Continuous voting

One interesting characteristic of lottery voting is there is no need that elections be simultaneous, or even take place at known predictable times. Suppose we had an electoral system that looked like this: Every month, 5% of the voting roll is randomly selected to cast a ballot for a representative. There’s no big election day: Any time during their month selected voters can come in and cast their vote. After the balloting period has passed, one ballot is randomly selected, and then a virtual coin is flipped that comes up heads only one time in 24. If the coin comes up heads, the current representative is replaced with the randomly selected ballot. If not, that month’s ballots are thrown away, and the representative’s term continues. Under this system, on average, a representative’s terms would be 24 months, but there would never be a period when a representative is more or less near an election. Whatever persuasion incumbents (or their political parties or PACs or dirty tricksters) want to engage in to see to their reelection, they’d have to do basically all the time. Challengers also could arise at any time, but would want to make their case continually. That would become a very different enterprise than existing elections, which engender an avalanche of marketing in sprints. People who wish to become representatives would want to become prominent and popular within their communities, or become endorsed by popular civic organizations (including but not just political parties), in ways that are sustainable over time. Is this a good idea? One might argue that it would just make elections more expensive to contest, and so increase the influence of money. But lottery voting by its nature is much less susceptible to vote buying. Your ads can win 60% of the vote and you still have a 40% chance of losing.

That is from Steve Randy Waldman.


"Like all the men of Babylon, I have been proconsul; like all, I have been a slave. . . ."

This method would be like Russian Roulette. Why? Democracy isn't perfect just better than all other forms of government.

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I thought one complaint about our current system is that people are already continuously campaigning.

"But lottery voting by its nature is much less susceptible to vote buying. Your ads can win 60% of the vote and you still have a 40% chance of losing."

Agreed that the lottery component makes the median voter no more important than the fringe voter. I don't think that's what we actually want.

We chose first-past-the-post over proportional representation on purpose, not as an unintentional artifact of non-lottery voting. We could have already implemented proportional representation, if we had wanted to, without resorting to lottery voting.

If we thought that the problem with our current politics was too many moderates building too many broad-based coalitions through compromise, then we might want to shift power away from the center towards the fringes through proportional representation. Does that sound like our current problem? If we think that the fringes already have too much power, then why would we want to give them even more?

First past the post and proportional representation are two different concepts. We can resolve problems with first past the post voting by having plurality with runoff or ranked choice voting. These ensure that the candidate is not disfavored by a majority.

The opposite of proportional representation is "winner take all."

Many people who oppose the two party system are ignorant of Duvergers Law, not realizing that two parties are an artifact of the winner take all system. You are correct that with proportional representation there would be more parties and hence more openly fringe candidates. But parliaments do have considerable coalition building. Our system does have fringe candidates, but they hide their true beliefs. Their most ardent supporters and opponents KNOW they are fringe. The only problem is informing the ignorant, independent voters in an atmosphere of competing propaganda on both sides.

Many people who oppose the two party system are ignorant of Duvergers Law, not realizing that two parties are an artifact of the winner take all system.

No, the winner-take-all system influences the organization of the political spectrum in this manner. That's not the only vector.

1. See, for example, Nadav Safran's discussion of the evolution of Israel's political spectrum. National list PR has tended to promote the efflorescence of splinter parties, but the impulse to form them arises from the many cross-cutting cleavages you find in Israeli society: Arab v. Jew, Zionist v. non-Zionist, secular v. religious, left v. right (in European terms), managerialist v. liberal, syndicalist v. Marxist &c.

2. The use of national list PR in Weimar Germany was troublesome, but it did not generate an increase in the number of coarse categories in German political life. You had the pre-war spectrum (conservative v. liberal v. Catholic v. social democratic v. volkisch) to which the Communist Party was added after 1918 (which it was in a dozen other occidental countries).

3. See Canada north of the border. Single-member districts and 1st past the post are the order of the day. They have a quadrapartite political spectrum w/ splinter parties to boot: Liberal v. Conservative v. New Democrat v. Bloc Quebecois. They also have provincial spectra which differ from the federal spectrum. Two of the three main parties in Quebec politics are local. The Social Credit Party was pre-eminent in British Columbia, it's namesake of tertiary importance in Quebec, and inconsequential elsewhere. Their starboard spectrum reconstituted itself quite recently (1993-2006).

Two of your points try to explain multiple parties in a PR system which really doesnt address the issue in the US.

The last point overlooks the historical reality. Canada has multiple parties, but the two largest parties, except for a few years, have always held power.

Duvergers Law relates to an EQUILIBRIUM. It does not state or imply that there will never be third parties.

There are indeed other frictions and cleavages that can prevent emergence of a two party equilibrium in a FPTP system. And you dont explain how those frictions can be replicated in the US much less whether they SHOULD be replicated. So your objections dont really explain WHY the US is different or how my point about Duvergers Law is wrong.

We can do the same thing in the NBA. Suppose one team blows out the other 120-80. To determine the winner of the game, we would hold a lottery at the end. The team scoring 120 would have a 60% chance of winning, and the team scoring 80 would have a 40% chance. At the end of the season, we would hold another lottery to determine league champion. Each team's chance of winning would be proportional to the number of points it scored throughout the season. Why should any one point count more than any other?

Consider this.

If you can be randomly voted out at any point of your tenure, there are a few negative things.

1) It's still work, you can't expect anyone to be productive and have a constant idea that there is a probability of losing work every month. You do understand that some people actually live on that money. Sure, any person has unpredictability in their work (we all can lose our jobs in theory), but we also have severance, and we do not have the "Lottery decided that this month all 5% are right-wing or left-wing and they just voted me out simply because they hate everything I stand for".

2) If you can be voted at random moment, when do you implement any decision at all? Do you blow all the budget in a month hoping that you will get everything done quickly and let someone else deal with the consequences? Or do you do nothing, specifically so that you don't stir any problems at all? We do know that politics are complicated, but it is implied that politicians can and sometimes will do at least some ammount of unpopular decisions so that some progress in certain direction can be made. Randomness of selection makes this even less predictable. You have one person legalize drugs and nationalize means of production and the next month you have a person that creates a theological police state. Surely, I am hyperbolizing, but 5% creates a lot of random fluctuations (basically it's a random and agressive gerrymandering).

Those things seem very disruptive to any society. Basically it puts any nation in a state of multiple possible perpetual small revolutions. Some good can be seen in that, but since we haven't yet seen any system that resembles it in political history of any country, most likely the bad outweighs the good very sufficiently.

Then you also need to consider, will those problems lead to even further segregation of people? "I would rather live in this place, because 95% people there have the same views and we have a higher chance of successive governors". It is present nowadays, but when the hit can be every month, the drive is strengthened.

But is voluntary segregation necessarily a bad thing? I suspect a lot will depend on the underlying view of how the various sub population fit into the larger polity. In other words, does it create the space where we don't annoy one another over private preferences, and so can better respect those differences when we are out in more public spaces or does it setup more of an us-them relationship.

Voluntary segregation is generally an excellent thing except for one major flaw: people are multidimensional voters.

It is entirely possible for someone to be a flaming liberal but believe in gun rights or oppose abortion. These people would have to endure a loss of cherished liberty and rights in order to enjoy other rights and protections.

In a sense, we already make this tradeoff. It is part of life. But at least in theory our current system promotes majority rule while maintaining a solid defense for minority rights.

The segregated system will always appoint judges and make constitutions that conform to majority beliefs. The absence of a changing composition of the courts standing on prior decisions means that injustice will be permanently set in stone. So no Civil War, but perpetual slavery in the South.

WTF man? Do you live in an employment at will state?

It's an interesting thought experiment, but I agree with you (I think), that this has a large number of problems and is ultimately a terrible idea.

I don't agree with your point 2 assuming that, as I understand the proposal, the random draw applies to individual members of large legislative bodies, which will have only limited turnover at any one time.

Your first point raises some interesting issues that also concerned me. We'd be allowing (requiring?) people to serve in important jobs that we hope they would give their best efforts to even though they could lose that job with any month's lottery. Perhaps a response would be to borrow an idea from another form of public service and extend protections like those under USERRA and the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act to persons called as representatives of the people.

This seems really a thought experiment to make people think about the implications of different fixed term length, rather than a serious proposal.

That said, what's the electoral security take on this? High stakes elections have, by design, lots of interest in oversight and oversight can be achieved by concentrating attention. Thin all that out, to a bunch of events happening at random times, almost at any time, and how much oversight is possible? It seems like you just replicate small scale mob / town dynamics, where any person can rise and fall at any time, and position is more dependent on the "spirit of the times" than any decisive event, but in a way more open to technological manipulation.

