First of all, I am not a politician. I am just a computer scientist. I asked this question because I do not think that I have adequate knowledge of various political systems.

Background: Over the recent months of observing different campaigns for presidential election in the U.S. and their one-sided views on everything, I got to the point of thinking that indirect vote by representatives of the people is not working any more. After checking the voting records in the U.S. Congress, I observed that when political party X proposes a bill, 99% of members of political party X agree with the bill and 99% of political party Y disagree without satisfactory debate to justify their opinion. This is a sign of a non-functional system.

Examples (based on my observations over the years): In countries like the U.S. that have two major political parties, almost no new idea (or bill) gets past Congress. In countries like the U.K. that have multiple major political parties, members of Parliament have to come up with a majority to be able to pass a bill and this itself is a very slow process. In middle eastern countries (e.g. Turkey), a single political party gets too powerful and silences opposition parties. Thus there is failure of political systems of various flavors.

Why do we have indirect voting: I believe indirect voting was made in the old days due to long distances and lack of communication. Thus a group of people was assigned a person to represent them. Then, representatives will echo the voice of their people in an attempt of greater unification. But nowadays thanks to the Internet, communication is instant. Therefore the primary reason that made us to create the indirect voting system no longer exists.

What I propose is a direct voting web platform which lets citizens of a country submit a idea (or bill), then citizens up-/down-vote the idea. If a proposed idea reaches a certain number of up-votes then all citizens of a country are able to directly cast their votes and if the majority of citizens agree with the proposed bill, then it becomes a law. To address the issue that citizens might not have time to vote, we could make the voting period weekly (i.e. every week there is a referendum online on various bills).

What are the benefits:

  1. Eliminates the concept of representatives and political parties
  2. Eliminates lobbyists and interest groups
  3. Creates a platform in which new ideas pass the barriers, and become laws more quickly than ever
  4. Eliminates the uncertainties in voting result (i.e. bipartisan support)
  5. No salaries to pay. Thus cheaper than having Parliament or senate and congress.
  6. Eliminates thirst for power (i.e. representative runs for office many times and multiple terms)

Question: I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system?

  • 27
    One possible disadvantage: tyranny of the majority. Jan 7, 2016 at 9:26
  • 14
    I'm not sure why you think the reason for representatives is the mechanical difficulty of getting everyone's vote counted. The fact that information is available online doesn't magically mean people have the time to spend analyzing it.
    – cpast
    Jan 7, 2016 at 9:39
  • 5
    Ad 5. "No salaries to pay", on the other hand if every citizen becomes effectively full-time politician (voting is much more than merely pressing the button), who (and when) is going to get the real work done? Jan 7, 2016 at 14:45
  • 37
    I used to think this was a great idea. Then I realised that people are idiots. Jan 7, 2016 at 15:51
  • 8
    When it comes to governance, inefficiency is a design feature; for more information, check out Madison's classic Federalist #10.
    – Dan Bryant
    Jan 7, 2016 at 17:14

16 Answers 16


Political parties, lobbyists, and interest groups will exist the same: in your voting platform you will need ways to make proposals stand out: how would you deal with 10000 proposals per week? No one will read them.

But things get worse: you say the system will be more efficient and that's not the case. It happens often that public opinion flips, so you will have to deal with contradictory laws passed all the time. And, on the same line, there will be no policy dictating the bills, so decisions will be made almost at random: what happens when the first two bills of the year spend the whole year's budget?

