TED Conversations

Austin Mackell

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A divisible real time mandate system for representative democracy.

REAL TIME VOTING is a system based around transforming the vote from a single use token issued every 4 years into a permanent possession of the voter – something that is lent (in part or full) to a representative the voter trusts to defend their interests and which can be withdrawn without notice.

It would be an online voting system in which each voter would have a personal homepage. Here would be the voters “pot”. Upon the first log in, this pot would contain their entire vote. They would then be able to break this vote into portions of whatever size they liked, called tokens, and proceed to distribute them to representatives. A voter could, for example, give a third of their vote to a candidate who shared their economic views, another third to one with a position on the environment they shared, a sixth to a candidate advocating for a persecuted minority, and the final sixth to a candidate advocating for their local community.

This last option is significant, as while such a system would be, by its nature, inimical to district based voting, it would allow for local representation where it was desired – difficult in current models of proportional representation where people have one vote, once every four years. Indeed one can imagine a community that felt it had been abandoned by the broader political class quickly pooling a substantial chunk of its votes behind a candidate.

The representatives’ voting power would increase and decrease in proportion with their share of active vote tokens. A representative with a total of 10% of active vote tokens would cast a vote that counts for twice that of her colleague with 5% of active tokens. representatives announce their position in advance, giving the voter a chance to withdraw support.

Percentages of active tokens would also be important in allocating speaking time, and the number of opportunities a representative would have to introduce a motion New reps could collect votes from friends and neighbors to start.


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    Oct 16 2012: The first step would to do this solely to inform the representative of the audience’s perspective before going to live voting. A system like this would need a trial time allowing the fixing of the voting! It must feel like a game show for most of the society to find time for this endeavor.
    However, alas the biggest problem in voting has always been the availability to the facts and their assimilation. There are mathematical schemes (used in lottery machines) that can make the online realm secure and true but knowing who the person is at the keyboard is not so reliable.
    My personal opinion of a Republic and not a Democracy is that we enlist these representatives to make the tough choices for us that audiences rarely can. But making these tough choices and then being re-elected is problematic for the representative thus our nation has fallen to those with the power to press their representatives into office instead of ours.
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      Oct 17 2012: Reps who weren't informed of their voters perspectives would get quickly out competed in this system. Im not sure people are such bad choices of their leaders, and not sure where the "people don't know what's good for them" line takes us except towards fascism.
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        Oct 19 2012: I had this idea two decades ago when I found that I was already late to the idea. I am on your side of doing this online voting. I just have had a long time to think about what flaws it has to overcome. In regards to the idea: “people knowing what is good for them”. I am sure they always think they know what is good for them but often they are missing some facts. I was trying to convey the idea of a representative has the job (all week) dedicated to knowing what is good for them while a pop in voter may merely be certain of their facts but wrong never the less.
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          Oct 19 2012: That is an excellent way of phrasing it. Ideally there would be a bunch of smaller reps who had day jobs as well, but also hassled their co-workers and stuff, as well as those who had crossed a certain threshold and were being paid to work full time and lead an informed debate.

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