Sunday, March 03, 2013

Variable Voting

Scott Adams pointed out that the physical location of your mother at birth is a weird way of determining citizenship.  I would add that having eligibility to vote be a simple yes/no proposition, with all votes weighted equally, is also a weird way of determining how much a vote is worth.  Those who are not eligible to vote still have interests in the functioning of government, but those interests are not represented.  There are also those who are eligible to vote, for example, a voter would acquired citizenship at birth, but has resided overseas in the custody of a non-U.S. citizen parent every since, has no connection at all to the U.S., but whose interests are still represented.

The current system has the virtue of simplicity, but I believe its inequities override its virtue.  I propose that a new system be created, in which ones voting rights are linked to the strength of one's ties to the United States.  The more your prosperity, your future, is linked to the prosperity and future of the United States, the more your vote would be worth.

For example:

You'd receive 50 votes for birth in the United States.

For every immediate relative you have in the United States, you'd receive additional votes (say 5 to 10 apiece).  (This sounds complicated, but we already do relative preferences for immigrants, so it's possible to do it for citizens as well.)

For every year you reside in the United States, you'd receive an additional vote.  This takes into account the difficulty of restarting a career (also, I'd have the parents cast the children's votes).

You'd receive additional votes, but on a declining basis, for fixed investment in the United States.  (This takes into account the political power that accrues to the wealthy.)

You'd receive additional votes for service in the military, which (obviously) makes you a less attractive prospect for resettlement in other countries.

And so on.

The end result is that a middle-aged, property-owning, veteran whose family is entirely in the United States, would have far higher representation than a 20-something student studying abroad.


Blogger Yoel Natan said...

The idea would take a lot of administration to run it. The govt would have to tap the Mormon ancestry database to determine how many relatives one has :) It might have to deal with DNA paternity issues to resolve whose actually related to whom.

It was eye-opening to find out that even a Russian billionaire wanted to have an anchor baby in the US, so he parked his mega-yacht in NYC as the baby came due:

Russian Billionaire's Mega-Yacht Makes Waves in NYC

Abramovich's partner, Dasha Zhukova, has announced that she is pregnant, and due in the Spring.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Another theory giving yourself more votes. I still feel the opposite: the people who don't have money, long-established political connections, or political leaders from their own demographic -- those are the ones who need the vote. That's all they get, and it really doesn't count for much.

In other words, I want more votes for people like me who don't participate in the country but feel they should be listened to anyway. How persuasive.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

@Noumenon - the key difference is that the only thing that prevents you from gaining more access is to commit more to the United States. Do you complain that others have more Reddit Karma than you do?

9:49 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

99% of the extra votes this system distributes will go to people based on their identity, not their efforts. So knowing I have to make costly commitments to the US just to get the kind of votes the core citizens get for free, is just what bugs me.

Reddit is a site where everything's made up and the points don't matter, but generally people view your karma as more legitimate if it came through effort (contributing to AskScience, writing long posts) and less legitimate if it came through identity (dwelling in AskReddit where upvotes are plentiful, being andrewsmith1986 and getting votes through sheer name recognition).

So I'm looking for commitments that are performed specifically because you made an effort to get more votes. If you propose an extra vote for a month of community service, that's good. An extra vote for being a government employee, that's bad. Extra vote for donating money to the Treasury, that's good. Extra vote for paying a lot of taxes, that's bad. (Earn-a-vote probably wouldn't be a good system either, but it sounds fair at least.)

10:14 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Wouldn't earn-a-vote schemes skew things even more heavily in the core citizens direction?

9:29 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

It would skew things toward a "core-of-the-core" group, which might offer opportunities to ambitious non-cores.

Say your proposed system gives 50% of voters 80% of the votes. Earn-a-vote might end up splitting that 80% between the good citizens -- 40% of the voters and 40% of the votes -- and the truly committed -- 10% of the voters and 40% of the votes.

Of the non-core 50%, let's say 1 in 50 would actually make the effort to move their family, join the military, accelerate the aging process, and fake their birth certificate, just because they cared so much about some issue they wanted to vote. Under earn-a-vote, that number might double, because extra votes would be more accessible. That means 2 voters move from the bottom 50% to the top 10%, seeing their representation rise from .4 votes each to 4 votes each. So the total non-core vote share could rise from 20% to 27.2%.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Given that most democracies have to encourage people to vote, Peru, I believe, fines people who don't vote, perhaps voting just needs to be made more valuable.

9:28 PM  

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