Making Our Votes Count

by | Jan 5, 2023 | What I'm Thinking | 0 comments

You don’t need me to tell you that Congress is a mess right now. Our legislative system is being held hostage to a small band of extremists who are determined to destroy the government. Is this mess a side effect of a voting system that gives outsized power to a minority faction?

If so, what do we do about it?

Years ago, I read an article that proposed a scheme that I had not heard of before and have not seen referred to since. I believe this article was by the political scientist Benjamin Barber, who died in 2017, but when I search for such an article by him I don’t get anything. If anyone reading this recognizes the idea, please feel free to reach out with that information!

Simply put, instead of basing representation in Congress on population, representation would be based on the number of people who actually vote. Imagine two districts that each have a population of one million people, including children and adults currently barred from voting due to felony convictions or lack of citizenship. The political power of these districts will be based on how many people show up to vote. If 800,000 people vote in one of these districts and only 400,000 people vote in the other one, the first district would be entitled to twice as many representatives. 

Such a system would encourage each party to do all it could to encourage, rather than block, voter turnout. The voting age would be lowered to 16. Mail-in voting and early voting would be widely available. Convicted felons would have their voting rights restored after they had served their sentences. Such a system would not override funding determinations. Programs that provide education, health, and other benefits would still be determined by census figures and the actual population of children and other residents, whether or not they are eligible to vote.

I’m really curious as to what people think of this idea. Does anyone know of places where such a sytem has been tried? If not, why hasn’t it ever been seriously considered?