Weighted Democracy model

An idea to make democracy about more of informed participation.

So democracy is a silly thing!

Brexit proved it, right? The agents who provoked people at large to vote for it have apparently vanished shying away from the ugly responsibility. The elites would argue that people in general are not informed. But they had their voter manuals, didn’t they?

All of this begs the question: in this advanced age of information and technology, can something be done to make democracy an informed participative exercise and prevent similar disasters (assuming it really is!)? The simple notion that an adult knows what he/she is doing is probably wrong. Totally wrong. But you do not want to mess with universal equality and one person-one vote paradigm. So, the next best thing is to test the voter to see if they’re discerning enough about the issues/persons they’re voting for or against. Apart from the huge logistical nightmare of actually conducting tests such as this one, there is the fundamental question of class separation and elitism involved. But I believe we should test. Otherwise the vote is flawed. How do you know they aren’t voting at random or have not been tutored (even the campaign rhetoric could be counted as tutoring, e.g. using fear as a tool). The clever use of polarization is now a standard trick in the book of politics as we can see in many states.

Would testing voters make a difference in India? Let’s play with this model a bit. Printing and distributing voter manuals is a pain in the world’s largest democracy, so let’s just forget about it. Testing ideally should also take place at the time of voting. Apart from the obvious advantage of not having to bother with two exercises instead of one, we could utilize the electronic voting procedure currently used in India and tweak it for the additional purpose of evaluation. Let’s just say we ask questions to the voter as they cast their votes. The vote shall be counted valid only if they succeed in answering the question.

Couple of quick observations here:

  • There is no scope for subjective questions, but the objective ones have to be relevant and just about sufficient to determine if the vote would be valid or not. For instance, a question could be “Who is the prime minister of India?” for Lok Sabha elections. In the Brexit referendum, the question could be “What’s the percentage of immigrants in UK” with three choices for ranges.

  • The entire question answer thing and the voting choice has to be accommodated on the voting machine (EVM). The software can be tweaked to evaluate the answer(s) and count the vote.

  • What if the questions are rigged or the voters are tutored/bribed in some manner? This issue could be solved by giving a random question out of a reserve (of let’s say 10-100 questions). That would eliminate most of those not interested/aware of politics as it is difficult to memorize all the answers. As a teacher, I can vouch for that!

  • There is the issue of literacy. These issues could be solved in a futuristic model of interactive voice-based response or voice recognition systems which rural public is also getting their hands on of these days (thanks to smartphones).

I believe the election commission in India is independent enough to be able to perform this job and a pilot could be conducted to check feasibility. Implementing this is obviously a huge challenge. Designing the questions optimally is a highly debatable topic. Nevertheless, it could be a step in the direction of making democracy meaningful, especially in light of technology available these days.

Anything amiss here? Let us know!

Murthy O V S N
Murthy O V S N

Physicist and educator in Bengaluru, India