We now have two ways of voting: voting individuals into office, and voting initiatives into law. Both have their advantages, but they are extremes. Representation is very convenient. We can just pick our guy or gal and leave the details to them. Conversely, initiatives and referendums give voters very granular control over a law. But what if there were other forms of voting that combined the convenience of representation with the control of direct voting? The idea that there could be not just new issues or movements but entirely new forms of voting might seem abstract at first, but once we start working through the details, many possibilities become evident. For example, voters could determine budget priorities by choosing budget ratios—one-fifth to the military, one-third to social security, one-tenth to education, etc. They could likewise vote on the tax schedule using an dynamic interface that would give us a good idea how much each quintile of the population contributes in taxes, their average tax rate, etc. Such an interface would also allow us to create new schedules or see how different schedules raised or lowered total tax revenue. Once we start singling out conveniently “voteable” decisions, we might identify some unlikely opportunities—the decision to make war, for one. Since war-making is relatively infrequent and quite dramatic, what kind of process would best engage our emotions and intelligence? It’s worth thinking about. Hundreds of millions of people can hang on the twists and turns of a show like “Lost,” but our current political decision-making processes too often leave us emotionally and intellectually stunted. New populist forms of voting that don’t require every citizen to become a wonk or activist could increase voter smarts and engagement, as well as more perfectly express the ideal of one person, one vote.
I’m an Actionscript-platform entrepenuer. Currently I’m finishing a site dedicated to role-based chat. Chat leaders play roles like match-maker, interviewer, rapper, comic, pundit. Other chatterers can vote for them or whoever can keep the conversation rolling. It’s a mutant offspring of Oprah and Survivor.
I’m also two things Portlanders adore…a recent L.A. transplant and a long-ago Reed College grad. (Both facts I hid when I went rental hunting with my family here.)