  • 21
    And the third bills is a tax reduction!
    – SJuan76
    Jan 7, 2016 at 16:13
  • I can't believe no answer (this included) quoted Torqueville (sp?) :)
    – user4012
    Jan 7, 2016 at 16:51
  • You are bringing up valid concerns - I think that having direct vote system with option of representation would easily solve this. See my answer for more details. Worst case scenario, with system I propose we would have same problems we currently have: 1. US government running out of money every year, as we all well remember from 2013 US government shutdown because of debt ceiling debate in Congress / 2. Most of the governments around the world proposing budgets with deficits.
    – nikib3ro
    Jan 7, 2016 at 19:49
  • @user4012 Might you be referring to - "The State is the Great Fiction by which every citizen strives to live at the expense of everybody else?" (paraphrased; I didn't refer to the source) Jan 7, 2016 at 20:31
  • ...10000 proposals per week? In short, total chaos and a very likely complete collapse for a nation such as the U.S.A. In a smaller, more homogenous society, direct voting has more potential. As the society gets larger, oscillations are likely to get wilder. Jan 9, 2016 at 13:03

You should look at the political system of Switzerland, it is not what you propose but went into that direction. When there is a clear consensus on an issue in the parliament, there is typically no popular vote. In some cases, uncontroversial news laws have to be adopted by referendums because the law requires so. and in addition, if a significant portion (even a small minority) of the parliament asks for referendum, they can ask a certain number of citizens to sign the referendum, and if this certain number of signatures is reached, a referendum is held.

As such we as citizens have to vote to at least a dozen of subject each year. This leads to many advantages, however it is far from the ideal democracy that some people, including you, imagine. Lobbies are (in my opinion) just as powerful than in other countries, if not even more because they are more legitimized by the system, and they basically rule the country. They can manipulate the average citizen just as well as they can manipulate politicians , in fact even more, because the average citizen is much less educated, and as such, is more subject to external influence.

We do not use the internet for voting because of two major issues

  • Not everyone has a computer nor internet access. It might seem unimaginable for you, or even for me, but I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of the retired people here, which form about 20% of the citizens, never used a computer, ever, let alone an internet connection. I don't think the situation in other 1st world countries has a reason to be very different.

  • Security issues. You're basically handing the political system to potential pirates that could vote for you. It's also much harder to prevent political fraud, that is people voting for others.

Internet voting is still considered for the future (as an option, not mandatory, just like paying bills, so that older people can still vote). But it hasn't been implemented yet.

  • 13
    I am living in a city which allows referendums on citizens initiative. I made the same observations: Lobbies do invest large amounts of money into advertising campaigns to influence these referendums. We even had a case where a private company initiated a "citizens initiative" to overrule a government decision to deny them a permit for a construction project. They lost the vote, but only barely.
    – Philipp
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:53
  • 5
    Don't get me wrong, I consider these referendums a great tool for citizen participation. But they are not the perfect solution to all problems. They can supplement an elected government, but I wouldn't consider them as a replacement for one.
    – Philipp
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:59
  • 2
    @Philipp Your point is basically my point. Not only companies and lobbies rule the country, but also it appear legitimate, as average people voted. And a few years after the vote, the law is somehow worked arround if it isn't like they wanted to, so it makes no difference at all.
    – Bregalad
    Jan 7, 2016 at 13:51
  • 2
    I get to hear Swiss radio, so tend to follow this a bit. Sometimes the result of a referendum is extremely embarrassing for the government (like the one to forbid mosques from having minarets) but if they are passed they have to implement them. And yes, there is a lot of aggressive advertising on television and radio and on posters. Referenda work relatively well in Switzerland because it is very small and the population have a high standard of education. Even then it is open to abuse.
    – RedSonja
    Jan 7, 2016 at 13:52
  • 1
    On the other hand here in Baden-Württemberg we had a referendum recently, on whether to continue building a large railway station in the capital town. The government wanted to stop the project and were very sure that the voters wanted to stop it too. However the voters wanted it built and so they are obliged to continue. They had to extract their own supporters from the trees and park to permit work to continue, great schadenfreude for the rest of us.
    – RedSonja
    Jan 7, 2016 at 13:56

The problem is that voters can't possibly be properly informed on every issue under consideration. Political representatives can give their attention to those issues on a full-time basis, and have staffs to study the issues in detail and brief them. Your representatives are not supposed to just vote the way you would -- they're supposed to vote the way that you would if you were fully informed on the issue, which may well be different.

