Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rated Voting

I doubt I would be able to find many people who would argue that a system of government that is democratic is not the best option of the various kinds of governments. Nor am I going to argue that democracy is bad. However one of the requirements of a truly functional democracy is that the people are informed upon the issues that they make decisions on. This is not the case for a large number of citizens in many countries. The reasons for this numerous. Voter apathy, a feeling that an individuals vote doesn't count is part of it. Other demands on peoples' time means that they don't pay attention to the actions of government that don't affect them directly.

So how do we encourage the citizens to pay more attention to what is going on. The simple answer is to provide an incentive. Simple monetary compensation for such a thing is impractical, expensive, and is only rather limited a motivation. This also goes for other material considerations.

What I propose is to weight individuals votes. In addition to marking the relevant choices on the ballot, there would be a small test. For ease of processing the questions would be multiple choice, and there would be about 10. The questions would be on current affairs and the current political landscape. In Australia, for example, two of the questions could be who is the current Prime Minister and who is the leader of the opposition. There could also be some short term historical questions.

Every person would receive at least one vote, regardless of how or if they answer the questions. For each correct answer that persons vote would be worth an extra vote. Thus those that know what is going on and keep themselves informed would have a greater say in matters.

The questions, and indeed the elections as a whole, would be administered by a body independent of any political party or existing government body. The questions would be checked over and accepted by all candidates before being placed on the ballot, in much the same way as candidates scrutinise counting of ballots in many countries.

Now a look at some of the disadvantages of such a scheme. Firstly it will complicate tallying of votes, and thus increase the time and expense of the count, but the question of how much effort we are willing to put in to maintaining our government is not one on which we should scrimp. Second, it does abandon the principle of one person, one vote. But each person still has the same potential vote, but it is up to the individual to determine how much effort they wish to put into ensuring that they are able to participate to the fullest. Third is the potential for cheating on the test. This could be reduced by producing a number of sets of questions, and random ordering of the questions within the sets.

Another objection is that groups that have special interests could make special efforts to ensure that they're members are tutored on current events near an election to increase the voting power of their members. This is no different from groups encouraging their members to just get out and vote.

In conclusion, this small change is a way to encourage people to pay attention to what is going on, and so induce greater participation in democracy.

No comments: