Posted 8 months ago on Aug. 31, 2012, 8:17 a.m. EST by niphtrique
from Sneek, FR
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
I have worked on some ideas on political reform. This is what I came up with.
- proportional representation instead of a winner takes all system;
- referendum laws like in Switzerland so the people have the final say on everything;
- funding of political parties and campaigns out of fixed party membership fees;
- elections should be free of fraud and manipulation;
- lobying should be done openly;
- casting blank ballots should result in seats not being filled;
- reducing the power of the President or choosing a Prime Minister.
- Proportional representation will make every vote count so it is more easy to start up new political parties that can address peoples preferences more accurately.
- Proportional representation will force political parties to cooperate in coalition governments instead of obstructing each other.
- Proportional representation will make voter fraud and voter suppression less effective as those tactics only have a marginal influence on the vote count but those effects are greatly amplified by the system of the winner takes all.
- Proportional representation will make spending on political campaigns less effective. Only a relatively small number of voters are influenced by campaigns but the system of the winner takes all can make those numbers decisive. Therefore proportional representation will greatly reduce the gains from political campaign spending.
- A referendum law makes it possible that a government can execute its daily business without interference while at the same time the citizens are in control all the time. Direct democracy means constant interference while representative democracy means that politicians can do as they please once they are elected.
- There should be a law on political campaign spending. Campaign spending should be done from fixed membership fees of political parties.
- Elections should be done without the use of voting machines or with voting machines that are verifiable by leaving a paper trail.
- All eligible voters should receive a card in the mail sent by the government. They should not have to registrate or cast provisional ballots.
- If ID's are required at elections then ID's must become cheap or mandatory so there is no financial burden on voting.
- Lobying cannot be avoided as businesses must be able to channel their concerns to politicians.
- If blank ballots count, also people that are dissatisfied with all political parties have influence.
- The current executive powers of the President are undermining democracy.
Proportional representation may also increase voter turnout as people feel better represented in parliament. Currently the United States has one of the lowest turnout rates in the Western world, which is less than 50%. In Western Europe voter turnout rates are often in the 70-90% range. This indicates that people in the United States feel less represented by politicians than people in Europe. Remarkably Swiss voter turnout rates are slightly below 70% but this may be caused by the fact that Switzerland has binding referendums so voters can always assert their power regardless of who is in office.
Another reason for the low voter turnout in the United States is that politicians are bought by special interest groups and corporations. Once the politicians are in office they start to represent the special interest groups and corporations that funded their campaings. In Western Europe the practise of buying politians is less prevalent because in Western Europe individual candidates and political parties spend less on political campaigns. It is better that money does not play an important role in political campaigns. Political parties can better be funded by fixed membership contributions as the only source of income.
The essence of democracy is that the people are in control of their government. This is only possible if there is an option to organise a referendum on every possible item. In this way the people can introduce legislation or reject legislation or remove officials from their position. A referendum can solve issues far more efficiently than the political debate. For example, the health care debate in the United States became heated while opponents of the reform claimed to have a majority. A referendum may take the issue of the table so the country can move on.
Often the government has become an oppressive force that is not working in the interest of the people. This can be corrected with a referendum law like there is in Switzerland so the people can overrule any decision mady by politicians. If sufficient people support a referendum proposal then the referendum should be held. The government of Switzerland is obliged to act according to outcome of the referendum. In a referendum the people of Iceland voted against repaying international debts incurred by banks and bankers.
In general referendums will not make countries less stable or less governable. Switzerland has a long history of fiscal prudence. In most cases a referendum will lead to the best possible outcome as it makes use of the wisdom of crowds. It may be a good idea to build in safeguards against small minorities starting a referendum about insignificant issues or issues being decided by insignificant turnouts. This may be done by combining referendums, which increases turnout, and introducing a minimum turnout to make the referendum decisive.
Only with a binding referendum the people of a country can be sure that they are master of their own destiny and that they are not ruled by an elite. A referendum may even make a country more stable as there is no perceived need for strong men to correct an elite gone out of control. Referendums should also be introduced at the state/provincial and local level because on those levels politicians also tend to spend taxpayer's money on their own pet projects.
Elections fraud and manipulation
Elections can only be democratic when the voting process is verifiable. Voting machines can be fraudulently manipulated. Therefore elections should be done without the use of voting machines or using voting machines that are verifiable by leaving a paper trail. Every case of elections fraud should be investigated. In many countries there is a population register that is used to send eligible voters a card in the mail. This method is far less prone to fraud than registering voters before every election. If ID's are required then ID's must become cheap and mandatory so there is no financial burden on voting.
Lobying and activism
Often a small group of politically active people and lobyists have a large influence on political decisions. A referendum can be helpful in reducing the influence of activists and lobyists. Lobbying itself may be needed because politicians do not have inside knowledge of an industry and may otherwise impose regulation that is not practical. Lobbying should therefore be done openly and meetings of politicians and lobbyists should be open to the public. The meetings should be recorded on tapes available to the public.
Empty seats in parliament
It may be a good idea to leave seats in parliament empty, proportional to the number of blank ballots casted. It will make people vote, even when they are unsatisfied with the existing political parties. The number of empty seats in parliament will be a reflection of the dissatisfaction with politics. Not voting can be a reflection of not being interested in politics and should not be confused with dissatisfaction.
I like suggestions to improve the proposals.