This conversation is closed.

What about doing away with politicians and voting online for all issues?

With ubiquitous Internet connectivity, isn't it possible by now to represent our own votes on issues online? Do we even need elected officials anymore to represent our voice? These "representatives" aren't even guaranteed to show up to vote and our true vote may get diluted or aggregated once it is brought to the floor of a House of "Representatives" by mechanisms none of us understand.

What if there was a public site that had multiple translations of municipal to national issues on the table.
- Advocates / critics have ONE page each to describe their sides & risk lack of support if too jargon-y.
- People log in & vote. (There is a window of 2 months to vote).
- Registered voters can only vote once on each issue.
- There's a mediated forum of debate in a related link. Each registered voter has a total of 500 characters to spend in the debate forum--forcing them to be succinct.
- Activists on the street are busy encouraging people to get online and vote in that window and to inform the public of their side.
- There is a quorum, or minimum number of total voters needed to validate a vote (voting periods can be extended until quorum is met)
- Politicians are only needed to enact the passing of the laws after they are validated.
- If people are unhappy with the results of a vote, then they go through a process of applying for a new referendum--which would require 30% of registered voters agreeing to a re-vote.
- Anyone can apply for a new law to happen provided that 30% of the registered voters elect for it to be put up for vote.

Basically, a referendum on everything. And each registered voter can pursue the issues that he/she is interested in. Thus, a whole country of voters looking into all issues, I'm certain, is more effective in producing democratic results than an elected official who cannot possibly be an expert on everything.

Perhaps this can be tried with a neighborhood, condo community, company or small town to see how it would play out. :)

  • thumb
    Apr 19 2011: The doing away with Politicians idea is good.
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2011: I'm thinking that this would definitely get people to participate in politics. If a law is enacted that they didn't log in and vote for, individuals can clearly see their relationship to the outcome of a vote. It would get people to read up on and discuss fervently issues of the day.
    • Apr 22 2011: Unfortunately, since politicians would be involved in the decision to get rid of 'politicians', it just isn't going to happen. We really do have to eliminate partisan party politics though, and in Canada, an electoral system (first past the post), that generally misrepresents the way the electorate actually votes. And we need a proportional voting system so that we don't have a minority government that actually only garners less than 38% of the popular vote. We have two mainstream political parties (as they do in the USA), one marginal party, one mainly provincial party in Quebec that simply wants to separate from Canada, and one party that has no elected members of parliament. In the 2008 federal election Harper's conservatives formed a minority government with only 37.6% of the vote and that gave them 143 out of 308 seats. The lowly Green Party garnered close to a million votes but elected nobody. The separatist Bloc Quebecois received 1.4 million votes taking 49 seats, while the New Democrats got 1.1 million votes more than the BQ but won only 37 seats. This is wrong, unfair and absurd from every approach. And the results? -- low voter turnouts, apathy and cynicism, and a disfunctional system of governance. Oops, forgot to mention another result -- our fourth federal election in seven years at about $300 million a pop.But there is hope -- Switzerland. Google it, I urge you. They also have five political parties but they have a system of participatory democracy. Their political structure allows and encourages citizens to actively participate in government, and even in the creation of legislation. The Swiss federation and their idea of direct democracy reflects the importance the country attaches to freedom of choice and self determination. A decentralized division of power and attempts to solve issues at their lowest level, called the subsidiarity principle, are the cornerstones of the Swiss confederation. They use a lot of referendums.
      • Jul 20 2011: While your arguments in favour of proportional representation (PR) are valid, PR would not solve the democratic deficit in Canada.

        What is being proposed here, by Genevieve Tran and others on TED, is a true model of e-democracy, one which would be far more efficient than the traditional direct democracy model (e.g. Referendum, Initiative, Recall) used in Switzerland, British Columbia and many States in the US (most famously, California).

        And fortunately, this statement could not be further from the truth: "since politicians would be involved in the decision to get rid of 'politicians', it just isn't going to happen."

        In fact, ONLY citizens would be involved in that decision via Elections!

        Let me explain.

        We are starting a new political party called the Online Party of Canada ( ) founded on the principles of electronic direct democracy. Through this website, every eligible Canadian citizen may to vote directly on legislation and even propose new Bills which could then be tabled in the House of Commons.

        At this point, you might say: “But you haven’t done away with politicians, which was the main topic of this TED Conversation!”

        Not quite, but let’s see how it would work in practice.

        Members of the Online Party of Canada (OPC) may only become Candidates to run in elections after signing a Promissory Letter of Resignation -- implicitly stating that IF they are elected as Members of Parliament (MP), they must always vote according to the Will of the People, no matter their personal agenda or belief. If they don’t, members can automatically withdraw their support and ask them to step down, making way for their successor.

