• An Idea for US Representation

    As a liberal, atheist, humanist living in Texas, I understand the concept of not being represented very well in the US Congress. I have gotten no end of e-mails from my congresscritter that promotes wrong ideas, misleading ideas, and outright lies. His staff must have blocked me, I don’t even get canned responses anymore.

    To that end, I submit that the idea of local representation is almost out-dated. I do understand that physical locations do need some representation at the Federal level. The senate does an excellent job of that.

    The House of Representatives, to me, is really there to represent the people… the constituents. Physical location is effectively meaningless to representation of people. I know and am closer to people thousands of miles away than I am with my neighbors. This includes just at the general friend level, but also at the ideological level.

    The idea here is that the House should represent groups of people with similar interests rather than groups of people with widely divergent interests. Instead of having a choice between a Democrat, a Republican, or the rare Libertarian or Independent, you can combine your needs with similar people and become (hopefully) a large enough voting block to earn a representative.

    In my opinion, the current US system has it backwards. We should elect a party/system and then choose the representative of that party/system. That doesn’t make a lot of sense in our current system, because the representative is more of a popularity contest rather than determination of the party/system that is in vogue. In most districts in Texas (and I suspect many areas of the country), the winning party is known in advance. In my district, it is not possible for a Democrat to win. Therefore, the real action is at the party as to who will represent the Republicans in that district. Which has nothing to do with the people. The people (89% of whom vote Republican) are picking a party, not a representative. The party picks the actual person.

    Again, I think that is wrong.

    In  my idea, a national vote is held. Any group that can get x number of signatures on a petition (probably in the 100,000 range) gets a spot on the ballot (which will be huge). Each person can review the proposed groups and pick one.

    Each group that gets x number of votes (about 300,000 for reasons I’ll explain in a moment) gets a representative in the House.

    To determine that 300,000 people number, I used the 2012 general election numbers. There were 129,237,642 voters in the 2012 general election. There are 435 members of the House. Divide and you get 297,098 voters per representative.

    After determining how many (if any) representatives each group has earned, then the voters for that party get to choose the representative. This could be accomplished by each voter getting a code that they can then use in the group vote for representative(s).

    In the actual 2012 election (note that this is based on the entire House being elected, which doesn’t actually happen), the Republicans were awarded 234 representatives and the Democrats were awarded 201. No other party got any representatives.

    For example, using the 2012 general election numbers again with my idea…

    • Democrats, with 65,918,507 popular votes, would have earned 220 representatives
    • Republicans, with 60,934,407 popular votes, would have earned 203 representatives
    • Libertarians, with 1,275,923 popular votes, would have earned 4 representatives
    • The Green Party, with 469,015 popular votes, would have earned 1 representative
    • There were another 639,000 votes divided among 23 additional parties (and write-ins) including the “NSA Caused 9/11 party”!! (That one was pretty interesting, it got 1,100 votes)

    This system more accurately represents the “will of the people” instead of what we actually got. See my articles on Gerrymandering (here and here) for why.

    This system also encourages the formation of minor parties. Instead of trying to convince a majority of a local area to vote for a particular person (especially difficult for die-hard conservative districts), you just have to find 300,000 people who think that your interests are also more important than other areas. Which, with social media, should be significantly easier than convincing a evangelical Christian, authoritarian to vote for someone who supports LGBT rights.

    This opens up some interesting options for the people (and the organization of the House). Those small groups can actually wield quite a bit of power, as they may be sufficiently large that they can break a tie or allow or prevent a bill. The larger groups (Dems and GOP) will have to start making some concessions to get their agendas accomplished.

    But, since the representative is chosen after the party has earned it’s seats, it warns the representatives that their job is always in danger. The seat is already won, but the person who sits in that seat can change in each election, with no loss of power/control in the House. So a representative must be able to explain their actions to their constituents, if that rep makes questionable decisions, concessions, etc, then they will be out… with no danger of losing the seat held by that group.

    I would think that, after a few years, the number of GOP and Democrat representatives will decline drastically and we end up with something more like the parliament of the UK. There probably would not be a single party that was in complete control of the House, thus the Speaker and Majority Party would be a coalition rather than one group voting in lock-step with each other. There might be a Minority Party, but it would also be a coalition.

    That all being said, I don’t offer this as a way to promote a particular party. I offer it as a way to more accurately represent the people of the US.

    I can’t predict the end results of such an event, except as a reflection of past elections.

    It’s obvious to anyone who is paying attention that the House of Representatives isn’t. The House is GOP controlled, even though they had a lower popular vote (by 5 million people). The one event I especially recall is that (depending on which poll you use) between 70% and 90% of US citizens wanted background checks for purchasing a firearm. Yet the Congress could not even get a bill to floor for a vote.

    Yes, it’s not a perfect system. I don’t think it’s possible to have a perfect system. Yes, there are a lot of details to work out. And yes, the chances of this happening are only slightly better than me being hit by lightening while being eaten by a great white shark, during a tornado, in the Gobi desert.

    The thing is, we can have a better system. But the people in power have a vested interest in keeping the chaotic, discriminatory, and totally controllable system that we have now.

     

    Category: GovernmentPoliticsSociety

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    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • Toad

      This idea is absolutely brilliant. I wish it would become a reality.

    • im-skeptical

      Metropolitan areas like Houston and Austin being severely gerrymandered gives disproportionate representation to Republicans. A system more like the parliamentary system would be more fair, and it would allow more than two parties to have a voice. I’m all for it.

    • ncovington89

      Very creative! I’ve heard that in Australia you vote for a party and not a person. That probably makes more sense than the political chimera we presently have in the United States where we have a gridlock between Repubs and Democrats.

    • Peter Butler

      For state legislative seats the ballot might have 1000 candidates. Vote for 1. After the election use N = (integer) V/S where

      V = total number of votes cast
      S = number of legislative seats up for election
      N = number of votes to be seated in the state assembly

      For political parties their candidates line up according to the number of votes received. All votes are pushed forward then spread back as far as they reach.

      The remaining votes are traded among the candidates. At some point lack of agreement is resolved by gradually decreasing N for everybody. This has the effect of reducing V. I.e. some few votes will not count. It’s likely that votes cast for the “Elvis Presley Lives” candidate will end up not counting. But the Green Party may gain a few seats.

      Ideology should trump geography. Texas would hate this idea.