On a specific point: "With good randomness and a reasonably large sample size, it becomes extremely unlikely that the characteristics of the sample will fail to represent the broader population." What kind of sample sizes are we talking about - 0.1% (300,000 in the US), 1% (3,000,000)? Similarly, under a lottery voting system (select randomly from a hat), how do you distinguish between fraud and improbable patterns?

"But lottery voting by its nature is much less susceptible to vote buying." Vote buying? If what's meant is vote buying in the abstract (dark money used to mislead voters), then the statement might be true; otherwise, it's nonsense. I mean, where can I go to collect my share of the money spent on vote buying? Ideally, political campaigns are intended to capture the attention of voters, who don't otherwise devote much of their time to issues. The problem is that campaigns have become well-funded efforts to mislead, distract, and misinform. At least they have for one major political party. Is that the fault of the party (lies are lies) or the voters (stupid is stupid). Do the politicians have the greater civic responsibility to be honest and inform voters, or do voters have the greater civic responsibility not to be stupid? Schemes like continuous voting are a distraction from the actual problem.

If you think that just one of the major parties is lying then you are looking at the problem through ideological glasses.

The Republican Party is hopelessly ineffectual, fellates its donors, and is run by mediocre people who recite scripted talking points and step on rakes when they get control of anything. The Democratic Party is a criminal organization whose federal politicians never stop lying and which has not one legitimate object as a collective.

Akhil Amar's 1984 paper (which is linked to) is worth skimming. His comparison of legislatures to juries is interesting.

I suspect that the 2-party system in the United States tends to bring people to the center and force compromise. That might be diminished somewhat with lottery voting.

1) A rotating system of individual elections is far easier to manipulate since forces (coercion) can be concentrated on one election at a time, where under simultaneous voting, it is extremely difficult to coerce every race without nearly infinite funds.

2) With the advent of communication there is no reason for representatives any longer, whatsoever, nor for the houses of congress. There is every reason for either devolution of all power to the states, or direct democracy (equidistribution) or direct proportional democracy (by contribution). [There isn't any reason for one single currency for all purposes any longer either. Nor is there any reason for distribution of liquidity through the financial sector and the credit system. In fact, that's the source of the economic problem we face today.]

3) Because it it is far too easy to influence politicians whether they are elected incrementally, through rotation en mass (as now), or all at once (in the athenian method).

4) The purpose of scale whether at the jury, state representative, or federal representative level, is to increase the cost of bribery.

Ergo it is time, given our wealth, to increase scale from representatives to the entire populace, since that bribery is impossible for OTHER than the state.

(As for 'comparison of legislatures to juries, the evolution of the legislature being Thang 12, 20, 100, or more, depending on the severity of the matter) > The Jury > Senate > Multiple Houses > Direct Democracy, is ... well you'd have to be relatively ignorant of the origin of the western tradition and its roots in the sovereignty of individual men, leaving the Thang (Jury) as the ONLY POSSIBLE means of choice, and the Headman, Chieftain, King, Monarch, as a Judge of Last Resort.)


Your 2) is missing any substantiating argument. Communication hurdles are not even on my list of reasons why representative government is needed.

The now-reduced costs of direct democracy is a mitigation of a disadvantage. It is not an argument in favor of it.

For the moment I will set aside the disadvantage of the election being hacked in order to focus on your other points, but that is a serious problem.

At first blush it seems that it would be more costly to bribe the electorate than a representative. That's not the case. If we view "bribery" as the promise of benefits in exchange for votes, direct democracy merely removes the middleman. Voters can just vote themselves benefits through some coordination mechanism. This is the proverbial wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Pork barrel politics is already bad enough, direct democracy will make it worse.

While you refer to coercion in 1, you overstate the case. People have interests and they vote for those interests with dollars. A fixed election schedule is more efficient because it concentrates this "speech" at critical times. Most voters have short memories. Elections are a reminder.

There is benefit for political decisions to have some staying power. It is more stable. Otherwise you could have a majority of voters opt for a policy, then shortly thereafter some of the previous nonvoters could suddenly wake up and join the dissenters to change it. But then other nonvoters could wake up and reverse it again. Perhaps if there was mandatory voting (or a strong financial incentive), your proposed system would work better.

