Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Voting & Legislative Reform Ideas: Weighted Ballots & Conditional Automatic Repeal

Weighted Ballots
First let me say this: this idea will never work.

Second let me say this: I'd like to be proven wrong.

Here's the idea...

  1. Somehow track what and who a voter has voted for in the past.
  2. Objectively measure how well the winners that voter has voted for have worked out.
  3. Weight the value of that voter's current vote accordingly.
Ideally, the weighting would reflect the voter's votes on similar issues and in similar circumstances more than dissimilar.

The difficulties are fairly obvious. There's the privacy issue of tracking votes, and the big hairy problem of coming up with sufficient agreement on an objective measure of past winning votes' outcomes. Vote tracking is the big issue. It would be simple to do, but the secret ballot is an important institution, its primary and critical-to-freedom purpose being to prevent people from being coerced into voting one way or another. As for the performance measuring, I may have another idea that could maybe possibly serve as a partial/proxy measure well enough for some cases.

Anyway, if someone can solve the privacy issue, that would be swell.

Conditional Automatic Repeal
Okay, now this one may never happen, but it could maybe work.

Here's the idea...

Pass a constitutional amendment (it would have to be, I think) to the effect that...
  1. Any act (or referendum, hereafter referred to as an "act") must include measurable intended goals for the act, to be reached within a stated time frame, possibly including negative effects to be avoided.
  2. If the goals are not met or unwanted effects occur within the time given, the act is automatically repealed.
  3. The legislative body may then override the automatic repeal as it might for an executive veto, with the same vote margin requirement.
  4. The legislative body is, of course, free to repeal the act at any time as normal, so if it becomes obvious that an act is not working they don't have to wait for the auto-repeal.
I think this would maybe help reduce the hyperbole surrounding much of the big legislation that gets passed, by forcing a bill's proponents to make clear enforceable claims about what it will actually accomplish. If the act doesn't do what they say it will do, it's out, unless a supermajority then agrees that we're still better off with the legislation than without. I think it could help reduce bundling of unrelated issues in single bills. I think it could also give voters a tool for measuring the candidates in an election.

It could also serve as a measure for the weighted ballot scheme mentioned above. It would only apply to referendums and such, with the voter's weighting determined by the auto-repeal track record of their winning votes. (I suppose it could also serve as a measure for votes for office as well, with the weight flowing from the legislative votes of the people the voter has gotten into office.) That still leaves the vote-tracking privacy issue, of course.
Again, this one would be difficult to get passed. Too many legislators know too well that there are things they vote for that, while helping a few folks, don't otherwise work as advertised. I'd still like to see this debated.