Analyzing the Contradictions of Liberal Democratic Voting Structures. By: Simon MillerRead Now
Principles of Democracy
Although one would be correct in naming the Greek lawmaker Cleisthenes, “the father of democracy,” modern democracy was truly revolutionized and defined by John Locke in his 1690 work, ‘Two Treatises on Civil Government.’
In this work, Locke writes, “The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it.”1
We find this ideal, which states that it is man’s right to live under society as administered by consent of the governed, at the core of nearly every argument for and principle of democracy. Consent of the governed, popular sovereignty, self-ownership, and so forth, are all evidence of this foundational ideal. So, we can consider the general, ‘Principles of Democracy,’ to be any concept which relates to and upholds the center-most ideals of democracy; namely, consent of the governed or popular sovereignty.
And in protection of such principles, the definition of democracy was born. So as not to waste time squabbling over the semantics of what democracy is, I will provide the most simple and inoffensive definition of democracy for our uses. It could be, “a form or method of governing in which the people of a society at large hold control over that society, usually through some form of either direct or indirect voting.” I find this description to fall well within the bounds of any given definition of democracy.
Introduction to Active Voting
The following is a product primarily, if not entirely, of my own creation. In my studies and research of our world, both as it currently exists and as it did in the past, I have found the Dialectical Materialist outlook to produce far and away the most accurate historical and socio-political (as well as economic) picture. The internal contradictions of every system and society, every manifestation of material interaction, undoubtedly have direct effects on the various other contradictions and interactions they’re associated with. This seemingly endless series of interacting contradictions shapes the world and society around us in its entirety. And so, in hoping to resolve one particular contradiction (and thereby progress society in some way), I have attempted to deeply analyze democracy and its components. Active Voting, as a system of my creation, is the product of these attempts.
Casting ballots, votes, and decisions as a citizen of a democratic society is, at first glance, a manifestation of the previously discussed principles of democracy; those being consent of the governed and popular sovereignty. The former because submitting a vote for representation or legislation is the affirmation of one’s consent to the conditions of said democracy and the latter because said vote (especially when casted for legislation directly) is a display of the people’s sovereignty as they supposedly directly impact the result of said vote, which will end by affecting those same people. However, it is my view that, upon deep analysis of the currently existing systems of democracy, there arises a blatant contradiction. Casting your vote as a citizen of a democracy in the way that things currently stand doubles-back on its own logic and ends in a place quite antithetical to the very principles democracy bases itself within. The contradiction, which has negated the supposed freedom of democracy since its inception, relates to the binary and absolute nature of current voting systems. This characteristic, ever-present in all currently existing democracies, grounds itself in representatives and the way they obtain/keep power. Voting exists as a single decision, a point in time where one decides, independently from all prior or future votes, to cast their opinion one way or another on a particular issue (or candidate, in most cases). This single-point, binary decision-making leads not only to issues within the system itself, but also prevents said system from being truly democratic (that is, to uphold the known principles of democracy through consent of the governed, popular sovereignty, and more).
Now that I have explained this contradiction in the briefest possible manner and given adequate logical and historical basis for my work, allow me to analyze the issues in greater detail and present a direct solution to said issues.
A Note on Class Contradiction
It should be duly noted that, prior to any of the following analysis, there is a much deeper and much more prevalent contradiction between the status quo and democracy. Namely, class society is undemocratic and immoral from the outset. Capitalism cannot be reformed to solve its contradictions; class struggle and profit-based planning will always supersede and destroy any supposedly democratic measures implemented under it. ‘Liberal Democracy,’ and, indeed, any form of democracy existing within the pretext of class society, is democracy for the few, for the oppressive class. Lenin perfectly explains this very truth in Chapter V of, “The State and Revolution.”
Quoting directly, “Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich--that is the democracy of capitalist society. If we look more closely into the machinery of capitalist democracy, we see everywhere, in the… details of the suffrage (residential qualifications, exclusion of women, etc.), in the technique of the representative institutions, in the actual obstacles to the right of assembly…, in the purely capitalist organization of the daily press, etc., etc., --we see restriction after restriction upon democracy. These restrictions, exceptions, exclusions, obstacles for the poor seem slight, especially in the eyes of one who has never known want himself and has never been in close contact with the oppressed classes in their mass life (and nine out of 10, if not 99 out of 100, bourgeois publicists and politicians come under this category); but in their sum total these restrictions exclude and squeeze out the poor from politics, from active participation in democracy.”2
Societies built within the pretext of class are subject to the rule of one class and subservience of all others. Each individual class, bodies of individuals with similar and connected material interests, are bound to do whatever possible to gain power and promote the development of society in a way that is favorable to themselves. Thus, under the capitalist system, where, for the better part of 500 years, the namesake ruling class has steadily and exponentially increased its own power and directed all innovation towards the advancement of their goals, it is impossible for real democracy to exist. For the solutions described later in this piece to apply practically, it is imperative and ultimately necessary that you first resolve the deeper contradictions of capitalist society by overthrowing the ruling class and abolishing the status quo in its entirety.
