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One of the most common grievances against elections is that it doesn’t matter if you vote because it won’t make a difference how the world is or significantly sway the outcome of an election.

What is an example of a political process in which votes do not get grouped into cohorts which land on one side or the other but every vote has a tangible, correlatable effect, in other words, some sort of continuous phenomenon where if one vote is 0.001% of the total number of votes, that vote directly carries over into the specifics of the outcome, that is, determines some value for 0.001% of the thing being voted on. I mean an election without the information loss of abstraction but a versatile, high-fidelity phenomenon which can handle embodying the precision of millions of votes; is one-to-one; one vote, one outcome; and therefore, since the outcome of your vote is fully deterministic, there would be no disincentive to do so, knowing that what you vote will be directly actualized as a direct consequence of whatever is being voted on. This could be thought of as “distributive” voting as opposed to “winner takes all” games / elections.

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    I think this is more of a spectrum than a category. Your vote has more effect in a proportional representation system than a winner-takes-all system, for instance. You might be interested in Liquid Democracy or Peter Emerson's Matrix Vote or Modified Borda Count, too.
    – endolith
    Feb 3, 2023 at 16:56

6 Answers 6

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Australian public funding for political parties and individuals is tied to the number of first preference votes candidates receive. It is calculated as a fixed amount per vote making every vote count.

Public funding

The election funding amount is calculated as an amount per formal first preference vote for political parties or candidates who receive more than six per cent of the total number of formal first preference votes (this will be dropped to four per cent on 1 July 2022).

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  • This says nothing of voting with ownership but staking for ownership (of "public funding for political parties and individuals"), unless "first preferential [outcome]" is different than plurality, perhaps the minimum truncated modicum of "6% [then] 4% [within the year]". Feb 2, 2023 at 21:29
  • @NickCarducciforCarfaceBank first preference outcome is a simple tabulation of first preference votes. Australia's PR system does not work on plurality. The funding doesn't map directly to parliamentary representation. It is distinct allowing every vote to count for something.
    – Jontia
    Feb 2, 2023 at 21:56
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    Excellent example without governance downside! Feb 2, 2023 at 23:16
  • The same is true in Germany and I would guess in various other European countries as well. Every vote in the German federal election gets the party around 1 Euro in public funding (provided the parties total number of votes is above some threshhold).
    – quarague
    Feb 3, 2023 at 11:01
  • Of course, the problem with the Australian system is that they don't also ban non-public funding of parties, so that vote alone isn't necessarily very meaningful still Feb 4, 2023 at 17:33
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In general it's impossible to always get what you want (even to only 1/population %).

For example look at binary decisions. Should gay marriage be legal or not? Should war be declared? Should we land on the Moon? These are not problems that can be solved in a continuous way, that would allow to make all people a bit happy.

Anyway people would quickly see through this and vote tactically, i.e. I really want X but I know that likely I will get get only Y% of it, so I vote for a larger amount instead.

Just imagine an election vote for President for example. What if we all want to become president, will we get the job (or a tiny part of it)?

A better way to go about it is organizing majorities and finding compromises that make sense instead of trying to simply average everything.

Averaging may even lead to results disliked by anyone, say half of the people want to abolish cars and the other half wants to keep them, should we then maybe keep half cars with only two tyres?

Also the premise of this question is flawed. Voting of course makes a difference even if you are in a minority now. Often enough minorities and majorities exchange over time which wouldn't happen without voting. People cannot know for sure the outcome of a vote before they vote.

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  • "Should gay marriage be legal or not? ... These are not problems that can be solved in a continuous way, that would allow to make all people a bit happy." We could have a system where everyone who doesn't like SSM doesn't get married to a person of the same sex, and people who do want to be in a SSM do. That would be a continuous solution. Dec 25, 2023 at 5:01
  • @Acccumulation The situation you describe would be that Gay marriage would in principle be legal. Opponents of that not only want that for themselves, they especially want that to be illegal for others. There is no continuous solution for binary decisions, there can't be. And especially in law there are a lot of binary decisions if it is to be applied to everyone equally. Dec 25, 2023 at 7:03
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Voting in some Australian Local Government elections meet this criteria. Note: this does not apply to all elections. Local Government is a creature of the State Governments. Local Government electoral laws and regulations vary between States and can even vary within a State (e.g. City of Melbourne Council vs electoral practices for all other Councils within the State of Victoria).

