The first step in making America a perfect democracy (or at least a true democracy) is to ensure that all citizens are represented equally in Congress and state legislatures. That is the only way to ensure that our representative assemblies accurately represent the will of the people and that our government is, therefore, a truly representative democracy.
Determining how similar two people are with regard to how they “think, feel, and reason” can be challenging – nearly impossible. Fortunately, the most important match between citizens and their representatives is that our representatives vote the same way we would vote. As James Madison pointed out to his fellow delegates at the Federal Convention of 1787:
Representation was an expedient by which the meeting of the people themselves was rendered unnecessary; and that the representatives ought therefore to bear a proportion to the votes which their constituents, if convened, would respectively have.
In other words, in a representative democracy there should be a strong correlation between the results of a vote taken in a legislative body and the likely result of a referendum conducted among the people represented by that legislative body.
Given the many problems plaguing our terrible, horrible, very bad, no good elections, it comes as no surprise that polling on a lengthy list of critical issues consistently indicates that there is no significant correlation between the will of the American people and the legislation passed by Congress and state legislatures in America.
There are numerous reforms to our electoral system that could, and should, be enacted (ranked choice voting, preventing gerrymandering, banning corporations from spending corporate funds to influence elections and our government, et cetera). However, it is highly unlikely that we will ever constitute ideal representative assemblies through elections, even with major reforms to our electoral system. Fortunately, there is a better way…
A proxy is “the authority to represent someone else, especially in voting.” Proxies are routinely used by corporations to allow shareholders to designate someone to vote on their behalf at annual shareholder meetings. Both the Republican Party and Democratic Party utilize proxies at meetings of their national committees, with regard to votes take place as part of their internal governance. Numerous other organizations use proxies, especially when an organization’s membership is dispersed over a broad geographic area that makes attending meetings in person inconvenient.
The best way to ensure that all citizens have equal representation in Congress and state legislatures is to give every citizen who is governed by the laws passed by a legislative body a proxy that can be assigned to any member of that legislative body and allow each legislator to cast a number of votes equal to the number of proxies they hold (plus one for themselves) on every matter that comes before the legislative body (including votes taken in committees).
Research has shown that within our present electoral and political systems there is no significant correlation between the votes taken in Congress and state legislatures and the way the people would have voted, if voting themselves. As long as that is the case, America will continue to fail to meet the most basic requirement for a representative democracy – legislatures that represent the will of the people.
Implementing a system of proxies for citizens would immediately and fundamentally alter the nature of the relationship between citizens and their representatives, bring our representative assemblies in line with the vision of John Adams, establish the correlation properly deemed essential by James Madison between votes in legislatures and the way the people would have voted, if voting directly, and put the cornerstone in place for making America a true democracy.
Despite the fact that most citizens of the United States recognize that our government is broken and dysfunctional, many people are uncomfortable with change. Implementing a system of proxies for citizens might seem like a major change, but it really isn’t. It is essentially a simple add-on to the system that is in place. Proxies will do their magic with or without other reforms to the manner in which we conduct elections. And this relatively minor change would have a large number of major positive impacts on our political system.
Proxies will ensure that all citizens are represented.
Most of us do not feel represented by Congress or our state legislature. Proxies will forge a much more direct connection between us and our elected representatives making it clear that the legislators to whom we assign our proxies will be casting votes on our behalf. With that being the case, most citizens will pay closer attention to how legislators are voting, especially to the way the representative they have chosen are voting on legislation addressing issues of concern to them. Any citizen who disagrees with the way the legislators to whom they have assigned their proxies cast their votes will be free to reassign their proxies to legislators who will vote the way they would vote. This will ensure that all citizens will not only feelrepresented, they will be represented.
Proxies will ensure equal representation for all citizens.
Implementing a system of proxies will immediately result in the achievement of the most essential element of representative democracy – equal representation for all citizens. Every citizen will have one proxy to assign to one member of each legislative body that governs them. “Equal interests among the people” will have “equal interest” in each legislative body.
Proxies are the best means of obtaining the “consent of the governed”
The Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their "just powers" from "the consent of the governed” but does not go into the details of how the consent of the governed is to be obtained. The implicit (and reasonable) assumption is that the “governed” give their consent through voting. But the many problems plaguing our elections have rendered voting ineffective as the means of obtaining the consent of the governed. Giving every citizen a proxy that can be assigned to any member of the legislative bodies that govern them is the best means of properly obtaining the “consent of the governed”.
