Legislative Representation by Proxy

In mid-1995, the Colorado Daily published several letters, including one of my own, relating to proportional representation, a system which can obviate the need for geographical districting, neatly sidestepping a thorny, unnecessary issue, while more authentically representing the people. My contribution was an outline view of representation by proxy, an approach already familiar to many who sit in corporate boardrooms. (I bandied this about a bit, years ago, with (sci-fi author) L. Neil Smith, who said he'd included something similar in one of his earlier books (_The_Probability_Broach_, I think), although he'd already disavowed it as being "insufficiently radical".)

The basic idea of representation by proxy is that the individual would be free to choose from a wide range of candidates and to select one whose views closely correspond to their own, and that the voting power of representatives would be proportional to the number of proxies held by each.

(How this might work, using the U.S. House of Representatives as an example, and without altogether dispensing with geographical districts, might be to use the current electoral process as a means of generating a membership list, but then allow voters to invest their proxies in someone other than the representative sent to Congress by their own district.)

In the version I described in the letter mentioned above, individuals would also be able to reassign their proxies at any time and as often as they cared to go to the trouble. While the reason for this is that people's views and their confidence in various public persons flux continuously -- and making them wait for the next general election to make a different selection can't help but produce some degree of disaffection -- an effect would be to diffuse the election process so there would no longer be an opportunity/incentive for anyone to attempt to produce a particular public mood just in time for an election.

I also suggested the use of a separate, non-votable proxy (possibly better called a 'nomination') the sole purpose of which would be to generate the list of eligible candidates -- to distinguish those who inspire confidence in more than a few people and bring them to the attention of others who might also see them as worthy representatives.

Another variation would be to allow each individual several proxies, only one of which could be reassigned at a whim, and one of which could only be reassigned over a substantial period, perhaps no more often than once per year. This would assure some continuity.

Looking at it from the perspective of those holding proxies and participating in the decisions of some legislative body, there would be little incentive for them to play to anything or anyone, since they would have been propelled there on the basis of who they were and what they supported, and would stand to lose more than they gain from inconsistancy.

But, regardless of the details, representation by proxy would mean the freedom to invest one's electoral will in someone whose views more closely approximate one's own than is usually the case when the choice is amoung two or only a few candidates. And, in any case, representation by proxy is only a variation on the general theme of proportional representation.