Toward gerrymander-proof and spoiler-proof democracy

Democracy has been described as a method of group decision making that purports to bind all group members by majority rule, rather than by contractual agreement.

Next year, Utah legislators and local elected officials will engage in the decennial process of drawing lines to create single-member districts from which voters will elect federal and state legislators.

The process is called “redistricting,” and the manipulation of this process — called “gerrymandering” — has been described as “politicians picking their voters”.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A few of the world’s democratically-elected republics — such as Australia and Ireland — have upgraded their electoral systems from the traditional “winner-take-all, plurality” method to more competitive and representative single transferable vote methods that yield more proportional representation.

These updated electoral methods prevent gerrymandering.

And, as with another electoral method increasingly used in Utah known as ranked choice voting, these electoral methods also prevent a voting phenomenon called the “spoiler effect.”

The Fair Representation Act (H.R. 4000) has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to facilitate the implementation of these more competitive and representative electoral methods so that every American may participate in free and open elections. If elected, I will co-sponsor this legislation.

To understand why how a self-dealing minority coalition — that is able to form a winning plurality — undermines majority rule, consider why some have proposed restricting the right to vote for some.

Articulating what has been described as the “vote-restricting rule,” John Stuart Mill — regarded as the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century — wrote:

I regard it as required by first principles that the receipt of parish relief should be a peremptory disqualification for the franchise. He who can not by his labor suffice for his own support, has no claim to the privilege of helping himself to the money of others. By becoming dependent on the remaining members of the community for actual subsistence, he abdicates his claim to equal rights with them in other respects. Those to whom he is indebted for the continuance of his very existence may justly claim the exclusive management of those common concerns to which he now brings nothing, or less than he takes away.

–John Stuart Mill, “Of the Extension of the Suffrage

Dr. Richard Ebeling argues that Mill’s voting restriction rule

could be extended, today, to all those who work for the government, for as long as they are employed by the government they are directly living off the taxed income and wealth of others.

Extending Mill’s logic a little further, I think that the same case could be made that all those who live off government expenditures in the form of government contracts or subsidies, should likewise be excluded from voting for the same conflict of interest reasons.

–Richard M. Ebeling, “John Stuart Mill and the Dangers from Unrestrained Government. Part II

In other words, recipients of corporate welfare should be excluded from voting according to the same principle that would exclude recipients of “parish relief” from voting.

Notably, democratic governance does not necessarily require a vote. The practice of democratic lotteries, used by ancient Athenians to mitigate power’s corrupting influence, has experienced a revival of interest in recent years.

Using democratic lotteries would eliminate many of the inherent problems in existing election dynamics, such as:

that compromise the legitimacy and efficacy of democratic institutions.

If elected, I will also introduce legislation to explore and facilitate the use of democratic lotteries — that would be both election-free and voting-free — whether for state houses of representatives, county commissions, or city councils.

Decentralizing democratic institutions in these ways moves power away from entrenched, special interests — including self-appointed “gatekeepers” — and closer to we, the people.

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