Monday, July 22, 2019

Rejuvenating democracy: “Weighted Ballots”

Representative democracy is basically a good thing, famously Churchill’s ‘least worst thing’. It affords the periodic review of power through peaceful means to reflect the will of the popular sovereign, the people.

But it’s in trouble. We all know that. Aged and brittle within the liberal democratic framework, it’s prone to abuse by lobby groups, interest groups, moneyed groups, short-termism, and other ills.

“Weighted Ballots” is one suggestion (there are others) to give the old institution new legs.

Weighting ballots by age to give younger voters a heavier franchise reinforces representative democracy and its long-term viability. 

It unwinds the short-term/populist death spiral, and the undemocratic overweight influence of older voters.

The principle of “Weighted Ballots” sees a voter’s ballot weighted in proportion to how much longer a voter of that age will typically live.

It gives more electoral influence to the people who will longest endure the consequences of their electoral choices.

It encourages voters to consider voting behaviour in the context of a lifetime.

It reduces the political clout of a cohort of voters who have already wielded most influence over electoral outcomes, the consequences of which resonate long after them.

Objections to “weighted ballots” don’t stand up to scrutiny:

To ‘youth don’t have sufficient knowledge or experience’, three arguments leap forth: i. they couldn’t do worse, ii. we should have brought them up better, and iii. with the benefit of our knowledge and experience, we can counsel them to make their choices wisely.

To ‘it’s not fair’ and/or ‘they’ll take our benefits away’: i. actually it is fair, as older voters already enjoy the accumulation of their electoral influence, and ii. it is not in the interest of youth to retract legitimate benefits from older citizens: youth will pass.

"Weighted Ballots" raised a surprisingly welcome response from a healthy super majority of the people whose views I solicited (leaving open the possibility of sampling bias). 

Younger people, intimidated by the idea of taking more responsibility for society’s future, acknowledge the sense of it. Older people in general see fairness in a gradual handover of the baton. 

Many older people are bereft by the short-term handouts with which election candidates tempt older voters, while younger folk face immense long-term struggles with housing, education, health, etc. 

Implementing weighted balloting is a challenge, the shock of the new, the change in thinking it implies. But in a package of reforms to keep representative democracy relevant and effective, it’s not impossible, not unrealistic.

“Weighted Ballots” will rejuvenate representative democracy, counteract its contemporary malaise.


  1. Not in your lifetime i say. Maybe your kids will see a change, but probably unlikely. Marks for recommending some improvements however as the so called Aus democracatic system is certainly not democracy. We probably could do with a period of benevolent dictatorship . Hang in there. Reg.

  2. The problem with democracy is that it attracts people who have too much time on their hands.

  3. the democratic principle of one person one vote cannot distinguish between the value of people based on age or sex or any other criteria. It would be a slippery slope. J