It has been a while since I have played the constitution game

I am not a fan of the American method of electing the legislature, especially its use of winner-take-all elections. I much prefer proportional representation systems and national elections because of increased policy influence for social and political minorities, but I have always been uncomfortable with official political parties, not least for elegance reasons, so for a long time I have tried to think up proportional representation systems that do not require official political parties. The best idea I have come up with is a system of proportional legislator voting, I’ll call it direct, representative democracy.

Here’s how it would work:

Voters cast single ballots in a nationwide election. All candidates become legislators, with a number of votes proportional to the fraction of popular votes they received, but only legislators who received a fraction of the vote above a certain minimum (let’s say .0025) would receive a legislator salary and the right to be in the legislative building. My minimum would allow for a maximum of 400 paid legislators, a little smaller than the House of Representatives, but the actual number would certainly be much smaller. Legislators who received below the cutoff would have the right to submit a sort of absentee ballot (by mail or otherwise).

This is essentially direct democracy, with a tradable vote. Direct democracy would result if everyone voted for themselves, but no one interested in actually affecting policy would do this because the costs of researching and voting often would certainly outweigh the benefits. Most people would choose a representative they generally agree with and give them their vote. Candidates with more popular views would recieve proportionally more voting power.

I would guess that the resulting legislative body would have several legislators with relatively large fractions of the vote, and many more legislators with a small fraction of the vote. The distribution should look something like a Poisson distribution.

What do I think advantages of direct, representative democracy would be?

  •  It would achieve the benefits of proportional representation, such as reduced pork and increased minority influence, without a complex, artificial or distorting voting system.
  • It would help shift more policy setting influence back to the legislative branch, where I think it belongs, because the legislators with relatively large fractions of the vote would have a much larger “public face,” which I think currently gives the president a significant amount of influence.
  •  It would shift political power from congressional committees (they have a lot of power right now) and back to the majority which would reduce the power of special interests.

I don’t think this system is very likely to be implemented because at first glance, it seems very unfair since some represenatives would wield more voting power than others. I do think this is the ideal republican system, and if I could, I would replace at least the U.S. House of Representatives with a legislative body based on direct, represenative democracy.