        So you see, we don't even need to change the Constitution or even ask politicians to introduce e-Democracy in Canada... all we need is to win seats via free elections and enter the legislature with a virtual Trojan Horse filled with ALL citizens (even members of other parties!). Now THAT would be true democracy!
  • thumb
    Jun 16 2011: The more I mull this over, the more I like the idea.

    At first glance I thought 'no way this would fly with the government'. But, while reading Genevieve's post, I realized we dont need permission. Sure enough, a website exists that is gathering votes. Here's the thing: If we can use a four digit PIN via the web to authorize borrowing six figures worth of student loans why would establishing a secure voting system online pose a problem? I mean, there has got to be issues, but it genuinely seems do-able. I'd like to see how much difference there is in the outcomes of votes online versus votes via representatives. Somehow I feel that if this were widely used practice we'd all have health care.
  • Apr 29 2011: There is a project that started in January 2010 called Cyber Democracy which really is all about what you say: doing away with politicians and voting on-line on all issues, and even going further, voting on-line wherever you are, through your smartphone. Here's the website:
    • thumb
      Apr 30 2011: Hey, that's you!! Why not translate it---I think it would spread like wildfire in English!
      • Apr 30 2011: Hey there! All the documents are translated in english, and there is also a small promotional video in english as well. Where you suggesting translating the presentation itself?
      • May 9 2011: Hey again! Just to let you know the video presentation is translated, if you're still interested! Here's the link:
        • thumb
          May 10 2011: Great job! I want to know the test results of it--how does it play out in real life? Was it used successfully at a condo meeting? Or small company? I'll stick on reddit, unless it's already there....:)

          This idea is important to test out--many people are doubtful that votes would be counted fairly...I believe it must be the future and eliminate the unnecessary time, lag, effort and errors of current voting systems.

          Test it out, and document feedback, results like a scientist. There will be many in your future who will want to read / understand your pioneering model. Go to or email Political Science professors at universities. Tell them. Offer to test it on schools, classrooms, condos or small businesses with up to 50 employees. Then, take it to a neighborhood; town; city. I hope to see you at a future Ted conference as the speaker who democratized democracy! I'm so excited for you!! :)
  • Apr 24 2011: I think someone ought to make a tutorial that teaches TED commentators how to format their comments...

    Make your ideas more easily digestible for us ADD sufferers by using paragraphs PLEASE... :)
  • Apr 21 2011: Love the idea, it's something I've been wondering about. The issue I arrive at is how to ensure that there are no cases of hacking into an account, voting on behalf of someone else, etc.

    This idea would also require that a lot more people have access to the internet. Which isn't a bad standard in my opinion!
  • thumb
    Apr 20 2011: It would be marvelous. But say that for your senator, Obama, etc... They will laugh and this will never happen just because they don't want.

    Doing away with politicians is harder than deal with them.
  • thumb
    Apr 20 2011: Genevieve..when I first saw your title.."doing away with politicians" I was locked into the idea that of course we needed a legislature....but now, after all these months of thinking and talking about modernising democracy and envsioining what a modern democracy for a new world would look like I am questioning whether a legislature of fixed elected reps serving multi year terms and a handful of judges serving for life makes sense in a complex modern pluralistic a world where nations are really states in a global world. We need to have an operating system that establishes how the leadership is formed but maybe the right leadership issue by issue is different..and that who that leadership should be would emerge and be clear. I think we see a little bit of how that would work here within the TED conversation structure..Looking across the range of issues and conversations, there are clear communities of interest-- and within those communities of interest there are voices which allow some kind of common wisdom to surface. So thank you Genvieve for creating an opportunity for us here at TED who have been interested in modernizing democracy to now consider the very radical idea of whether we really need strcutures of fixed indivuiduals or whether we should be looking to structures which are not composed of fixed inidviduals for fixed terms but systems which allow wisdom to emerge, which allow expertise(the technology, science, history, state of the art) to be avaialble to all, and which allow leadership to surface naturally.I think each of us tends to react to an idea like "do away with politicians" from a weddedness to what is, and always has been, and that when we albel it off handedly as "impossible" we miss an opportunity to really visit deeply what is possible and what would work best.
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2011: (This idea comes out here too, and may I note Julian Blanco's made great progress into the consideration of technology used for politics in his summary.)

