(Copyright 2002 Bryan Ford)
IntroductionDelegative Voting (DV) is an alternative method of electing candidates to offices, which shares the most important advantages of other systems commonly proposed for electoral reforms while addressing some of their most important practical obstacles. Unlike all other serious alternatives, DV can be used as an almost zero-cost, "drop-in" replacement for conventional plurality or "first past the post" voting systems. Voters in DV mark their ballots exactly as they do in plurality elections, by selecting one of a list of candidates, and for this reason DV will feel entirely familiar to those accustomed to plurality voting. Furthermore, DV requires no new investment in voting equipment or extensive re-training of vote-counting staff or volunteers. DV eliminates the well-known "spoiler effect" of plurality voting, however, and greatly increases the effective choice voters have by allowing them to vote for the candidate closest to their own viewpoint without wasting their vote or helping to elect a candidate they strongly oppose.
DV is equally applicable to both single-winner elections (e.g., for offices such as President or Governor), and for choosing multiple-seat bodies (e.g., Congress, Parliament, Board of Directors). With an appropriate ballot design, DV makes it feasible to lift the usual restrictions on the number of candidates that may compete in a given election, without overburdening either the voters or the electoral administration. In this way, DV can provide much more proportional representation in multiple-seat elections than even existing "proportional" systems such as List-PR or STV, and can eliminate all vulnerability to gerrymandering.
With the formal and practical barriers to broad-spectrum candidacy removed, DV enables the evolution of an entirely new and qualitatively different electoral culture. In this alternative culture, voters normally vote for local candidates who they know and trust personally, rather than distant candidates they know only through reputation, costly mass-media campaigns, and televised debates. DV encourages many candidates to cooperate to build direct, permanent political and social relationships with each other and with their individual supporters, forming a web of delegates in which the "losing" candidates in a particular election serve ongoing advisory and support roles for the candidates in office. Though the vast majority of candidates may never attain a particular office, all candidates can achieve political influence directly proportional to their level of public support.
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