Take mental note then, that the following two sections of analysis exist in the abstract. Henceforth throughout this piece, the framework justification of Liberal Democracy will be presupposed, and all further critiques will be given from within the logic of this presupposition. My aim with this piece is not to deliver an exhaustive and lengthy critique of the capitalist system or it is, ‘democracy,’ but instead to prove that, even within the context of the liberal logic, there still arises deep contradictions between the status quo and the democratic principles previously outlined.
Contradiction Between Binary Voting and Consent of the Governed
To fully grasp the deep contradiction that arises between voting and democracy when said voting is made binary, we must first understand the mechanisms and manifestations that uphold consent of the governed as a principle of democracy. And to do this, we must ask ourselves a further question; what, exactly, does consent of the governed mean when applied to the world itself? As is true with all socio-political and economic theory, consent of the governed is an idea (albeit a general one) which would be rendered entirely pointless without application to reality. Theory for theory’s sake is not theory at all, not substantially. Instead, such abstractions serve as little more than, ‘food for thought,’ or preoccupation for a bored mind. And so, again, we must ask ourselves, “How can consent of the governed be applied to the real world through praxis and legislation?”
We can answer such a question by reviewing an attempt at real world application of the principle and comparing it back to its own base. For the sake of relevance, I will use the United States and its documents for the purpose of this analysis, beginning with the United States Declaration of Independence.
Quoting directly, it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”3
As is clearly stated in this foremost founding document, the principle of consent of the governed is used to uphold certain rights seen to the Founding Fathers of the US as, “unalienable.” These rights, which are present at any mention of the foundations of US democracy, are written as, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Therefore, at least when it comes to US democracy, the practical application of this principle is used as a method to uphold even broader principles. However, this application doesn’t end at the borders of the United States. Rather, this application is found across the planet.
It is well known that the United States and its governmental system stands as a sort-of role model for most of the planet’s nations. Whether aligned with them through geo-politics (as is the case with the infamous Five Eyes Nations and their associates) or through use of force (as is the case with nations such as Libya, who were invaded and had their leaders ousted), most modern democracies stand in the shadow and under the influence of the United States and its principles. One perfect example lies in Japan and their post-war restructure. The Allies (headed in Japan by the United States) occupied Japan after their surrender and re-wrote much (if not all) of their governing texts. This restructure left Japan aligned with the Allies and representative of the same values present in the United States’ governing documents and ethical guide works.
To prove this, quoting from the Council on Foreign Relations, “The 1947 [Japanese] constitution altered the relationship between state and society by introducing popular sovereignty… The Allied powers shared responsibility for post-surrender Japan, but it was [US] General Douglas MacArthur who shaped the rewriting of Japan's constitution.”4
And, if we look to MacArthur’s notes on the revision of Japan’s constitution, we find further proof of this.
Quoting directly, “Japan renounces [war] as an instrumentality for settling its disputes and even for preserving its own security. It relies upon the higher ideals which are now stirring the world for its defense and its protection.”5
It becomes quite apparent, especially with the use of key terms such as, “popular sovereignty,” and, “relies upon,” that the restructuring of Japan’s entire governmental system, while definitively for the better, was focused on bringing the Japanese government and its ideals much closer to the principles of the United States. This same story is true not only for Japan, but for most of the planet’s currently existing democracies.
That being said, a point has been made; what is true for the application of US principles is also true for most (if not all) of the world’s democracies. This point is extremely important in understanding the practical application of consent of the governed as a principle. The scope has been broadened. We aren’t simply reviewing the application as it relates to the United States but quite the contrary; this method of application, through geo-political leverage as well as occupation, applies to all modern democracies and thus, I will no longer refer to these terms distinctly. The application of democratic principles in the US is synonymous with the application of these principles around the world. Henceforth, I will refer to both of these with the interchangeable term, “application.”
Know, however, that this isn’t necessarily always the case. In certain, rare examples, there are likely other applications of democratic principles, ones that aren’t directly influenced by US ideals. The existence of said alternative applications does little, however, to disprove or discredit the unanimity of US-style application. In fact, the existence of such outliers is only further affirmation of the widespread influence of democratic principles as applied by the United States. The fact that one could find and present a clearly distinct application of democratic principles is itself an affirmation of the observation that most democracies are modeled in a similar way to the US because having noticed the difference proves the US application to be the normative application.
To summarize in the briefest possible way what we’ve analyzed and proven thus far; the modern conception of democratic principles, as modeled after the United States’ application of them, are used as a tool to uphold certain rights seen to us as, “unalienable,” or universal. By extension of this idea, we find that, if one were to prove the contradiction of any given system with these democratic principles, it could not only be deemed undemocratic but devoid of these basic, “unalienable,” rights. The following exists for the express intent of doing such a thing when it comes to specifically consent of the governed.