There are also benefits for representative government in terms of expertise and information costs. It is far less expensive for one well-educated and experienced Congressman to become fully informed than 700,000 voters in his district. Like it or not, the fact is that our representatives are smarter and better informed than the average voter. People can conceivably vote for themselves to pick a representative most close to their own views. Clearly no one would win such a contest. A political victor requires that at least one person compromises on their values a little bit. When one person does this, there are adequate incentives for two other people to do the same. In equilibrium, we end up with a limited number of candidates who represent the median of their supporters. The one closest to the population median wins. Parties and candidates themselves are a coordination mechanism for collective choice. In direct democracy there will definitely be similar coordination mechanisms, but they will be formed by invisible people. This is not a good thing.

It's an interesting approach. A bit in the spirit of the observation that crisis situations make for poor law.

I think to accomplish the goal, that of putting people in place that will actually attempt to represent "the people" and not just keep pushing a specific agenda changes to the whole approach of voter registration would be required. My first take here would be such registration would simply be eliminated. However, some consideration regarding eligibility to vote would be required.

Completely ridiculous. It potentially resolves one minor problem and replaces it with a high likelihood of an enormous problem: a winner who is opposed by the (vast) majority of the electorate.

Another issue is the variance. The system could potentially replace a representative in consecutive months, causing massive expense and disruption as the representative and his entire staff are uprooted and replaced just one month after settling in.

I give them an A for thinking outside the box and an F for failing a basic test of practicality and minimizing the external costs of elections.

You could have constant elections in a system with "no confidence" or "recall," but only if the rationale for removal and replacement is strong and widely supported.

( Correct. And so obviously so, it's painful. )

We discuss this in the idle hours between longer discussions of charter cities, eh?

Libertarian discourse is a species of onanism.

Another way to do continuous elections is by having a proxy system. Anyone who holds X number of proxies (about 300,000 for the US Congress would keep the number of Representatives the same) is "elected" and stays in office for as long as they continue to hold the proxies.

You'd probably want some fancy rules so that people could redesignate their proxy to a second person if their first choice had too many proxies (something similar to the STV algorithm). Otherwise, you get someone with tens of millions of proxies and still only one Representative, when their party would otherwise have 20-30 Representatives from those voters alone.

Anyone could change their "vote" at any time by switching who their proxy went to.

You'd need to have a good severance system so people who are kicked out because their proxy number drops to 299,999 don't instantly lose their income completely out of the blue - especially if their number ticks back up again after a day or two.

This is important for the representatives, but critical for their staff. The representative can probably cope with being paid on and off on a day by day basis, but their staff, who will be on a much lower salary, almost certainly can't.

This is an interesting idea.

Suppose I lose confidence in my proxy holder. I can take it away and keep it for myself, for now. Suppose others do too. How many proxies must be lost for removal from office? Does the next highest proxy holder assume office immediately? If so, this would benefit a coalition of people prepared to be the successor. These people could be vastly outnumbered and not preferred by the people who recently revoked proxy.

Perhaps if the incumbent lost enough proxies to put him in second place, rather than #2 taking office immediately, there would be a time period (say 90 to 120 days) for everyone to realign their proxies.

Successful challengers though would be constantly lurking in the shadows. These challengers would be particularly clannish. Major parties probably could and would have coordinated challengers waiting in the wings.

I'd prefer that the challenger meet some threshold of overall proxies or force a longer realignment cycle.

The problem is not the fixed term-length, and it's not that we need term limits to ensure turnover of individuals, and it's not how long the campaign season is.

The problem is that 95% of elected officials are fiercely loyal to their own Party Leaders, and no one else. Any benefits that filter down to any citizens are purely coincidental. It does not matter if you replace one Dem Rep from MA with a different Dem Rep from MA; nothing will change.

How do you intend to fix that?

That's how they should decide the rankings for NCAA football. :)

Maybe they can try this on the seastead.

The rest of us have to hope that a 200 year old Constitution will hold together as cities excel and sparse counties become even more so.

What do the ballots look like in this voting system? Does someone have to declare candidacy at some point, or is it a write-in system?

And if it's a write-in system, what happens when the ballot pulled has the name of someone who doesn't want to be the representative or is unable to serve for some other reason?

I’m intrigued by this idea but am having a tough time imagining how “lottery voting” would work or why anyone would bother to vote if there is a 1 in 24 chance of the outcome not mattering. Could anyone provide us an example of lottery voting in a non-political setting?

... Except if it's Thursday, in which case you have a royal fizbin

And 4% of our elected representatives will be Lizard Men (if they're not already).

Everyone with sense would vote for themselves.

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