Direct Democracy

I think not
‘Imagine you lived in a country where you could propose laws, amend legislation, decide what your money was spent on and sack incompetent politicians. It sounds rather far-fetched, but advances in technology mean that this is now possible in a way that it never was before. These days we can choose which pop star we watch on TV, we can vote on the internet for our favourite film star, we can even select our favourite brand of coffee while doing all our shopping online. The same freedom to choose can also be applied to the principle of democracy.’

So it’s not just politicians that can propose new laws?
Correct, with direct democracy anyone who has the right to vote has the right to initiate a proposal. If enough names are collected within the time allowed, the proposal is put directly to the electorate. Particular age groups could even vote on specific issues. For instance, teenagers could have the right to vote on decisions that only affect them.

Would we have to vote on everything?
No, this would not be practical. An elected government would still make most of the decisions but direct democracy gives the electorate a say in decisions that are important to them.

Would we have to vote every week?
No, a referendum would probably be held once or twice a year.

So how does direct democracy work?
Anyone who has the right to vote is allowed to make a proposal that can be entered into a referendum. The proposer then has 180 days to collect the signatures of 2 per cent of the relevant electorate (at either national or local level). If enough support is gained within the time allocated, the question is then put to the electorate in a referendum. A referendum proposal only becomes law if over 50 per cent (that is 50 per cent plus one vote) of the electorate vote to support it.

Could the electorate make decisions about any subject by calling a referendum?
No. The public would have the right to call a referendum on most subjects, but there are some exceptions. For example, National Security and Defence issues would still have to be decided on by the government in power, but almost every other aspect of government could be scrutinised by the electorate. We can look to the Swiss system to see what subjects might be excluded.

How would voting in a referendum work?
Every voter could be issued with an electronic card. This might contain our voting rights, driving licence, insurance details and an identity card if we choose to use one. It could be similar to a bank card with a pin number, a signature and a photograph. You could use this card in an electronic voting machine to vote on specific pieces of legislation. The questions in a referendum would be published at least two months prior to the referendum.

Does the technology exist to make this work?
Yes, and it is relatively straightforward. Many countries have lottery schemes, which use thousands of machines to collect data from all over the country. This has proven to be fast, accurate and reliable. And Switzerland is in the process of introducing email and internet voting.

Surely many countries are too large to be run this way?
Not any more. What is amazing is that technology now makes direct democracy practical for any modern nation, whatever its size or geographic make-up.

Would everyone have to vote?
No. A referendum is only binding if the proposal is agreed on by over 50 per cent of the eligible electorate. In the present system, if you don't vote your views are not taken into account. This often means that a small group of voters can distort the wishes of the electorate. With direct democracy, only policies that gained unanimous public support would be implemented.

What about fraud?
A voting card with a signature, photograph and pin number would reduce the amount of fraud that presently takes place.

But we don't have a tradition of referendums
This excuse is often used to discourage people from introducing a system of direct democracy, but how can we have a tradition of something that has not yet been available! There wasn't a tradition of women voting until women won the right to do so.

Do people want direct democracy?
In 1995, the Joseph Rowntree Trust commissioned Mori to conduct a poll asking people in the UK if they would prefer direct democracy to the present system of government by representation. The result was that 77 per cent of those questioned said that they would prefer direct democracy. In other countries similar polls have reflected the same feeling: in the United States 76 per cent of the public were in favour; in Germany 71 per cent; in France 66 per cent; and in Belgium 51 per cent.

As part of a larger group of governmental reforms direct democracy using electronic voting is a very good idea.

One of the big complaints I have seen is that Canadians are to apathetic to participate in such a system so we would have to bring in some sort of "civic duty" edcuation into our schools I would think.

One of the points of electronic voting/polling is to attain a much faster decision and to give our government a clear view of the populations desires on any given issue and hopefully carry out those wishes in an timely fashion.

I for one would very much like to see this up and running in Canada and I would like to see it opperating 24/7/365...
I think not
I think it would change many things. There are inherent problems even with Direct Democracy however.
Quote: Originally Posted by I think not

I think it would change many things. There are inherent problems even with Direct Democracy however.

One of the problems is the possibility that the entire population could end up attempting to micromanage things through the system. There would definatly have to be limits on what is considered an actual vote and what is put out as a pole, the two are very different.

Regardless of what type of government structure electronic voting/polling system are guiding, the governments of the day have to be allowed to make many of the decisions and carry into law on their own possibly using the system for public opinion more than anything. Sometimes tough and unpopular things need to get done. We can not have a continious voting system hindering that..........

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