Political Representation is the pillar upon which democracy rests.
However, many take the effective implementation of this ideal for granted. The systems that allow citizens to choose their representatives, and then hold them accountable as they govern, are often conflated directly with the ideals that they are attempting to approximate. In reality, the systems almost exclusively dictate the very definition of the “representation” they create. Although some high-profile issues, such as the electoral college and voter suppression, have brought this issue into the mainstream in recent times in the US, the discussion remains extremely superficial. Far more fundamental assumptions that determine how our electoral and governance systems work are left unchallenged and dealt, instead, with almost divine deference.
The systems of today were created by previous generations of policy makers attempting to find an appropriate balance between practicality and idealism. They were designed specifically to work around the constraints, and opportunities, presented by the technology of the time. Everything from one vote per arbitrary term length, to the need to choose from candidates in voters’ geographic proximity, were put in place to respect realistic expectations of, among other factors, communication and transportation. The world is unrecognizable from the time many of the world’s current democratic infrastructure was first designed, but most of those traditions, and in-built compromises, remain.
I am hoping to find ways in which technology can break through some of these assumptions and modernize and improve political representation. On a high level, there are three main goals.
I aim to develop proposals to help make political representation:
- more representative (by more effectively representing complex political preferences)
- more accountable and transparent (through improved exchange of information)
- more dynamic (through faster systems of aggregating and reacting to citizen participation)
Existing academic or policy research work in this space, that specifically explores radical changes to core democratic systems, is surprisingly sparse. Most of the recent focus has been on developing the idea of “government-as-a-platform”. A forward-looking state that can be used as a potential real-world model, is that of Estonia. Their well established e-Estonia initiative already implements ambitious solutions such as remote online voting through mobile apps, among others.
A first draft of the ecosystem map can be found at the following link: