08 January 2006

Another semi-modest proposal on political reform

The Abramoff mess amplifies the problems with majority rule within Congress. Controlling lobbyist will always prove difficult. Rather than attacking the problem from that end I say go at it from a different direction.

Starting with the House of Representatives I believe it is high time to make that body far more 'representative' than it has ever been. It wouldn't be unprecedented to change the rules. Between extending the franchise, to changing how Senators are selected, large and small changes have been made to how we select our politicians. It's time for another large change.

The problems with our 'winner take all' two party system is that it inevitably becomes a single party, single winner system. That one party and one winner is MONEY.

It's time to 'democratize' the selection process.

Here's my modest proposal, every candidate exceeding .51% of the vote shall become a member of Congress. The votes for each district will be divided into a hundred votes to be distributed amongst all the qualifying candidates. All the people who have a vote will serve in Congress. In that manner every district will have a Democratic and a Republican representative, and most likely a Green and Libertarian representative as well. The multiplicity of voices and viewpoints will add to the cacophany admittedly, but also it will create a greater competition in the marketplace of ideas that has sorely been lacking in Congress. Many rules would have to change. With each district potentially being represented by half a dozen or more people, the ability of lobbyist to lobby all these diverse characters and perspectives will be diminished. At the same time each district's constituency will be better represented. No vote would be 'wasted' in this system. Committee chairs would go by a rotating lottery rather than by majority party. Each representative would get the number of lottery entries as they have votes, and each committee would be open to entry by all members without regards to party.

The benefits of this system would be that EVERY district would be competitve. The big parties would have to contest every district so as not to have a small number of reps having a large number of votes. Plus voters attracted to candidates other than GOP or DEM wouldn't feel they were wasting their vote as those 4 and 5 vote representatives would add up on a national basis and potentially form a voting bloc with similar influence that you find amongst minority parties in a parlimentary system.

A look at a state's 2004 results might be instructive as to how this would look.

Let's take a look at Nebraska. The first district would have their votes divided thusly, 54 votes for the GOP, 43 votes for the DEM and 3 votes for the Green. The second district would have 61 votes for the GOP, 36 votes for the DEM, 1 vote for the Green and 2 votes for the Libertarian, and finally in the third district 87 votes for the GOP, 11 votes for the DEM, 1 vote for the Green, and 1 vote for the Nebraska party.

Instead of 3 Republicans, the Nebraska contingent in Congress would have been 3 Republicans with 202 of 300 votes, 3 Democrats with 90 votes, 3 Greens with 5 votes, 1 Libertarian with 2 votes, and one member of the Nebraska party with 1 vote. 11 Representatives instead of just 3. Plus on local issues, many times they could get together and do right by Nebraska while still disagreeing on national or ideological issues.

Also the voting and campaigning would go very differently under a proportional voting system rather than a winner take all system. Rep. Tom Osborne (he of 87.45% of the vote in District Three, by the way has there been a football related politician who wasn't a Republican?) would have had better than token opposition as both parties would be motivated to compete in all three districts. Plus the urge to gerrymander would be lessened as states with varying constituencies wouldn't see as much gain by concentrating their votes amongst fewer representatives.

I know this is pie in the sky wishful thinking. But some pipe dreams become reality given enough time. I think this system would allow third, fourth and fifth parties to flourish as well as local interest parties. I also think that this would make it harder for money to influence the system as the bar for entry would be so low (as few as 1500 votes could get you in Congress) that a committed door to door canvaser or blogger could garner 4-5% of a districts votes and be able to influence public policy (with a little luck in the committee lottery, which would be done every six months to allow for fresh ideas and fresh faces to flourish).


Pooh said...

But that's how they do it in England. It can't work here...

XWL said...

There is a superficial resemblance to parlimentary systems, but major difference in my modestly proposed scheme.

I don't think any current political system codifies the current term's votes into the number of votes each district's representative receives.

My suggestion would be a strange hybrid of parlimentary and electoral systems. It would be electoral in kind, but parlimentary in effect.

It would extend the 'one man, one vote' idea even to voters who vote for a candidate who doesn't receive a majority of votes.

It would have the added benefit of minting so many Congress Critters that the unwieldy size of the body would be such that they'd have to meet infrequently (I imagine a travelling circus of conventions 4-6 times a year in different parts of the country) or by tele-conference. If each delegation stayed in their district the majority of the year that would increase the cost of lobbying/bribery and spread it out over the entire country. Plus it would mean that everyone would have a responsive consituent in the Congress regardless of their location and political view (A Republican on the westside of Los Angeles, or in Manhattan would have someone they can influence, as would a Democrat in Crawford, TX)

But a change this massive would require a change to the Constitution, and lately only pay raises seem to lead to ammendments.