Proxies will give citizens far more choices regarding who will represent them in the legislative bodies that govern them.
Without making any other changes to our electoral and political systems, implementing a system of proxies will greatly increase the number of choices we have with regard to who represents us in Congress and our state legislatures. Instead of the one or two or three viable candidates appearing on the ballot in the legislative district in which we reside, we will be able to assign our proxies to any of the 435 members in the U. S. House; 100 senators; and any one of the senators and representatives our state legislature as our representatives.
Grassroots movements will be empowered.
Proxies will empower active citizens and political organizations to build support for major pieces of legislation by reassigning their proxies as necessary, moving them to members of Congress and state legislatures who have demonstrated their support by introducing or cosponsoring the desired legislation. Once a majority of the members of a legislative body have signed on as cosponsors, the legislation can be brought to a vote and enacted.
Proxies will shift the focus of political activity from politicians to issues.
As more and more voters utilize their proxies in this manner, the focus of both legislators and media will shift from endless arguments and posturing by politicians to legislators proposing solutions to the problems we face as a nation (and in the states) and debating the pros and cons of each proposed solution. The response of the citizenry to various ideas put forward by our elected representatives will be tangible and objective – evidenced by the increases and decreases in the number of proxies held by legislators on both sides of an issue. That is a much more constructive focus for political activity and media attention than who has raised the most money and who is ahead in the polls in the midst of an ugly, angry election.
Proxies will shift the source of power for legislators.
Within a proxy system, power will flow to legislators who hold the most proxies. Legislators who show leadership on key issues and help get legislation supported by a majority of the citizenry enacted will attract more proxies. Legislators who do not demonstrate leadership or who vote “with a view to the private interest” will see the number of proxies they hold shrink appreciably over time. The amount of money a legislator has raised will be of little interest to voters focused on actually and effectively addressing the problems we face as a nation. Making leadership on key issues, rather than raising the most money or seniority, the key to gaining power and remaining in office will be appealing to politicians who ran for office and serve for the right reasons.
Proxies will bring us as close to "pure democracy" as possible in a representative democracy.
Direct democracy is sometimes referred to as "pure democracy" because laws and public policies are determined by the decisions of the majority of voters, with each voter voting directly and having a single vote. With proxies we will be represented by legislators who vote the way we would vote.
Allowing every citizen to assign their proxies to the legislators they believe are most likely to vote the same way they would vote on issues of concern to them will result in a system that effectively allows citizens to vote on legislation, albeit indirectly through their chosen representatives. Over time, the votes in Congress (or a state legislature) will align closely with what the results would have been if the voters had voted directly on legislation.
Citizens will be represented as soon as their turn eighteen or become naturalized.
Depending on where your eighteenth birthday or naturalization falls within election cycles for various offices, it may be up to two years before you can vote for who will represent you in the House of Representatives and as many as four to six years before you can vote for both of the senators from your state. With a system of proxies in place, citizens will be represented immediately upon turning eighteen or becoming a naturalized citizen.
Proxies will increase civic engagement.
Many Americans who are eligible to vote do not vote because they believe (with considerable justification) that their votes do not matter. The fact that citizens who have assigned proxies to legislators will be voting, albeit indirectly, on the legislation voted on in Congress and state legislatures, will dramatically increase civic participation for citizens of all ages.
Proxies will provide continual accountability for legislators.
Frequent elections have long been seen as the primary means of making legislators (and other elected officials) accountable to voters. Even with relatively short terms of office, however, citizens often have to wait for an election that may be nearly two, four, or six years away to effectively register their displeasure with legislators who are failing to keep their campaign promises or opposing legislation favored by a majority of the citizenry. And even then, the flaws in our electoral system may make it difficult, if not impossible, to vote a politician out of office, even if they have failed to keep their campaign promises.
There is also a major drawback to frequent elections. Legislators end up spending inordinate amounts of time raising money for their campaigns and campaigning for reelection instead of legislating. This is especially true for members of the U. S. House of Representatives, who serve two-year terms and must engage in fundraising nearly non-stop if they wish to remain in office.
Proxies will enable citizens to immediately and effectively withdraw their support from a legislator by reassigning their proxy.