  • 2
    This! For sure. One of the most common complaints of our current representatives is how they aren't always all that well informed on a lot of subjects they vote on...multiply that by the population as a whole and you're not necessarily going to end up with thoughtful votes.
    – user1530
    Jan 8, 2016 at 4:53
  • 1
    Recommend an edit, reflecting that not even our current political representatives can't read every bill they are expected to sign. Jan 8, 2016 at 5:09
  • 2
    @DrunkCynic well, we could argue they are expected to...but we don't seem to enforce that as voters much. :)
    – user1530
    Jan 8, 2016 at 5:41
  • 1
    @blip Thus the problems that lead to solutions like the Question poses. It is far easier to control 535 individuals than a country. Jan 8, 2016 at 5:46
  • 2
    The last sentence is the key. I don't have the time to get all of that information any more than I have the time to attend medical school, culinary institute... I pay doctors, chefs etc. to do those things for me. The difference with representative government is that I don't get to choose someone who really represents me. Instead, I have to pick the lesser of two evils. If I could vote for any of the 435 members of the House instead of just my district, and each of their votes were weighted thereby, it would far more accurately represent the public. Jan 8, 2016 at 17:48

I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system

One disadvantage of your proposal is that representative government takes advantage of division of labor, and you would lose that advantage.

Just as a board of directors for a large company may not want to undertake the time and effort to review and make decisions on every matter the company faces (due to their time constraints), those represented in a democracy similarly may wish to delegate the responsibility of legislating to their representatives. This is similar to other situations in which principals choose to employ agents to represent them, in order to take advantage of not only their agents' time, but also those agents' expertise. (Note: that said, there are widely recognized problems often present in the principals' ability to ensure their agents represent the principals' interests (see Wikipedia.)

Especially given the complexities inherent in the world today (and therefore the depth of detail, legal obscurities, and the like represented in actual legislation), the ordinary voter in a democracy may find his or her time better spent on other activities than doing enough research in order to form an opinion on each potential piece of legislation. Therefore electing representatives who the voters believe can be trusted as responsible delegates may represent a much more efficient outcome.

  • I think the biggest problem is that people see direct and representative democracy as something that can't be combined. I don't see reason why it can't - just make voting process easier, the same way it was done for banking. If I want to do my voting/banking online, allow me. If I want to stick to offline, let me do that. And as soon as you have online voting, implementing something like LiquidFeedback would be easy and would improve our current political system immensely; see my answer.
    – nikib3ro
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:01
  • @Kape123: Direct Democracy exists in every state at some level (Referalls on law are options in all 50 states, Referrals on Constitution amendments are options in all but DE, about half have some form of Citizen Referendum on some kind, the most common being veto of legislation, but proposed legislation and constitutional amendments exist, as do Recall elections). The Swiss took that model and implemented it at a Federal level.
    – hszmv
    Nov 9, 2017 at 15:18

TLDR: What I am proposing in my answer is combination of representative and direct democracy. @hstoerr has left a link to LiquidFeedback that implements almost everything I am talking about in my answer.

Software developer here also - but as you, I have also been thinking a lot about this problem over past few years.

When you take everything into consideration, I would say that two biggest issues in current political system are:

  1. You can't easily change your political representatives (in lots of cases people don't even know who is representing them on local / state / federal levels)
  2. Power is concentrated within small groups - you have professional politicians who are in some cases completely disconnected from reality.

By tackling those two issues I assume we would solve majority of frustrations that people have with political system. So, how we would do that? Well, actually - easy - all we need to do is implement voting systems that would support few things:

  1. Allow people to directly vote on proposals submitted to the country assembly
  2. For those who do not want to vote directly, they can pick representative. Representative can be anyone, but his history of votes is public. That way you can find someone who votes the way you like practically give your vote allowing him to represent you. In interest of brevity I will stop here but obviously there are lots of ideas applicable here: if you don't like how your representative voted on some issue you can change your vote manually if voting is still in progress... people should be allowed to easily switch their representative on a monthly / yearly level... etc

A great example of a "better voting" system is how moderators are picked here on StackExchange. I urge you to visit StackOverFlow elections page if you haven't already and look at how awesome the whole process is. I was stunned when I saw how well process functions and basically allows the best candidates to be picked regardless of their background and years. This especially struck me as a great example of how broken our current political system is - in SO elections some candidates were younger than 15 years and yet I voted for them because of quality presentation and ability to see their history of votes / answers.