For Victorian Local Government General Elections voting is compulsory. Generally political parties do not endorse candidates in Local Government elections. There can be exceptions for example a small number of Wards where the Victorian Greens have endorsed a candidate. The vast majority of the Wards in a General election will not have an endorsed candidate.

So concentrating on the Wards with no endorsed Candidates. The position on a ballot paper is the result of a random draw. Every valid vote is counted and preferences are distributed until a Candidate accumulates a sufficient number of votes. In the 2016 City of Casey Council General Election for the Springfield ward two Councillors were to be elected. The Victorian Electoral Commision (VEC) publishes an Excel spreadsheet with the distribution of preferences. All valid votes are included. Any informal or any ballot papers where a preferece can not be determined for every candidate are discarded and not counted.

As no valid votes are discarded in the count (then in theory) it is one vote, one value with everybody having an an equal input to the outcome. Under this system a voter knows exactly how their vote will impact the results.

Of course there can be problems with the practical implementation but that is a different discussion regarding mitigation. For example the Tasmanian State and ACT with their variations of a Robson Rotation.

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  • How is that continuous? Eventually every candidate either gets elected or doesn't. Dec 25, 2023 at 5:03
  • It can only considered continuous on the basis that the outcome of each election provides a mechanism (i.e. the elected representative) to govern for the voter. Each election is a separate event that occurs on a continuous basis. The elections are held on a regular basis. In the case of Victoria the term is fixed. Guess the question is how do you define continuous, i.e. what is the appropriate interval between votes for this question? Getting off topic, but have you seen the film the Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer? (hope I got the title correct...
    – PDP11
    Dec 25, 2023 at 14:51
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I mean the question is what you want to accomplish with that.

If you want a direct 1 to 1 representation of your positions than you have to represent them by yourself. So direct democracy. And if every vote should matter you could have a veto right for every citizen.

Though there might be problems with the scaling. Like for smaller groups it's quite feasible and should be practiced more, but for larger groups it becomes a technical impossibility to even hear/read/see/... all of the possible opinions.

Like if in a country of millions of people you ask everyone to supply their opinion for a topic and you cut it really short and reduce it to a page or idk a 2 minute video that still amounts to 4000 books with 250 pages or ~4 years of continuous video material. So in order to make an informed decision you would need to know what's up with the rest and everyone would have to go through that process (unless you want a dictator, but even they would have to do that). However to account for every individual voter would require to read, view, listen to all of that and that's borderline impossible. Even if you were a full time politicians with no job, no family, friends or hobbies you'd still not have the time for that. And mind you 1 page or 2 minutes are not a lot, it won't give you a deep insight into that other person's lived reality and why they want things to change or remain the same it likely still only lists what should change or remain the same and hopefully (though not sure) in which direction it should change. However as these things are interconnected radically changing one thing (though listed as preferential) might have consequences that are way less preferential so that also doesn't scale in a linear fashion.

So either way due to the sheer magnitude of information you would be forced to aggregate and group people and positions rather than to account for them individually. Or you know you would have to give up on the idea of large empires and reduce the size of political divisions. Though given that these groups would still be connected through the environment, through trade and through various other means, there might still be a shadow society that exists de facto even if you de jure would have drawn borders.

And if 1 vote can block the entire process then there's a good chance that in a society of millions of people nothing gets done. Which might be ok if there is no urgency and blind activism for the sake of being active might not always be the best idea, so talking things through might not be the worst idea, but often enough there is some sort of urgency, often dramatic urgency and not making a decision is a decision of it's own.

So rather than individual contribution, you often have groups of people, either grouped by interests, positions, by themselves, by those ruling, ... as well as various forms of representatives, like representation as a group, representation by an elected person, representation by a delegate or spokesperson, representation by a party and a shared interest and so on.