Once a system of proxies is in place and seen to be working as anticipated, with proxies making frequent elections unnecessary, we should amend our Constitution to give longer terms to legislators who currently serve two-year terms, especially in Congress. Holding elections less frequently would not only reduce to the cost of conducting elections for the government but would reduce the amount of money that candidates need to raise, which would, in turn, significantly decrease the corrupting influence of money.
Proxies neutralize or minimize all of the problems with our elections.
Proxies will provide instant relief for citizens who are the victims of voter suppression or gerrymandering, ensuring that they will still be represented in Congress and their state legislature. Citizens who are discouraged from voting by tactics such as having a limited number of polling places or voting machines (making it necessary to stand in line for hours to cast your votes), having been purged from the voting rolls, or requirements for photo identification that they do not possess, will still be represented by simply assigning their proxies.
As a service to its members and a disservice to citizens who want to hold politicians accountable, Congress works in ways that make it difficult to assess the voting record of incumbents. Many issues are never brought to a vote, especially in the U. S. Senate with the abuse of the filibuster. Amendments are attached to bills that are unrelated to the issues addressed by the amendments simply as a means of getting legislation passed in a system that makes it difficult to pass major legislation and easy to defend the status quo. Our system of “checks and balances” could just as easily be called “Gridlock by design.”
Voting records are also, by their very nature, focused on the past. That often gives a sense of how a legislator might vote in the future, but people do change – sometimes even politicians.
Information that helps anticipate how a legislator will vote in the future, especially on matters of particular concern to each of us as citizens is much more useful in deciding which legislators are most likely to vote as we would vote on particular issues. In that regard, information regarding who has introduced legislation and which legislators have signed on as cosponsors is particularly useful and can be obtained at the official website - Congress.gov – among other places.
Numerous political organizations already keep track of which legislators do and do not support various reforms, laws, policies, or programs.
All of this information is more readily available for members of Congress than for state legislators, but in states that implement a proxy system that would almost certainly change rapidly.
We already have web sites that help voters decide which candidates to vote for by entering information regarding your position on issues and matching that with candidates’ positions on the issues. Using voting records or co-sponsorship of various pieces of legislation in the same manner would make it easy for citizens to figure out which members of Congress or a state legislature would be most likely to vote the same way they would vote on the issues that are of most concern to each voter.
Once you get past the typical landing page asking you to make a campaign contribution and/or volunteer, the web sites for most candidates offer detailed information about a candidate’s position on issues of concern.
Proxies can be instituted in the U. S. House of Representatives with simple legislation. Extending proxies and weighted votes to the U. S. Senate will require a constitutional amendment because the Constitution stipulates that “each senator shall have one vote” and that "no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate". The nature of the legislation required to implement a system of proxies and weighted votes in state legislatures will vary from state to state.
Implementing a system of proxies for citizens is a simple and powerful means of making our representative assemblies truly representative of the will of the people. The complicated part would be administering the system and keeping it secure. Although the process of assigning proxies to legislators would present as very simple to citizens (assuming it is done properly), administering a system of proxies and protecting the integrity of the system would be a massive, but worthwhile, undertaking.
There would be a lot of proxies involved. Over a hundred and fifty-five million citizens voted in the 2020 presidential election (155,506,056 votes in the official count.) And it is a near certainty that, once people realize that, through their proxies, they are voting, albeit indirectly, on legislation in Congress and their state legislature, more people will submit proxies than voted in the 2020 election. Keeping accurate records of how many proxies each legislator holds at any given time will require daily adjustments, as some people die (rendering their proxies invalid), while others turn eighteen and submit their proxies for the first time, and still others exercise their right to reassign their proxies.
Note: If the members of some legislative bodies prefer to deal with smaller vote totals, a system of weighted votes could be utilized. Within such a system, the simplest way to determine the value of each legislator's weighted vote would be to divide the number of proxies held by each legislator by the number of proxies held by the member of each legislative body with the fewest proxies. This would give the member with the lowest number of proxies a weighted vote with a value of 1.00 and other members weighted votes with a value greater than 1.00.
Although most of the Framers of our Constitution were not fond of democracy, they did make one important concession to democracy by allowing the people to elect the members of the House of Representatives directly. They understood the need to “instill the necessary confidence” of the people in the government.