The modern democratic proceeding, while oftentimes varying in exact method (first-past-the-post being most common), remains extremely consistent in its direct violation of the core democratic principles. Whether there are twenty names on the ballot or two, it matters little. What matters is the nature of our current conception of voting itself. When one goes to the voting booth and submits a ballot for a candidate (or candidates), the contradiction does not wait for some later time. The contradiction of our voting systems occurs instantaneously upon the submission of one’s ballot and remains strong through the entire arbitrary term of whatever office one voted for. There is, again as a consequence of our current electoral conception, a single, brief moment between the end of a candidate's term and the submission of a new ballot for a given office where our democratic principles are briefly respected. Leaving this aside for a moment, however, let’s explore the contradiction of our voting system.
To explore the contradiction of our electoral system and the democratic principle known as consent of the governed, I will provide three separate definitions for the term, ‘consent,’ which can be easily compared and synthesized into a usable definition for our purposes. Our first definition comes from the, ‘Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network,’ who can be considered an authority on the subject of consent as any and all sexual activities involve consent in one way or another.
Quoting directly, “While the legal definitions of consent may vary by location and circumstance, the general concept is always the same: Consent is an ongoing process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with… Consent should be clearly and freely communicated… If someone agrees to an activity under pressure of intimidation or threat, that isn’t considered consent because it was not given freely. Unequal power dynamics... also mean that consent cannot be freely given… You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate... that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop.”6
The next definition comes from Sarah O. Parker, writing for the Brooklyn Law Review on a concept known as, “post-penetration rape,”
To quote, “Whether a woman never consents to penetration, or initially consents but later revokes, should be irrelevant. To deny that continued sex after consent is withdrawn is rape affirms the definition of women as property, denies autonomy and bodily integrity to women, and deprives victims of legal recourse in the criminal justice system. First, the refusal to recognize postpenetration rape as ‘real rape’ stems from adherence to the understanding of women as property that underlies rape law generally. In both “ancient societies—and in the more recent American common law tradition— women were considered the legal property of their husbands and fathers”; thus, the rape of a woman was a crime against a man’s property… Second, recognizing postpenetration rape as ‘real rape’ acknowledges women’s freedom to choose and their right to be free from unwanted invasion of their bodies. Rape’s chief harm lies ‘in forcibly depriving a person of her right of bodily integrity,’ and that deprivation exists whether initial penetration is accomplished with or without consent.”7
Our final definition will allow for the seamless fusion of our past ones through a philosophical lens.
Quoting from Encyclopedia Britannica, “Consent, in ethics and political philosophy, [is] an act of permitting something to be done or of recognizing some authority. Granting consent implies relinquishing some authority in a sphere of concern in which one’s sovereignty ought otherwise to be respected… Consent is fundamental to social contract accounts of political legitimacy, arising as early as Plato’s Crito but most prominently in the 17th-century writings of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke… In modern moral and legal thought, actual consent… is of great importance in determining the force of moral obligations and the validity of contracts.”8
Now, having read and understood these distinct definitions of consent, a synthesis of them can be accurately depicted. Such a synthesis will be used as an encompassing definition moving forward whenever referring to the modern conception of consent, especially as it relates to democracy.
This synthesis will be stated as, “Consent is the ongoing, retractable process, whether in relation to matters of physical, political, or philosophical significance, whereby one party or group permits another party or group to act in some particular way or engage in a particular action, especially when the action will personally affect oneself.”
Now, after having synthesized an appropriate definition of consent, the contradiction between single-point electoral systems (which includes all currently existing voting systems) and consent of the governed becomes highlighted. Consent, by it’s very nature, is an ongoing and retractable process. Much in the same way a person engaging in sexual intercourse can retract consent during the act of penetration, so too should anyone be able to retract their consent to a particular action or event at any time, even if they previously had agreed. Apply this, now, to consent of the governed, and our contradiction is finally outed.
If a citizen, whilst living under a modern democracy, submits a vote for official representation (an example being the president or governor) and later changes their mind as to the choice they made, there is no recourse through which their consent can be withdrawn. By all intents and purposes, the individual no longer consents to having voted the way they did, and their democratic principles are being infringed upon. Adding onto this, as we covered earlier, not only does this imply that binary, single-point voting is undemocratic, but also that modern democracies are devoid of the supposedly, “unalienable rights,” which we are so often guaranteed.
Simultaneously, if a citizen, whilst living under a modern democracy, submits a vote for a particular piece of legislation (an example being a law to legalize the use of a substance) and later changes their mind as to the choice they made, there is no recourse through which their consent can be withdrawn. By all intents and purposes, the individual no longer consents to having voted the way they did, and their democratic principles are being infringed upon. In the same way as before, this would also imply the violation of our supposedly, “unalienable,” rights.