And even with representation you could have still a multitude of options, like between a free or an imperative mandate. So has the politician so to say pro cura to speak in your voice, but to formulate ideas of their own or are they bound to the decisions of their base. So if there is a vote on X are they free to pick their side or do they have to vote the way their constituents would have voted? So is it more bottom up or more top down, are politicians experts or spokespeople, are they leaders/rulers or just ministers (assistants).

Or as you've asked about elections in particular. Are these supposed to be 1 time confirmations of the right to rule or are they a continuous process of interaction between the sovereign (the people) and the management that they have hired to do their business (politicians) or does the political supremacy rest with the politicians and the people are just asked to affirm their acceptance of the status quo.

Also some configurations of government favor certain election types and results. Like if you have some sort of antagonistic relation between subgroups of society, idk states don't getting along with each other, parties hating upon each other, class struggle, racism, xenophobia etc or if you are a minority or whatnot, then it might be beneficial to, at least at the outside, present yourself as a monolith, so rather than appearing fractured and brittle you give the impression of a powerful large force that cannot be individually broken apart.

The downside is that over time that expression might not just be on the outside but also on the inside and turn into something authoritarian. Also people aren't a monolith so even if the conflict within isn't outwardly shown it's still there and will factor in the equations just as something that unpredictable and unaccountable, so lots of potential for conflict (or as it might have already been a structure bread in conflict of continuation of conflict).

So these system might favor a winner takes all and a first past the post system. A lot of that was been made obsolete by better technical means to express oneself and a higher general education so that the concept of actual leaders should be made more and more obsolete, still the intend to speak with one voice to amplify a topic might still be of interest and produce such results.

You could also think of a society as more of a cooperative endeavor and think of the population less as different groups in terms of region and whatnot but more in terms of interests and so you might form political parties around different issues, so that you can vote on them by a popular vote where the voting fraction determines the number of seats. I mean the individual contribution is probably still low but every vote increases the fraction and thus the number of seats so maybe it's increases the fraction of the personal vote to 1/100,000 meaning you need 100,000 votes to generate a new seat for a party. That's still not a lot but it's more than having your vote be irrelevant at all if you voted for the party that doesn't win in a 2 party system.

But even with that you have the problem that "the government" is still comprised of the parties or coalitions that can gather a majority of the votes so the influence of the vote might still remain marginal.

Also what do you expect there? Like if you have millions of people and 1 vote per person then the voting power of a single person is actually that small and that's somewhat intentional. Like if you amp up the voice of 1 person the voice of another is drowned. So the only way you can actually increase the voice of the individual voter is by amplyifying their ability to participate. Idk shorter working hours, better access to information, more rights to get involved in the process and more transparent processes.

So in other words making "politics" a bigger part of the voters life.in dictatorial structures that is often requested and often denied by the politicians, but also the more people are kept out of the process and being told how hard that is, the more they also seem to enjoy the "convenience" of not having to deal with that struggle (and as a result being at the mercy of their leaders). So the question is somewhat in terms of how much do you want and can get involved in the political process.

The other problem is about the economic ability to do so, like if you have to work 9to5 in a demanding job while having a family and hobbies you might not have the time to get involved in politics that much and might not even want to compete with the intrigues of the mighty (not all interests are valid or benevolent...). So the first iterations of "democracy" often had the problem that while at least sometimes not explicitly tied to wealth (often they were explicit plutocracies), they nonetheless featured an array of wealthy people because who else had the money to spend a fortune on an election campaign and then work tirelessly in a job without pay or by 4 years or more out of the job and on modest pay to then return to where you started from just older and with an acquired skill set that might not be particularly helpful in a working class job.

While on the other hand having people transition from powerful positions in politics and economics open the door massively for corruption. So just because something is nominally equal doesn't mean it's actually so.

So there are a lot of trade-offs you need to make which might all have their benefits and drawbacks, some are technical necessities while others are by choice or the lack thereof.

TL;DR it's not just about the election process it's also about what you want to accomplish with it and what you're asking for is likely impossible in the first place (at least as of right now).

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Shareholder, non-binary, and Stakeholder voting

A shareholder can vote on operations, but this can be dilutive to modicum pluralities, majority, or super majority.