In "real world election" these candidates wouldn't be able to run for anything regardless of their ability simply because they are were less than 18/21 years old.

EDIT: As I am reading what others wrote in their answers I'll try to provide my view on things they bring up.

  • @MartinArgerami brings up two issues:
  • "How would you deal with 10000 proposals per week? No one will read them". I think this one is easily solved - you have more than 10000 submissions to Reddit, Imgur, StackExchange yet what is considered "good" content tends to flow to the top. The same way people are allowed to upvote/downvote a question on StackOverflow, they would be allowed to upvote/downvote proposal. And, as I say in my answer, representatives would make filtering easier - for those who don't want to read / vote on every single proposal. Plus since they have votes of people they represent, with their upvotes/downvotes they would effectively act as moderators.

    Taking @blip 's comment into account - to clarify - I am not saying that Reddit, Imgur, StackExchange ranking and upvote/downvote systems are FLAWLESS. Great submissions may slip through the cracks. Silly submissions may reach front page (Christmas selfies on Imgur, anyone?). However, any ranking system is infinitely better than "let's just leave it only to professional politicians to prioritize and have 0 control" system. As I said previously in my answer, I urge you to visit StackOverFlow elections page and see how well implemented upvote/downvote system is working in practice, for moderator election.

  • "What happens when the first two bills of the year spend the whole year's budget?". This is not really relevant to my answer as what I am proposing is tied to making current political system more accessible / transparent to average person, rather than getting into what people decide. That being said, I highly doubt allowing people to vote directly would lead to "first two bills spent whole year's budget". Ironically, this already happened numerous times in current political system. 2013 US government shutdown because of US Congress was blocked from raising debt ceiling is a great example.

  • "Not everyone has a computer nor internet access.". Again, I think the biggest issue is here is that people look at direct voting and representation as mutually exclusive options. They are not. With system I am talking about in this answer, there is no obstacle for allowing people to vote "the old way" during transition period - i.e. have election day during which people pick their representative in assembly / congress and he votes for them for 4-6 years. But, those who want should be allowed to pick their representative more often and access their representatives vote history.
  • "Security" - obviously there is no silver bullet here. But that shouldn't discourage anyone - in world where you can use mobile phone as credit card, voting shouldn't be a big deal. Yes, there will be problems and people will need to improve their technical knowledge to ensure their account is not compromised. But since people are already doing this for their Online Banking / Facebook / Twitter accounts, I doubt they wouldn't be doing it for online voting.

EDIT, EDIT: Phew, lots of issues to tackle. I will keep typing... here are some of the things that I think could be especially problematic with system I proposed... that I still haven't responded to:

  • Confidentiality - considering that for direct vote everyone needs to see the proposals, how to handle confidential / sensitive / national security proposals?
  • 1
    "For those who do not want to vote directly, they can pick representative" = is that not exactly what we already have in the US?
    – user1530
    Jan 8, 2016 at 4:50
  • 3
    Also..."StackExchange yet what is considered "good" content always flows to the top"...I disagree completely with this. Interesting content is often flowing to the top. And really bad content is usually at the bottom. But if you peruse the 'hot questions' column on the right, you'll find a lot of not-great questions often with really bad answers. Popularity, alas, doesn't necessarily mean quality. See also: American Idol.
    – user1530
    Jan 8, 2016 at 4:52
  • 1
    Well, actually, it is pretty easy to change our representatives. We have term limits, and they have to go up for a vote again. That we have a problem with voter apathy is the bigger issue. But the system is set up to remove bad representatives on a routine basis.
    – user1530
    Jan 8, 2016 at 5:41
  • 1
    Well, "years" isn't that long in political time. You can't really judge a representative's ability in less than a couple of years anyways. As for paper voting limiting the candidate pool, I don't quite understand the connection there. Regardless, the point I was trying to get across is that in the US, the system was specifically designed to make it easy to remove a representative. That we don't utilize the system like we should is a different, though obviously related, problem.
    – user1530
    Jan 8, 2016 at 6:04
  • 1
    @kape123 In a decent manually counted voting system anybody can observe and verify every step of the rather simple process. And as a software developer I know how hopelessly complex and fragile software is - it can easily be hacked, even the hardware. To be able to verify this, you'd have to invent something really ingenious. Your suggestions secure against voter fraud, but the really big issue of computer voting is fraud by hacking the voting / counting process by any of the many multi billion dollar organizations, who'd have a massive interest in that. How to prevent that? Jan 10, 2016 at 8:54