Since it is not only possible but likely commonplace for individuals to change their opinions on candidates or legislation based on new information, it’s fair to assume that is common for citizens of modern democracies to have their, “unalienable,” rights infringed upon. Whether or not any given individual has changed their mind since they last voted doesn’t matter, the issue is that it’s possible for someone to change their mind despite there being zero method for revoking one’s consent under our electoral system.
And so after careful analysis of modern democracy in its attempts to uphold consent of the governed, and proper definition of the term consent, the obvious contradiction has shown itself. Binary, single-point voting in which any given vote cannot be later revoked is a direct corruption and violation of the core tenets we know as democracy. Connected through legislation to our conception of, “unalienable,” human rights, the violation of said core tenets is not some minor contradiction. It is a gaping hole in the logical platform upholding modern democracy and the modern democratic government.
This contradiction cannot be solved by simply changing our method of voting. The difference between first-past-the-post voting and instant-runoff voting becomes negligible when one realizes there are greater elements at play, particularly how both of these systems (and, in fact, any currently existing electoral system) will fall prey to the very same contradiction. Sure, instant-runoff voting has more democratic elements than first-past-the-post does, but when both are still binary, single-point electoral systems with no system in place to retract one’s consent, the difference is marginal. There is no reason instant-runoff voting (or any other alternative voting system) couldn’t be implemented alongside changes to the binary nature of modern democracy, however, exchanging one such system for another without addressing the fundamental contradiction they all share would do little at all.
Solving the issues of our current electoral system would involve the deconstruction of our entire democratic system, the analysis of each of its elements, and the restructuring of each of these elements in a way that entirely eliminates their binary, single-point voting nature.
Such is the contradiction of modern democracy and consent of the governed.
Contradiction Between Binary Voting and Popular Sovereignty
To fully grasp the deep contradiction that arises between voting and democracy when said voting is made binary, we must first understand the mechanisms and manifestations that uphold popular sovereignty as a principle of democracy. And to do this, we must ask ourselves a further question; what, exactly, does popular sovereignty mean when applied to the world itself? Much like the previously discussed democratic principle of consent of the governed, popular sovereignty is an idea which would be rendered entirely pointless without application to reality. To repeat myself, theory for theory’s sake is not theory at all. And so, we must ask ourselves, “How can consent of the governed be applied to the real world through praxis and legislation?”
We can answer such a question by properly defining popular sovereignty as a term distinct from consent of the governed and comparing the real-world application of democracy (that we previously discussed so extensively) to it. Despite the colloquial use of popular sovereignty and consent of the governed as synonymous, they can be, in fact, distinctly characterized. To do so, having already defined consent of the governed adequately in the last section, I will analyze and define the term popular sovereignty so that they may be compared. This task can be accomplished by breaking down the definition of each word that composes it and combining them into a coherent synthesis.
The word, ‘popular,’ finds its root with the Latin term, ‘pop-ularis,’ meaning, ‘people.’9 The addition of the Latin suffix, ‘-aris,’ indicates relationship or pertinence to a particular subject (in this case, relationship, or pertinence to the people, in general). Any dictionary worthy of merit would know the word’s Latin origins and, thus, reflect it in their definition. The choice of exactly which dictionary to use is one of little importance. So, for sake of name recognition, I’ll use Merriam-Webster’s dictionary entry, as it is seemingly of equal or greater popularity to any other major dictionary.
Quoting directly, “of or relating to the general public, [or,] suited to the means of the majority.”10
Doing the same for the phrase’s latter half, the word, ‘sovereignty,’ derived from the Old French term, ‘souverain,’ and ultimately rooted in the Latin term, ‘super-anus,’ which means, ‘chief,’ or, ‘principle.’ The term is further derived from the Latin term, ‘super,’ meaning, ‘over.11’ Using Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for the sake of simplicity, we find a related definition.
Quoting, once again, “supreme power especially over a body politic, [or,] controlling influence.”12
Finally, after having defined the terms and their respective roots, a synthesis of the words into a single phrase for our uses will follow. This synthesis (with the additional political context of a principle) could be stated as, “a system or concept for a system through which the general public maintains supreme power over the society.” Henceforth, throughout this document, anytime reference is made to popular sovereignty, this definition will be the intended thought.
As blatantly obvious it may seem, I will put significant emphasis on the characteristic differences between this term and the previously analyzed consent of the governed. The purpose of doing so is simple; as mentioned prior to the definition of popular sovereignty, these terms are often used interchangeably in the common vernacular. For our purposes, however, the two shall be characteristically distinct and independently pertinent to the perceived level of democracy that exists within a system. Such distinction serves the purpose of allowing us to more deeply understand the contradiction of our current democratic system and the principles of democracy itself. The newly discovered nuance of separately analyzing these terms should be apparent in the fact that we are now analyzing two elements of democracy rather than one.