Non-binary to ask once without even a general runoff elimination, much less shifting instant rankings.

Stakeholder voting can look after nonrespondents, too, with bestowing certain powers, like a default reconciliation, not to be confused with explicit approval voting (that) is still a ranking; (that is) not to the exclusion of non-binary rounds, (however), if they are at all different to Condorcet, the law of an a la carte supposition in contrast to a plurality, (the election) becomes binary with rankings’ eliminations and shifts.

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    I would disagree as a shareholder vote can be controlled by a few people or as few as one depending on the amount of shares they have. If a small group or induvial has a a controlling amount of shares it doesn't matter what the rest vote as that group will always win the vote.
    – Joe W
    Feb 2, 2023 at 20:37
  • @JoeW depends on the bylaws incorporated or notarized, of course. Feb 2, 2023 at 20:38
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    Every system for shareholder voting that I know if is that one share gets you one vote. Which means if a company has 100 shares and someone owns 51 of those shares their vote will always win. If the remaining 49 shares are owned one a piece by 49 people their vote will never matter and all 49 can vote against the 51 share person and they will never win.
    – Joe W
    Feb 2, 2023 at 20:53
  • For industry and state, non-binary, non-explicit approval pluralities are unitary by binary issues, which are always decisive with a smallest winning set as there are many choices and/or platforms. To maximize binary issue representation by sample modicum, make more choices and/or use approval voting for old ones. People are "strategic" to break the tie, unless something changes. Feb 2, 2023 at 21:02
  • That sounds like a lot of caveats that you need to add to your answer to explain that it isn't the typical shareholder voting that comes to mind when looking at your answer.
    – Joe W
    Feb 2, 2023 at 21:09
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Frame shift: is this always desirable?

Let's say you want to build a road. It can connect to either a city 100km South or another city 100km North.

After tallying up all the votes, the balance is to build 25km North, to arrive nowhere. Does that make any sense?

One version of democracy is about everyone having a chance to choose a government - winners governs, losers wait tills next election, government is relatively free it its actions, within the given laws. Supreme Court and customs ensure limited powers by the government and the holding of the next election.

An example of that is the French government's rather unpopular decision to up retirement age to 64, from 62. Government is doing a bit as it pleases.

Another is for everyone to chip at a very granular level. Some versions of this are referendums. Or aggressively proportional representation.

They are a different approach, but not without their own drawbacks (self-serving taxes like California's Proposition 13, repeat elections like we see in Israel).

The above are very stark, oversimplified, outlines of the two approaches.

My take on this Q's proposal is that it would take the drawbacks of very granular decision making to a whole other level.

In a way, an election where everyone has a say in the government is like a parliament composed of each citizen of the country. Then parliament decisions are back to do "we do this or not?".

This is also why there is a general understanding that a government can't please all of the people all of the time.

it doesn’t matter if you vote

If you don't vote then you shouldn't complain about your government.

Finally, I would add that a variation "every person's views needs to be heard in government" (as opposed to during elections) viewpoint posited here is what earned British Columbia a third vote on PR in 13 years. After weeks and months of being lectured to that PR was only way to salvation from FPTP, the "backward curmudgeon voters" here rejected it resoundingly at 61%.

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  • there isn't a proposal in the question Feb 2, 2023 at 20:58
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    how does that modify the objection however? I am saying sometimes you need a yes or no answer. Either are OK, but something in between doesn't make sense. In a way, an election where everyone has a say in the govt is like a parliament composed of each citizen of the country. Then parliament decisions are back to do "we do this or not". Feb 2, 2023 at 21:01
  • While I understand the philosophy of saying that if you don't vote don't complain that doesn't address the concern of a vote not mattering when the victory is decided by 10-20%+ of the vote and you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of votes if not millions. Sure it is great that you went out to vote but you can be left with the feeling that it doesn't matter.
    – Joe W
    Feb 2, 2023 at 21:53
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    This is just saying that for most political questions this would not be a useful feature for an election process. This is true, but not really what the question asks. At best it explain why this isn't very common.
    – quarague
    Feb 3, 2023 at 11:04

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