While I appreciate living in a place that has representative democracy, because there are worse alternatives, I think we could do better. There are many things that make our electoral system unrepresentative and irresponsible. Look at the options one faces when voting. We do not get to make any actual decision regarding legislation or policies but pick a person to make decisions for us. These people once elected then have no legal obligation to follow anyone’s wishes but there own and until the next election there is nothing we can do about it. And when we vote for a representative we have to vote for them and their party on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. If one agrees with part of one platform and part of another there is no choice to represent that because, once again, the people are not empowered to make actual decisions. All we can do is just throw in our lot with someone else and hope for the best, that they do what is good for us. If they don’t, maybe in four years we can hope someone else will win and do what we want. In a representative democracy one forfeits their judgement to someone else. Even if a voter has a candidate that reflects their viewpoints, that voter still may not have any influence over the make up of the government. Only the votes for the winning candidate matter in the end, whether the margin is one or a thousand. If one votes for a losing candidate then they do not have a chosen representative in the legislature and their views do not influence the make up of the government, they can just hope candidates from the same party in other ridings were elected. In my riding the MPP and their party is the furthest from my views so I do not have someone from my area who is even close to representing my views. When I candidate loses an election it does not matter that a substantial portion of the population may have voted for them, they lost, by one vote or a thousand. That is why I say only votes for the winner matter. In our last federal election thirty-something percent of the popular vote translated into a majority of the seats. While a majority of the voters voted against the current government, that one party completely controls parliament. Given that voter participation is seen a a source of legitimacy for an elected government every time one votes one offers tacit approval of this system. In light of that we could not vote, spoil, or decline our ballot. I believe this to me a legitimate option. But this option has its problems too. It is often assumed that anyone who does this is just lazy, stupid, apathetic etc not that they are trying to send a message regarding their stance on our electoral system. The other problem is that is takes away one’s rare and opportunity to formally participate and influence governance.
Here is a summary of the dilemma a voter faces: if one votes and one’s chosen candidate wins there vote has made a difference in getting that candidate elected. But the candidate could still do many things that the voter does not desire or may not have a significant impact on legislation in the situation where there is a majority and that candidate is not part of it. The voter could vote for a candidate that loses and because the win/loss margins do not matter there vote has had no impact on the outcome and that voter does not have a chosen representative. The voter could abstain from voting or decline or spoil their ballot in which case they do not provide approval to the electoral system, but they give their chance to participate in governance.
So what do I want instead? I want a participatory or direct democracy to the greatest extent possible. The general principles I want society to move towards in regards to the electoral process and government structure include:
-formal participation of the public in decision making
-use of temporary project groups
-representative positions held in rotation
-proliferation of diversity in decision making bodies, and of centres
-division/fragmentation of power
-representative structures developed on both geographical and economic lines
With these in mind here are three things I think can be done in the immediate future:
-Liberal use of referendums and ballot questions, possibly requiring a certain level of participation for legislation to be changed. The Swiss do this, even the Americans to some extent.
-None of the above option on ballots.