I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system and has the idea of direct voting in every issue (referendum) ever been implemented or is it even possible to implement?

Many states in the US do this with voter referendums. Voters can propose laws, then vote to implement, and then the state passes it into law regardless of the representative's votes. Washington state is one that does this.

There are definite pros and definite cons.

One pro is that it allows the people to circumvent the oft-times ineffectual gridlock of a two party system. Another is that it allows proposals that would never make it to the light of day from congress due to being "politically dangerous" topics. In WA state, some examples of that could include the voter referendums that legalized marijuana and gay marriage...topics that politicians felt were overly controversial and preferred not to deal with.

But then there are the cons. One con is simply a lack of understanding of the big picture. Running a government isn't easy and masses aren't necessarily any more (and possibly, quite less) informed about the big picture than the representatives are. An example of that is WA's recent referendum to create a charter school system. Alas, while the referendum passed, it was unconstitutional.

Another con is that you'd loose the typical due-diligence process that most legislation goes through which includes things like alternative proposals, revisions, committees, public feedback, industry feedback, hearings, analysis, etc. Public voting on referendums, as such, requires that said referendums be fairly static and limited in scope. (One could argue that that happens prior to it becoming a referendum proposal, but it's still limited in scope as to how flexible of a process that can be).

Beyond that, perhaps neither a pro nor a con, it can be noted that voter referendums can suffer from the same plights as policies proposed and pushed for by representatives. This can include things like heavy corporate influence (typically in the form of money) such as the battle over GMO labelling and highly influential disruptors such a Tim Eyman who are considered by many to simply be a nuisance.

And finally, as stated, the typical argument against direct democracy is the issue of tyranny of the majority. Of course, one could argue that problem already exists with a two party representational system. :)

  • 1
    The initiative to limit vehicle license fees in WA is another potential con example that is having serious repercussions many years later. The streets/bridges/etc. infrastructure still has no viable long-term funding source. The 'People' en masse have a hard time seeing beyond paying their personal monthly bills to envision results a decade later. Jan 9, 2016 at 12:58

In the country I am from there have been a few groups who have in intended this. None of them were very successful however.

To answer your question, the disadvantages I see are:

  • Having secret ballots cast digitally, given the dangers of hacking that it entails. Personally I am more inclined to have completely open and transparent elections. Something that would obviously only work in a stable, peaceful and transparent democracy. Having said that, there are quite a few technical solutions to this problem already. One basic version of that is https://github.com/benadida/helios

  • The potential danger of voting fraud is much greater given that it's much easier to defraud an election. There needs to be a way for people and the media to verify that a vote has been tallied correctly.

  • In a transition period from a representative to a direct democracy, one would need to mimic the existing already established procedures on how votings currently takes place in parliaments and senates. This can become overly complex and convoluted.

Having said that, direct democracy is obviously the far superior alternative, and is most likely what we will have in the future. I can envision people discussing and voting on an online platform on issues that matter the most to them. Where people will have the ability to delegate their vote to any "politician". And have the ability to override that delegated vote on issues they disagree. Obviously they would also be free to switch their delegated vote at any time. And being able to pick such a "politician" for whatever issue they want. Thus making it radically different from the representative democracy we have today.