This, of course, is not to say that those who continue using the phrases interchangeably are wrong. It is perfectly acceptable to utilize the most common definition of these terms, especially when referring to democracy or governments in a broader sense, rather than through our strictly analytical lens. To stop random individuals on the street and correct them on their use of the colloquially synonymous terms would be to forget the purpose of our analysis here. This paper does not exist to argue over the definition of democratic principles, it exists to prove that said principles are violated. The exact wording of a given definition matters little as long as all can agree the definitions resemble the principles of democracy as outlined either by Locke or by the modern application. As long as one agrees with this resemblance, then this analysis can be recognized as valid. Only those who wish to argue in bad-faith, who wish to, ‘win,’ some arbitrary, ‘debate,’ would dismiss this analysis on the basis of the exact wording of given definitions.
As we deeply analyzed in the last section, the binary, single-point nature of our modern voting system leads directly to contradiction. The idea that, after having voted for a representative (or, in more rare cases, legislation directly), one may not retroactively revoke their consent, is the root of that particular contradiction. However, as you’ve probably assumed given the title of this section, this contradiction is not the only one arising out of this binary nature. Apply additional nuance, and a distinct contradiction reveals itself. Before this contradiction is analyzed, however, another more obvious one must be addressed. This more obvious contradiction rests in the representative nature of modern democratic application.
In the United States and abroad, the normative application of democracy is known as, ‘representative democracy,’ and this alone stands as a contradiction. In fact, the name itself is proof of such contradiction. How could a system claim to be truly democratic (that is a method of governing in which the people of a society at large hold control over that society) while simultaneously forcing individuals to submit their control over society to certain representatives who are the true legislative and executive powers? This contradiction, however, is a commonly accepted one. Often, in political discourse, this contradiction is seen as a, ‘necessary evil,’ which is to say that many believe this contradiction to be minor enough to warrant completely ignoring it, given the perceived benefits of the representative system. So as not to waste time weighing the benefits and harms of this minor contradiction (which is an entirely separate and equally long-winded issue of discourse), I, too, will allow this contradiction as a sort of, ‘necessary evil,’ (whether or not it truly is). Now that this contradiction has been set aside, what follows will be the main subject of this entire section; the more primary contradiction between our voting system and the democratic principle of popular sovereignty.
When an individual casts a ballot or vote in favor of a candidate or piece of legislation under a modern democratic system, they immediately yield their popular sovereignty on that specific subject, as a result of our binary view. Having given your current (but not necessarily static) input on the matter, you now relinquish your control over the issue you voted for; your input is noted for a single moment, a fleeting action that represents an artificially abstracted moment. When that vote is cast, by the time the individual leaves the voting station, even the booth in which they cast it, the fundamentals of democracy have already been violated. Even if this individual immediately changed their mind, if the slip has escaped their grasp, their prior opinion (that is, the one they held when initially filling out the ballot) is immortalized as an artificial abstraction, a derived snapshot, and an unchangeable representation of an opinion that may or may not still currently exist.
Whether or not one actually does change their mind matters little. Just the existence of the possibility for one to change their mind and for their previously submitted ballot to no longer reflect their opinion on a given matter is enough to prove the violation of the principles of popular sovereignty (and, as mentioned repeatedly in the previous section, by extension of the modern application of democracy, their own personal liberties). The contradiction is that, for the people to truly hold supreme power over society, they would need some system through which to retroactively change the ballot they cast. And this is utterly impossible under the current conception of voting as a binary, single-point submission.
Such is the contradiction of modern democracy and popular sovereignty.
A Note on the Context of Active Voting Solution
Prior to the delivery of any information, a good author will provide the context needed for a full understanding of said information. Nothing exists in a vacuum and every concept is related to others. As a result, every idea will necessarily have context behind it and other ideas at its base. In the interest of being a good author, I will now share one needed piece of context for the following section of my piece.
As previously discussed, none of the solutions I will share in this piece can stand alone. They are but aids to a larger body of solutions that can only be understood through reading on a wider subject. The solutions that follow this note can and will only be implemented in the context of socialist republic, a proletarian state with the aim of developing and establishing global communism. The problems and contradictions of capitalism are deep-running and unavoidable, meaning that no level of active voting reform in the context of capitalism will bring about true democracy. Implementing such reforms would be akin to pulling the knife out of a wounded organ and patching the gash while leaving the organ to bleed internally. You cannot solve intricate contradictions without first solving the primary contradictions.
