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that is lent (in part or full) to a representative the voter trusts to defend their interests and which can be withdrawn without notice.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 19 2012: I really like the idea, mate, "Occupy Sydney" has the right of it regarding literacy and your subsequent comment as well of internet access and computer literacy.

    I could see this as a future-system which can be implemented as a test bed for "polling" the issues at stake with a pilot audience, that is slowly expanded over time as computers proliferate to impoverished stakeholders and internet access makes headway into remote districts with emerging communication technologies; The system eventually taking over from traditional rep-by-pop as past, present, and future voting generations all become literate and net-savvy.

    Direct democracy is the only true democracy, as far as I'm concerned. I don't place much merit in a man or woman at the helm, out of my reach, who may or may not be getting treated to $1000-a-plate luncheons with corporate big-wigs; This in turn gets them a better shot at promoting their interests than the man on the street.

    We currently "hire" our MPs and reps, and they in turn hire advisors, assistants et. al. who make themselves aware of all current and emerging issues, which the candidate isn't available to research otherwise. How could this system create a similar proposal, with a multi-fold savings by not having to hire the additional researchers (using voters as idea-generators), as well as having "subject-vetting" so that you separate the kooks from people with valid points and concerns?

    I suppose that's the main thrust: If everyone gets a say, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
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      Oct 19 2012: He Gio,

      rather than "polling" I see this system first being used to run a protest movement. I think it should be called the "tribunate". This is based on a story from roman history. This is the cartoon version: The people were upset with the corrupt senate so they gathered in a field outside and elected some "tribunes" who the senate was then forced to listen too.

      The Tribunate would exist *as well as* rather than instead of current organisations, creating a way for the huge mass of social movements and activists who are out there, a vast number of whom share some key goals, to coordinate their efforts without submitting to a controlling top down structure.

      This would give us all kinds of leverage. That is about as far as I take the idea at this stage. But there is no reason it couldn't be introduced, say by a local council, and spread from there.

      Regarding separating the wheat from the chaff, the number of votes a rep got would also determine a kind of income in "discussion credits" or whatever you want to call them. reps would compete in auctions for opportunities to introduce bills etc. Important to note that a group of smaller reps could pool credits and introduce joint bills. The process would give precedence in the debate to ideas with the most support. I can't think of a fairer way of doing it.

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