Saturday, May 13, 2006

Elected Representative Responsibility

Within a representative democracy, the elected representatives are chosen by the people to represent their interests to the rest of the government. Before voting they should consider the matter being considered, how it will affect the people they were elected to represent as well as how it will affect the country. In practice, most elected representatives vote along party lines unless the consequences for their electorate are particularly bad, and may not even read the legislation that they are passing.

One factor behind is that apart from the desire to be reelected, in most countries I'm aware, elected representatives have no obligation as to how much attention or consideration they give a bill before they vote on it. This is particularly the case in countries with only two major political parties.

To discontinue this trend and make sure that representatives have considered the matters being voted upon, I propose that when a vote is called within the legislature, the representatives must sign a declaration stating that they have read and understood the bill that they are voting on under the penalty of perjury. Those abstaining would not need to sign a declaration, but a minimum number of representatives must vote on each act (this I believe is a requirement in most governments already).

If applied properly, this should ensure that representatives vote on matters only after having thought about the matter, and not just trusting the people who proposed the bill. Also, it should slow down the rate at which legislation is introduced and voted upon. I very much doubt anyone is able to read 4 whole bills each day, as well as fulfilling the other responsibilities of a representative.

The only downside is the problem of enforcement. I guess a first check would be the rate of legislation the representatives vote upon. And of course, any claims they make to not have been aware of certain parts of bills they have voted upon should be looked into.

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