A radical voting proposal

In another thread, we were talking about the problem of how voters keep sending mediocre politicians to office. As others have noted in the past, the paradox is that while voters claim to want dedicated and fair minded visionaries overall, they actually vote for pork promising sleazebags for their own representative.

So we need to come up with a radical solution and here’s mine: cross-voting.

Every two years, six months before election day, we’ll have a big lottery. We’ll announce every congressional district one by one and then pull a slip of paper out of a barrel. On that slip of paper will be the name of a different congressional district. And the voters of that district will vote on who represents the first district. So you’ll have the voters of the Minnesota 4th voting for the Representative for the California 50th; the Connecticut 8th voting for the Mississippi 3rd; the Texas 19th voting for the Oregon 5th; and so on.

The candidates will then have to convince a bunch of relative starngers that they’ll do the best job representing the people of their district. Pork barreling should be eliminated because the folks back in the district won’t be in a position to reward you for bringing home the bacon. Carpetbagging won’t be a real issue because candidates will still have to qualify as residents of their districts and be nominated by local parties.

There’s is the issue of regional ideologies. Candidates who run for office in Massachusetts are very different from those in South Carolina. But it’ll all balance out nationwide. If one district is forced to choose a more liberal candidate than it likes, by definition some other district must be being forced to choose a more conservative candidate than it would have liked.

It’s also possible that some candidates might decide to sell out their home districts once the voting districts have been announced. They could promise all kinds of booty to the people who’ll be voting for them. But it’s a short term strategy because those people will almost certainly never vote for that candidate again, so most voters will realize that if he sold out one district he’ll sell them out as well. Ultimately, candidates will be forced to the realization that their best strategy is to demonstrate they can do the job regardless of who’s voting for them.

I don’t see that that solves any problems, and just creates new ones. Because, now, instead of pandering to the views of and promising pork to their home district, they’ll just do it to the district chosen as the voters before the election. It’s not a “short term strategy”, because the candidate will get the reputation of being loyal to his voters. So when he’s up for reelection and another district is picked to vote for him, the people in the new district will say, “Well, he brought the pork into the last district that voted for him. He’ll do it for us too.”

And it’s not very democratic. If I’m living in, say, Provo, I don’t want my representative to be some Democratic pro-choice, pro-gay rights, gun control liberal just because that’s what representatives of another district voted for. They may have voted for him, but he has to represent me and I want him to represent my district’s views. Likewise, if I’m living in downtown Manhattan, I don’t want my representative to be a hardline pro-life, anti-gay Evangelical Christian conservative Republican.

There might be national balance still, but there needs to be more than national balance. My representative is supposed to represent my district, its interests and its views. He can’t do that if he’s picked by people with different interests and different views.

Let’s say we’ve got Congressman Porkbarrel who’s running in an Arizona district. A district in Montana gets randomly chosen to vote for his district. He could essentially tells the Montanans, “Screw all those people back in Arizona. Vote for me and I’ll bring a billion dollar navy base to Montana.”

Obviosuly, such a campaing theme will have some negative things to say about Porkbarrel’s trustworthiness. And having established his lack of faith, why wouldn’t the Montananas think, “Once we’ve voted for this thief, he’ll never have to worry about us again. Why should he keep his promises to us anymore than he kept them to Arizona?”

I understand your position. Porkbarrel could just jump from district to district, shifting allegiances every two years. But first, I think a majority of voters wouldn’t stand for such blatent pandering even if they benefited from it temporarily. And second, don’t forget Porkbarrel still has to have some party support back home in order to get nominated.

As I said it balances out. The people in Provo might not get to vote a conservative into office to represent them. But they will be picking a Congressman for some other district, so that district will end up getting the most conservative candidate running there. Everybody does get to vote for a Congresssman, so everyone’s ideology ends up being represented.

Why are spelling mistakes that are invisible in the reply box so blazingly obvious in the actual thread?

I agree here with Captain Amazing. I do think something needs to be done, but I don’t think that will help. Besides, its decidedly unrepublican to not be able to have any choice in my representation, even worse if its someone from another state (state’s rights being important and all that). Hell, I feel cheated enough when the guy I vote for doesn’t win and worse when someone I feel is terrible for the seat becomes “my” representation.

Imagine a voter’s despair when someone he feels doesn’t deserve or isn’t qualified becomes his representative, and he didn’t even get to cast a vote for another candidate; even worse, those he’s actually voting for are in some remote area. I could foresee even more dismal voter turn outs. Plus, I think many voters are already ill-informed now. How much less informed would a voter be if he’s from Alabama voting on the representative from some suburb of New York, San Francisco, LA, etc. or vice-versa? I put in a lot of time to learn about candidates. I try to make informed decisions, and I know what are the key issues around here and how I feel about how important they are when I chose a candidate. How can I possibly know what the key issues are and how important they are in that remote area except through exceptional research and/or straight from the politicians’ mouths.

A more modest proposal might stand up to at least a bit of scrutiny. One off the top of my head is a random other district(s), within the same state, will account for a certain percentage of the vote or count as a diminished amount of a vote, while the remaining votes will account for the remaining percentage or be counted as usual.

Honestly, I think the problem of the quality of politicians needs to be solved, but I think taking the onus off the voters of those being represented defeats the point of a representation and a republic. I think a better approach would be to find a way to limit the sleazebag’s tools and incentives like porking, reduced salaries, etc.