    My big question here is how do you acquire transparency while using the technology? How do the masses still know 100 percent that their votes are being processed correctly? I still like the idea but wouldn't this also require an education that involves classes and/or lessons for understanding what it takes to be a citizen instead (like in America) of assuming every average hard worker can understand politics to it's full extent and potential?
    • thumb
      Apr 20 2011: This may sound incredibly naive, but I think once politics is packaged much more accessibly, it would be self-explanatory. Like, once the first announcement goes out that the issue of whether or not to build a new stadium in the city is to be voted online, people will get it.

      There could be 100 independent techies behind the scenes, constantly reporting anomalies and abuse. If a majority of them weigh in that the system is compromised, we suspend operations until it's fixed.
      • thumb
        Apr 20 2011: Still need an education of politics, civil laws, and the nations constitution and/or constitutional-like document. Or else people could still be manipulated for there votes ultimately. What would stop webpages from popping up saying "Don't know where to vote? Let us help!" and that site could be totally left or right winged.

        Problem-solving doesn't come from technology, it comes from education. Education involving technology, Dam, skies the limits.
        • thumb
          Apr 21 2011: you are right about that nicholas..happens to everyone in america approaching their 65th I am..I have just been inundated with very misleading information exactly as you say in the guise of help or sometimes iintentionally suggesting it is from the social secuity administration.. Isn't it though just one of the hazards of life on the internet? It is just a question of time as to when political ads will start appearing in pop ups..but usesr do have some control through spam filters and of course on an official legsilative web site such outside influence would be prohbited.
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2011: I tend to lean more towards liquid democratic voting system that would allow groups of users to place trust in individuals users or groups to accomplish those tasks. Additionally I think that would allow for speedier functioning and greater efficiency. It would be a terrible pit fall if now letting the system get bogged down by a lack of users willing to attend to a specific issue. I think there are allot of other systems that could be incorporated online as well such as municipal knowledge bases and various other social media could systems like task prioritization could be implemented. Though I can agree the conventional politician is no longer optimally serving the peoples interests.
  • Apr 19 2011: While this sounds good on its face, the problem is that not everyone has equal access to the very technology we would use to vote. Someone like me, with a computer at home, at work, on my phone, could vote more easily than someone living out somewhere without that luxury/ability. So it would serve to tilt the power slightly to those (very many, I agree) who happen to have the economic means and infrastructure to access the Internet, while disenfranchising those who do not.
    • thumb
      Apr 21 2011: I agree with you Frank that uniform access is a electronically wouldn't require uniform access or literacy..polling places or town halls or librabries could offer terminals and of course paper ballots could still be used. Particptaion in the process of law making..participation in public comment is another matter..I think the kind of involvement that requires, the level of computer literacy that requires can't be achieved through free access terminals..also at the moment rural areas don't have universal wi-fi or broad band yet which limits the possibilities of full participation in an internet based involvement beyond voting. That would be a good TED topic on its we create the universal "one lap top per household" that would need to exist? How do we facilitate/expedite universal wi-fi hi speed access? When my Mom was 80 she took a class at her local library called "Cyber-Savy Seniors"..we fixed her up with a PC and off she e-mail with friends around the world, masters level competitive bridge on line, researching the drugs she was perscribed,.researching alternate treatments for her diseases. So I know for sure 100% computer literacy is's really, for many who are truly struggling, an issue of affordability and a little bit of initial training. And of uniiversal hi speed wireless access.
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2011: While getting rid of Politicians may seem a good idea, especially with the current crop in power today. There would definitely be some issues of major concern to deal with, besides, it is we the people in Democratic societies who elect these folks and therefore it is our responsibility to hold them to some standard, our standard. This is one obligation we must not abdicate to some online entity.
    Some issues require rigorous debate and the flushing out of detail that an online medium could not satisfactorily present. There would be many other issues around fairness and the framing of issues in such a medium as well.
    Then there are issues that require leadership, where majority consensus is not sufficient to make the best decisions. An internet vote on Slavery or Womens right to vote at the time would have yielded much different results than that of history's record.
    We can hardly get folks out to the poles in most Democratic countries to vote, could you imagine getting individuals to spend a few hours online to become informed on the issues and then to vote?
    No, our political systems in the West are not broken at the top it is fractured at the bottom, citizens need to get involved with the issues and elect people who share their values and will, once elected keep their promises.
    But I believe the most significant impediment to good Governance is the media, and they have become so corrupt that citizens can hardly be expected to make good judgments on an issue when the media roots for a side rather than report the facts as they are. If we can get back to good journalism and media reporting, we may still be able to reclaim our Democracies.
    And with unrest in much of the Arab world an example of good Democratic Governance would be an excellent gift and image to send.
    BMG -