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Random sample democracy

On the radio this morning an interesting idea to improve the "power" of voting: instead of everyone having a vote, a random sample of (say) 1000 people in the country get chosen each time, and they vote.

Why? Under our current system, many people feel that their vote doesn't make a decisive difference, because the number of voters is so large that their individual vote won't change the general sway towards whichever party. They don't therefore put a lot of effort in to exploring the options, the manifestos etc - but if their vote was one of only a few, they would have the power to change the election with their single vote and would therefore have much greater incentive to work out how each party's policies would actually affect them etc. The idea is that by increasing the personal investment the voters feel in the outcome, the amount of "oversight" increases.

Essentially it would make voting a lot like jury duty. The danger of jury-rigging and suchlike would be massive, I guess, so it'd require loads of bureaucratic hoops about fair selection of people and isolating the jury from undue influences. So it's kind of crazy.

But the inspiration apparently comes from the financial world: when a set of accounts is inspected by many people, there's actually not much oversight because no-one feels responsible for signing off the accounts. Instead, they have one person to inspect the accounts and one other person to double-check, and so you get much greater oversight. For an election you can't just have one person because people have different opinions and priorities, so you choose some small number that's still big enough for a single vote to influence the outcome.

Sunday 2nd May 2010 | politics | Permalink

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