Proposal for a new way of voting for legislators/officers

Problem: Normal voting gives each person one vote, regardless of how much passion the person has for the issue.  One can imagine situations where a minority of people REALLY want something and a majority KINDA-SORTA-BARELY does not want the thing.  But with simple majority voting, that information is not captured.  Quadratic Voting is liked by economists because it theoretically addresses this problems and other problems with our normal way of voting.  Systems like these look great on paper but… it turns out that central to their design is people literally buying votes with money…  Buying votes.  Yah.  Not really something most citizens can get behind.  This is a problem for governance, both in government and in corporate governance.

Possible solution: Issue each voter 100 Vote Vouchers, a voucher entitles a voter to cast a vote.  At each election/referendum/motion (I’ll use election from here on out to mean any of these) each voter may cast as many, or as few, votes as they like in favor of their candidate.  At the conclusion of the election two things happen: the candidate with the most votes wins AND all of the vote vouchers are distributed EVENLY to everyone who voted.


  • Implement this system with the US Senate.
  • Vote comes up for a bill to outlaw immigrants from Mars.
    • 55 senators think competition with Martians would be bad, but not all that likely, so they cast 1 yea vote each for a total of 55 yea votes.
    • 43 senators are pro-immigration, but again feel this isn’t all that likely so they only cast 1 nay vote each for a total of 43 nays.
    • 1 senator (Alice) thinks this is a pretty bad idea and casts 2 nay votes.
    • 1 senator (Bob) thinks this is the height of foolishness and wants to be darn sure this bill does not pass, she casts the maximum 100 votes against the bill, bringing the total number of nays to 145.
    • The final vote is 55 yea, 145 nay, so the bill does not become law.  Note that the majority of senators were in favor of the bill, but the majority of votes were against.
    • A total of 200 votes were cast.  So 200 new vouchers are created and distributed EVENLY to all senators, so every senator gets 20 vouchers.
    • Bob now finds himself with only 20 votes available to spend when other senators have over 100 each.  This puts him at a severe disadvantage in future votes.
  • New situation.  Assume 100 senators with 100 votes each.  A bill comes to the floor, his one to outlaw BitCoin.
    • This bill is contentious.  52 senators spend all the votes they have on yea, meanwhile 47 senators spend all the votes they have on nay.  Meanwhile, the last senator to vote is the crafty Alice.  She watched her colleges argue and determined that her side (yea) is going to win without her vote.  So she decides to not vote.
    • The bill passes with 5,200 yea (52 senators spending 100 yea each) vs 4700 nay (47 senators spending 100 nay each).
    • A total of 9,900 votes were cast.  99 votes are redistributed to each senator.
    • So all the senators OTHER than Alice have 99 votes left to their name, which is pretty much what they had before so they probably aren’t bothered.  However, Alice now has 199 votes, giving her the maximum hitting power of TWO senators.  This gives her a lot of negotiating leverage in future bills that come up.  If she continues to correctly anticipate when her participation will not impact a vote that everyone else is passionate about, she will consistently grow her total vote voucher count while the rest of the senators watch their voucher count drop, further increasing her power.

5 thoughts on “Proposal for a new way of voting for legislators/officers

  1. jsteig

    You lost me at the vote redistribution thing. What happens when there is not a number that allows even redistribution of votes? Partial votes?

    1. Good question. Simplest would be to allow partial votes.

      Sorry I didn’t communicate the redistribution of votes aspect well! Idea said another way is that if you contribute more votes then the average senator, you end up with less RELATIVE vote power. If you put LESS votes than the average senator, you walk away with MORE voting power. And one’s relative voting power changes over time based on how one votes relative to their peers. This allows prudent folks to save up their political power for when “it matters most/”

      You could imagine the same thing being used for corporate governance.

  2. Jeremie

    I appreciate the goal to provide a way for those who have more passion about a topic to carry more weight. As of today this is done via persuasion. If one senator feels very strongly about a topic, they should be able to get those who don’t one way or the other vote their way. When a senator does this they are using their currency or political capital. This should be something that ebbs and flows. The challenge I see with the above system is that one could game it with little consequence. The more active a congress is, the more opportunities for individuals to not vote or only vote with 1 coupon, and eventually stock piling enough votes to set up the situation where one person can now out vote everyone else. This in my opinion would be very damaging. Being passionate about something should help one’s cause, but with our current system it minimizes the possibility that the extremes can veto everyone else.

    1. Interesting points Jeremie! Indeed politician spend “political capital” in just the way you describe. My concern is that that process is a favor-economy and largely unseen. Giving people the ability to put more votes into play makes for a more transparent way to determine how passionate each senator is. It would NOT get rid of the favor system, and it would be subject to gaming. But all systems are subject to gaming. I THINK this system rewards people for spending (or reserving) capital when it makes sense to do so. No doubt norms would evolve… “So Senator Silva, I notice you always cast only 1 vote, allowing yourself to aggregate a lot of votes. Good for you. Next time you need help raising money, I’ll be sure to help you get $1…”

      Also, our current system lends itself to hold-outs. If someone sits on the sidelines until a contentious vote comes right down the line, they can extract concessions from everyone else. While still possible, in a system where each senator has a vote reserve they can bring to the table, no one senator is likely to be critical. Of course, a senator that has held back and built up a lot of capital WILL be more important to woo to your side, but they would have done so by NOT spending political capital earlier.

      I have no idea what-so-ever if this would be better. But my hope is that it is a step in the direction of the superior-on-paper-looking quardratic voting system.

  3. I think to prevent stockpiling of votes, a system would need to be put in place where they would be forced to use (10-30)% of their current allowance at each vote. They could still stockpile but it would take longer and would force them to be more active and considerate of each bill.

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