> quota of votes is required for election to the legislature. So if a 
> candidate receives the quota or more, directly, that candidate -- at 
> his or her option -- is immediately elected. In any case, votes not 
> used up to elect a winner remain disposable, at the discretion of the 
> candidate holding them. This is essentially proxy or delegable proxy 
> (and I recommend it be delegable proxy because it makes it more 
> practical for votes to be assigned in relatively small numbers and 
> still concentrate rapidly).
> Asset Voting converts the private, secret votes of individual voters 
> into public electors, who then determine, as the proxies of those who 
> voted for them, the winner(s). Because they can bargain and use 
> deliberative process, the results are not predictable. I will note, 
> however, that if write-in votes are allowed, anyone can serve as an 
> elector, including the voter himself or herself. There are, in some 
> contexts, security considerations that might require secret 
> reassignment of voters where the voter-candidate holds less than a 
> certain number of votes. Beyond that number it becomes practical for 
> the society to protect the electors.
> Perhaps for this discussion it would be better to assume, from the 
> outset, that candidates must be registered as such; if the 
> registration requirements are simple, and if a means is provided to 
> clearly specify from a large number of candidates on the ballot, this 
> may be very little loss of democratic power.
> I have elsewhere described that Asset may be used to elect a 
> legislature that is *mostly* district-based, with the districts being 
> defined on-the-fly by the electors. If votes are reassigned in 
> precinct blocks, it becomes, then, possible to create winners whose 
> votes come from specific areas as shown in the voting records. It is 
> likely, then, that most voters would have a local representative, 
> with a district including their location; districts, of course, will 
> overlap, and there might be a few legislators with a district that 
> includes the entire state. This provides maximum representation to 
> minorities, without needing to define them. They are defined by how 
> they amalgamate their votes.
> Okay, so now we have a fully-proportional, *chosen* legislature.
> The next step is obvious. The electors remain, and may reassign their 
> votes at any time. Again, the simplest way to do this is probably 
> through delegable proxy, where every elector assigns a proxy to 
> another; every elector may directly change their proxy assignment, 
> effective immediately; and this propagates up the hierarchy it 
> creates until it actually changes the vote assignments of legislators.
> (Some worry about proxy loops. Loops are inevitable at the highest 
> levels, if everyone assigns a proxy; the only problem with loops is 
> when they take place at a low level. And there is an extremely simple 
> solution: if a loop leaves someone unrepresented, that elector is 
> notified and if any elector in a loop changes their proxy assignment 
> to someone outside the loop, the loop is broken and connected to a 
> larger group.)
> I have considered it possible that schemes could be set up whereby a 
> peer legislature is maintained. But it is far more flexible if the 
> voting power of legislators varies with their current proxy assignments.
> As long as the secret ballot assignment of votes to electors is 
> maintained, direct voting on the part of citizens remains impossible, 
> for there is no way to reconcile these votes with the votes cast by 
> the legislator-proxies. However, direct voting *could* be implemented 
> for electors, since their vote assignments are known. Votes in the 
> legislature then become continuously representative of the electors, 
> who either vote directly or by proxy.
> What, then, does it mean to be "elected"? It means that the 
> legislator gains "floor rights." This is the right, subject to 
> assembly rules, to speak in the assembly and to enter motions. It has 
> been pointed out that some level of uncertainty and practical 
> disturbance would exist if floor rights depended continuously on 
> proxy counts. But I see no reason why these have to be rigidly 
> connected. There is little harm if a legislator maintains floor 
> rights beyond the time when he or she holds a quota of proxies. All 
> that changes is the number of votes cast. And when a new legislator 
> gains floor rights, the proxy of that legislator remains active until 
> the legislator takes his or her seat -- and even beyond then, because 
> I assume that legislators, even though having floor rights, may still 
> vote by proxy. So the implementation of actual floor rights may under 
> some circumstances be delayed a time. All this would be a matter of 
> assembly rules, and if direct voting is maintained by electors, the 
> electors can control those rules, effectively excluding some of 
> themselves in the name of legislative efficiency, but never thereby 
> losing voting power.
> The largest step here is Asset Voting.
> Oddly enough, when I first heard of Single Transferable Vote, and it 
> was before I knew of Smith's Asset Voting, I thought that this was 
> what it meant: that the candidates receiving votes could transfer 
> them.... It must not be such a terribly strange idea.....
> The problem, of course, with STV and similar schemes is that it is 
> not flexible, it rigidly determines outcomes at the time of the 
> election can has no power to adjust to ongoing circumstances. STV for 
> a large-district many-winner legislature could produce similar 
> initial composition of the legislature, though Asset has the 
> potential of making expensive campaigning a fish bicycle; with Asset 
> no votes are wasted, even those cast for someone who gets very few. 
> (None at all would be the result if not for security concerns; if I 
> want to coerce your vote, I could require you to vote for yourself. 
> And then, from that point on, I know exactly how you vote.... And I 
> know if you did not vote for yourself as well....)
> (Of course, some votes could be wasted: a holder of votes could 
> refuse to use them to create winners; but if direct voting is 
> allowed, even then there is little harm, since the voting power remains.)
> Proposals for direct democracy are typically rejected, even by 
> progressives, because of the problem of scale. But the problem of 
> scale is a problem of deliberation, not of voting power. This may be 
> one of the most important realizations to come out of these 
> discussions. There is a solution to the problem of scale in 
> democracy. Delegable Proxy. With appropriate assembly rules, it 
> creates a deliberative body of manageable size, while leaving the 
> voting power in the hands of the public, but, normally, exercised 
> through proxies who can become informed regarding the business of the 
> assembly. The everyday citizen is not required to follow all this, 
> except to the extent that he or she is specifically interested; the 
> important choice that citizens may make is: whom do you trust?
> All forms of representative democracy involve such a delegation of 
> trust. What is new is the idea of using this to elect 
> representatives, rather than only for deliberation in a representative body.

  davek at clarityconnect.com    people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
  Dave Ketchum   108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708   607-687-5026
            Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
                  If you want peace, work for justice.

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