Thus, given this context, the following section should be read not with intent to build such systems in the status quo but rather with the intent to build such systems only after the status quo has been altered. Not only must active voting take hold exclusively under socialism, but such a voting system will certainly not be the first priority of a developing socialist nation. Beginning with the earliest attempts as socialism and prevailing to this day, the preeminent nations of the world have been openly and violently opposed to the progress of humanity and have brought immense suffering to the peoples of developing socialist nations. These nations, which will continue to face challenges as they grow, should not be judged as undemocratic simply by their lack of the implementation of active voting, much in the same way they should not be judged as ‘police states’ for their rapid militarization and security advances. When faced with immense challenge, it is imperative that these nations prioritize the safety and security of the people and their nation above all else; that includes the implementation of active electoralism.
Keep this context in mind when you read the following section.
Active Voting as a Solution to the Contradiction in the Modern Voting System
Far too often in political discourse, a problem is pointed out and analyzed, but the solution to said problem is left either non-existent or vague to the point of inaction. A system cannot be deconstructed and society cannot move forward without both the analysis of a problem and the proposition of a solution to said problem. And so, in an effort to avoid falling into this trap of political discourse, where ideas are whined about rather than solved, the following will stand as a solution to the previously discussed contradictions between our modern democratic system and the principles of democracy. The following is, then, the entire purpose of this piece, and by far its most crucial aspect.
As previously mentioned repeatedly (likely to the point of redundancy), the source of these democratic contradictions is the binary, single-point nature of our electoral system. The idea of having voted or having not voted, of submitting a single ballot as an independent abstraction of one’s opinion, is the cause of our systems undemocratic nature. And thus, among many other changes which should be done on the front of democracy, government, and economy, one substantial change must be made; our electoral system must be entirely restructured. Before we discuss the specifics of this restructure, one matter must be settled. This matter is of utmost importance when considering the aims of this piece.
Our electoral system is not and will never be the only structural fault of our system. So many other issues, often of even greater importance, are present in our modern society. Solving these issues, which are more fundamental to the socio-political struggle of our time, is no doubt a greater and more pertinent task for our generation. However, I will not mention these issues by name or implication; doing so would spoil the straight-forward and topical nature of this piece so far. This paper exists not to solve every problem in society, it exists to solve but a single problem in society. To divulge all the issues and problems of our society would not only take an immense amount of time but would come at the cost of the watering-down of this piece’s subject.
What then, is the solution to our electoral struggle? The contradictions inherent to our method of voting are now apparent, but how can they be alleviated or resolved? The answer is a system of my own creation; the active voting system (or, alternatively, the active electoral system, or active democracy).
The concept itself is simple, one you’ve probably pondered through the length of this piece, but one that has never yet been realized as a concept (let alone an application). I have yet to hear of any concept matching that of the active voting system and such a concept has never before existed on our planet. To summarize the concept in a way that allows immediate general understanding, it could be stated that active voting is, “a form or method of electoral process in which one’s votes or ballots are not binary or singular but considered as a constant action, as a condition.” To expand, an active voting system can be broadly defined as the redefinition of voting as a constant variable rather than as a single point in time. One would never vote for a candidate or bill one day and see the results the next. Instead, one would constantly be either voting or not voting for a particular candidate or bill, and seeing the results of said constant voting in much the same way; constantly.
Rather than a candidate needing to achieve a single number of votes once and then riding this accomplishment for some arbitrary term, candidate’s under active voting would be required to not only achieve enough initial votes to enter office but also maintain a certain majority of those votes constantly, for falling below the designated, ‘minimum,’ of a given position would deem a candidate ineligible to remain in said position. In much the same way as with candidates, a new bill or law wouldn’t simply achieve the designated number of votes a single time and then be passed as law indefinitely. Instead, any given law would not only need to achieve the initially designated majority but also retain a certain number of active votes to remain law, as falling below a designated minimum would mean the bill or law no longer has the support of the very people who voted it to pass. This is the concept of active voting, voting as a constantly conducted, passive action rather than a single, active action conducted once and remaining indefinitely. An active vote would be subject to reversal and change at any given time, entirely at the discretion of the voter in question.
Of course, under such a system, you threaten to introduce a small level of instability to the electoral system; it is (theoretically) possible for a candidate to achieve the required votes to take office and then immediately have the office revoked or for a law to pass and immediately be abolished. Such an event could occur repeatedly and would gum up the otherwise smoothly operating electoral system. This, however, has an obvious solution which removes this possibility entirely. Simply introducing two distinct minimum voting levels could avoid this possibility by staggering the number of votes required to be elected and the number to remain in office. By reducing the number required to maintain office, a sort of buffer is introduced to the electoral process, the size of which could be adjusted at any moment to the specifics of a given office or law. No longer is it possible for a candidate or law to immediately lose its status as elected or passed, as it would require a significant portion of the voter base to immediately and simultaneously change their mind in the same fashion.