If we don’t remove the “checks” on democracy the Framers put in place, implementing a system of proxies and weighted votes in the House of Representatives will help get legislation reflecting the will of the people passed by the House, but it will still be subject to being blocked by the Senate, vetoed by the president, or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Gridlock is less of a problem in state governments, but it would still be in harmony with the ideals of democracy to do away with the veto power for governors.
The “checks” the Framers put in place would remain in place.
The Framers wanted to prevent any “bad” legislation passed by the House of Representatives (but opposed by the wealthy minority) from being passed into law. They gave the Senate and the president the power to block legislation passed by the House. The Supreme Court managed early in our nation’s history to establish the power of “judicial review”, which gave it the ability to block legislation by declaring it unconstitutional. That power is not mentioned specifically in our Constitution, but it is now well established.
These “checks” on the House of Representatives, the Congress, and by extension, the will of the people are clearly anti-democratic, giving minorities within the government (one person in the case of the president, and five people in the case of the Supreme Court, as presently constituted) the ability to block the will of a majority. Completing the business of making America a perfect democracy by establishing the supremacy of the legislature, will be a separate matter, requiring numerous constitutional amendments.
With checks on legislation passed by the House or by Congress remaining in place, at least for now, making the House of Representatives truly democratic is a modest proposal and is consistent with the intentions of the Framers of our Constitution. It will restore the only check the people were intended to have on the other branches of government.
If we do remove the “checks” on the will of the people (and democracy), we could break the gridlock that has paralyzed the federal government and actually get much-needed legislation passed.
The gridlock that has come to typify politics in Washington, D. C. has kept major problems from being solved and issues from being addressed. The use of proxies as a form of the initiative will only provide concerned citizens with the means of breaking the gridlock in D. C. and getting major pieces of legislation passed if the proxy system is extended to the U. S. Senate. That will require a constitutional amendment.
If we extend the proxy system to the U. S. Senate and remove the “checks” on majority rule that are embedded in our Constitution, we can put an end to the gridlock that is preventing us from effectively addressing the problems we face as a nation.
Instead of endless debate on the merits of a federal job guarantee or a public option for health care (two ideas that were proposed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 that have been debated ever since, but never implemented) proactive legislators could work with active citizens to actually get legislation enacted.
And amending our Constitution is not easy…
Article IV, Section 4 of our Constitution says: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”
It is a relatively simple matter for the government of the United States to protect a state from invasion or domestic violence. Having the federal government guarantee “a Republican form of Government” to “every State in (the) Union”, on the other hand, is nearly impossible. To paraphrase Robert LaFollette, if the people of a state want a republican form of government, they must do the work of establishing a republican form of government.
The first step in ensuring a state enjoys a republican form of government is a clear definition of (and a shared understanding of) a “republican form of government”. The terms “republic” and “republican form of government” are generally considered to be synonymous with “representative democracy”. When legislation opposed by a majority of the citizens of a state is passed into law by a state legislature and when legislation supported by a majority of the citizenry is not passed by a state legislature, that state is not a representative democracy because it does not accurately reflect the will of the people. Such a state does not have a republican form of government.
Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Missouri currently reads as follows:
Section 1. That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.
To implement proxies in Missouri, we need to amend the Missouri Constitution to read as follows:
Section 1. (a) That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.
(b) To ensure that the General Assembly of the State of Missouri reflects the will of the people as accurately as possible, effective March 1, 2023, every citizen of the state of Missouri who is eligible to vote may submit a proxy naming one member of the house of representatives and one senator as their designated representatives.
(c) Each citizen who is eligible to vote may submit a new proxy form designating a different representative and/or senator as their representative(s) at any time.
(d) With the exception of votes taken to override a governor’s veto, for which each member will cast a single non-weighted vote, senators and representatives shall have a number of votes on all matters that come before the General Assembly, including votes in senate and house committees, equal to the number of proxies they have been assigned by citizens of the state of Missouri, plus one (for themselves).
(e) The Secretary of State shall design a proxy forms for citizens to use to assign their proxies, change their proxies, and cancel their proxies if they move out of the state or are no longer eligible to vote, and make those forms available to citizens of the state of Missouri.
(f) The General Assembly shall pass appropriate legislation implementing a secure system for the transmission and recording of proxies and providing penalties for forging or falsifying proxies or offering money or any other thing of value in exchange for a citizen’s proxy.
If you would like to be notified of calls to action related to our Action Plan or of modifications to our agenda or Action Plan, please provide your email address.