An additional benefit of this staggered minimum concept is the chance for candidates and laws to actually affect change before removal for inadequacy. Oftentimes, in defense of the modern democratic system, it is said that terms exist to allow an elected official time to pass laws and work with others to affect change before re-election rolls around and the merit of their prior promises are judged. However, such a term is always arbitrarily determined and directly violates core democratic principles (as discussed previously). This staggered buffer in an active voting system would eliminate both of these issues; the buffer would not need to be arbitrary, it could be studied and specified for each given position to find a mathematically perfect difference between the minimum to be elected and minimum to maintain, and it avoids infringing on democratic principles (and, thereby, individual liberties) by still allowing each voter the ability to, at any moment, revoke their vote (and consent).
Another developmental, ‘speed-bump,’ in the synthesis of active voting is the issue of practical application. One may be inclined to ask, “how could this system, which requires the ability for any individual to immediately revoke their active voting status for any number of given representatives or laws, be applied to the real world feasibly?” The answer to which is dependent on the technological capabilities and specifics of the society the system is implemented in. Both will be covered, beginning with the application under worse technological capabilities and conditions.
In a society that has poor technological and virtual capabilities but wishes to adopt an electoral system structured in the image of active voting, repurposing old polling/voting stations as active voting stations is one fairly inexpensive method. These structures would act in a similar way to their old function aside from the fact that they would be open every day of every year, preferably twenty-four hours a day as well. Upon entering such a repurposed voting station, one would continue in much the same way they would under our current electoral system. Citizens would check in and verify their identity, proceed to a discreet and private booth, and consider their options for voting. However, the largest difference comes in the number of possible selections and the ability to, of course, change one’s decisions at any time. Ballots in such active booths would likely need to be noticeably lengthier than they are under the modern electoral system due to the much wider array of options available to voters under active electoralism.
One method of presenting the available options that prioritizes time and is highly feasible for such poor technological conditions would be to designate the first page of a polling sheet or packet as an active voting list. Said list would neatly organize the names of all candidates one is currently voting for, as well as basic voting information on each of these candidates (including the current approval rating as recorded at the end of the prior day). Printing such a list (which could include both candidates and legislation or bills, depending on the space requirements and formatting) every time an individual came in to vote would allow for reduction of time needed for most decisions. If one entered a voting facility for the express purpose of retracting their active voting status for a particular candidate, the inclusion of an active voting list would make this a swift and effective process, even something one could stop for just a number of minutes to do. An optional addition that could further increase the speed at which certain tasks can be conducted would be to, in addition to all the candidates one is actively voting for, the list could include, for each of these candidates, an option to immediately switch their vote to the second (or even third) candidate for the office. This would save further time as one wouldn’t be forced to search the entire ballot or ballot packet for the opposition candidate of a particular office, they could make a single mark and submit the ballot, spending virtually zero time in-booth.
Additionally, this method does not necessarily require the use of repurposed voting stations rather than newly-built ones; the utilization of repurposed buildings serves only the function of reducing cost and saving resources in a nation where this would likely be key. The exact implementation of such methods would obviously vary based on the unique specifications and requirements of a given nation's material conditions, and thus, this implementation method is very much so a malleable selection. In this particular regard, the fact that I haven’t mentioned a given system or specific implementation should not immediately dismiss the concept. The people of a nation should decide for themselves how exactly to implement active voting, as nobody could ever be expected to see the future and present all possible implementations. This stipulation also applies to the following implementation, which regards a society with higher technological capabilities.
In such a society, where technological integration with regards to voting is feasible (meaning it is both secure and efficient), the active voting system can be developed in a certainly superior format. Of course, many would argue that the internet and technology in general have not advanced to this point, even in the most developed nations on earth, so such technological integration would likely require a certain level of innovation beforehand. After much thought, there seems to be two distinct possibilities for implementation in a technologically advanced society; one for conditions more similar to today and one for conditions that are, likely, still long in the future.
The prior would be the semi-technological approach, where polling stations (either repurposed or newly built) are constructed with hyper-secure computers within each private booth. One would enter the facility, verify their identity (either with an individual working the station or through an automated process) and proceed to a designated booth where they could edit and modify their active voting list as much as they desire. The main characteristic distinction between this method and the method that could be used in nations with poor technological capabilities lies in the lack of need for costly printing and work-arounds to certain problems. No ballot packets would need to exist as all representative and legislative options can be quickly and easily sorted (through various methods) virtually. Approval percentages and other key voter information could not only be accessed more quickly, but also with far higher accuracy and in real-time. The lack of a physical ballot will also provide the added benefit of destroying the possibility of ballot tampering. Voting computers under this method of application would need to be held to the utmost standard of security and privacy, which would allow immediate and safe transfer of encrypted voting data.
The latter of the technologically advanced applications would require even further security and privacy by nature of it’s core distinction; it requires no physical voting facilities. In the stead of such voting or polling stations, individuals could log into an online voting application which would allow for the most convenient and effective system. Options for representation and legislation as well as key voting information could be sorted in much the same way as they would in the prior application, but rather than existing on dedicated machines on dedicated property, the page could be accessed by any number of authorized devices from any location and at any time. The convenience and effectiveness of such an implementation would be immense; one could just as easily vote from on their lunch break as they could in the bathroom between classes at an educational institution. Voting would, then, become an integral pillar of society. The use of such an implementation would no doubt fundamentally alter the culture and tasks of a given nation or community, introducing the concept of voting at any time and often. One may just as easily excuse their inattention to a particular conversation by replying, ‘I’m voting,’ as they now say, ‘I’m texting.’ This additional factor not only designates this system as the prime and ultimate implementation of active voting systems, but also as a transcendent element of the democratic culture. Democracy would cease to be an abstraction and would solidify itself as an innate cultural factor.
Of course, this ultimate implementation entirely relies upon the ability for a regulatory body to prevent tampering and ensure complete security. Accessing from anywhere introduces a host of possible issues with relevance to not only the individual but the system as a whole, as well. For example, one individual connecting to the voting system from an insecure or compromised network may allow them to tamper with or monitor that individual's active votes as well as giving them a chance at some higher access which may lead to further complications. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that such an implementation takes caution and security extremely seriously. Multi-factor authentication, especially to the third or fourth degree, could be used as a method of increasing security greatly. In addition, a nationalized and universal system of secure internet across a nation (or the planet) would immensely reduce the likelihood that an individual would connect through an unstable or compromised internet connection. The full implementation of this method of active voting, while assuredly the most superior method, would likely take further years of innovation and planning to effectively execute.
Such are the distinctly possible implementations of active voting as a solution to democratic contradictions in the modern world.
The global proletariat is a massive and struggling class. Enforced by its immense size but restrained by the oppression of a higher class, the proletariat struggles every day to maintain its principles as a class. Eighty percent of the world’s population lives on less than ten US dollars every day13 and only a tiny portion of the global population, far less than one percent no doubt, holds any meaningful power in regards to the world around them. Workers are constrained to laboring, eating, sleeping, and repeating without affecting change or making any real impact on the society around them. The proletariat upholds the entirety of our global society but maintains close to zero actual control over it. Even in nations where modern democracy is practiced, it is illusory and contradictory. The guiding principles of a truly democratic society are neglected and infracted through a largely abstract and arbitrary system of governance. Our flawed electoral systems struggle to accomplish anything for the laborer and accomplish much for the tiny class who find it in themselves to sit upon the backs of our working masses.
Active voting, in association with the truly sweeping reform needed to genuinely restructure our society, will help abolish this oppressive power so effectively wielded against our class. Beyond the will of a microscopic minority of capitalists being forced upon the global proletariat - rather than sham and contradictory democratic proceedings upholding the status quo of oppression - there stands a set of principles and systems which can (given immense dedication and effort) destroy the bonds that restrict the people and bring about a truly democratic society.
As I stated with regards to the principles of democracy, theory for theories sake is not theory at all; the application of democratic ideals through active electoralism is a much more pertinent and difficult task than simply laying the groundworks. This piece of theory is no different than any other, it’s theoretical foundation should be used as a general guide (and not a specific list of actions) in applying truly democratic principles in a nation or society. The intent of writing is quite simple when taken in it’s entirety; for me, the highest priority is upholding the working class.
Any action that further enforces the dictatorship of capital and its iron grip on the world is an action against my interests’ wishes. Conversely, any action that degenerates and disrupts capitalist oppression is one I fully endorse, bar none. If steps are being taken to restructure our flawed society, and these steps reflect the interests and needs of the global proletariat, I support them. And when considering electoralism, I observed a void. In almost every aspect of society, there has been analysis of the conditions and contradictions. On all levels, in most every possible way, there has been a great deal of thought put into the material and social interactions of our society. But in just one place, on a single level, I observed a deep cavity of analysis and associated solution. Capitalism and bourgeois democracy have many contradictions, however, never before now have I discovered the analysis of the topic of this piece (namely, the contradictions of binary, single-point electoralism).
It is my view that the laborers as a whole, the class of the proletariat, must uphold themselves. In spite of our massive size, the control we exercise on society currently is infinitesimally small. We cannot rely on the morsels of sustenance so grudgingly tossed at us by the oppressing class. Lest we should fall farther into the oppressive bonds of our class relations, the proletariat must (at all costs) build class consciousness and uphold itself. The capitalists certainly have little to zero interest in doing it for us. They aim to continue and retain their dominion, not to give it up to the masses they’ve held down. Capitalism (and the electoral system that has sprung out of it in many nations) exist to enforce a set of principles which will only continue to destroy and degrade the planet and the people who inhabit it.
Such are the contradictions and my analysis of the modern democratic proceedings in relation to the principles of democracy.
About the Author:
My name is Simon and I am a Marxist-Leninist born on the front range of Colorado. I focus primarily on contemporary international issues with a particular focus on socialist states and their interactions.
Leave a Reply.