  • 1
    Direct Democracy provides insufficient protections for individual rights, allowing the majority to override the freedoms of the minority. Jan 8, 2016 at 18:54
  • "direct democracy is obviously the far superior alternative" = how so? The reason we have representational democracy in many cases is because in part, people didn't agree that direct democracy was far superior.
    – user1530
    Jan 11, 2016 at 3:27
  • @DrunkCynic: That's true in a representative democracy as well. Just look at the rise of Hitler and the implementation of the Patriot Act. Jan 11, 2016 at 3:30
  • @blip: The reason we have representative democracy is because it hasn't been possible in practice to implement direct democracy, until now. Direct democracy is obviously superior as it gives you more flexibility and freedoms when it comes to voting. Jan 11, 2016 at 3:32
  • 1
    @dan-klasson no, that's not the reason. There are many reasons. One being that direct democracy, simply put, is majority rule. And that, alas, backfires as much as it succeeds.
    – user1530
    Jan 11, 2016 at 3:34

The main issue I see in this system is how to turn it on; you'll need a law for it (or a more deep modification of the political system), and guess who has to approve it?, yes; the folks that would loose some of their power when the thing starts to work.

It could be approved by a referendum, but with the entire political system against that could be really hard.

  • +1 - this is 100% true. But I guess change of political system would happen the same way it was happening throughout the history: once overwhelming majority of people believe that new system should be established, it would simply happen one way or the other. I guess I should expand on this in my answer, too ;)
    – nikib3ro
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:06
  • @kape123 not sure if we can find a change at this scale that removed the power from politicians and ended up nicely Jan 8, 2016 at 18:15
  • Also true ;) - I am not sure either. But, as I say... it will be one way or the other as it was throughout the history. Although, I am somewhat optimistic when taking into account Gandhi led India revolution or USA Civil Rights movement.
    – nikib3ro
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:23
  • Ballot #1: Should we fix the pothole in front of Joe's house?
  • Ballot #2: Should we fix the pothole in front of Mary's house?
  • Ballot #3: Should we fix the pothole in front of Bob's house?
  • Ballot #4: Should we fix the pothole in front of Dylans's house?
  • Ballot #5: Should we fix the pothole in front of Mike's house?
  • Ballot #6: Should we fix the pothole in front of Joe's (wait joe again?) house?
  • Ballot #7: Should we fix the pothole in front of Molly's house?
  • Ballot #8: Should we fix the pothole in front of Kyle's house?
  • Ballot #9: Should we fix the pothole in front of Ahmeds's house?
  • Ballot #10: Should we fix the pothole in front of Jackie's house?
  • Ballot #11: Should we fix the pothole in front of Tahera's house?
  • Ballot #12: Should we fix the pothole in front of Hifsa's house?
  • Ballot #13: Should we fix the pothole in front of Gerri's house?
  • Ballot #14: Should we fix the pothole in front of Ben's house?
  • Ballot #15: Should we fix the pothole in front of David's house?
  • Ballot #16: Should we fix the pothole in front of Nick's house?



Sorry, was I boring you? Its OK, we only have a few hundred million of these to go. After all, anyone can submit a bill, so everyone's going to submit what they needs. I'm sure everyone will spend all their time sort through the crap and voting correctly.

This is one of the many reasons why we have representation. Direct democracy just doesn't work at any sort of scale.

A few other flaws:

  • Can you promise me that your web system will have perfect security and will never be hacked? Because voting integrity is pretty important for any form of democracy
  • Can you promise me that all votes will remain anonymous, yet verifiable to the public? We can't even do this in our democratic republic right now (because its a really hard problem)
  • The latest FB meme says we should vote for X. Now we have 100M people voting blindly based off a FB meme
  • I accidentally left my computer unlocked and my cat voted to start a nuclear war. Oops.
  • I built this app that will help automate your voting for you. I hope it works...
  • "The latest FB meme" - on one hand, you're absolutely right. On the other hand, half of Congress probably votes the way Barbara Streisand tells them to vote. Or Matt Damon. And I don't just mean on issues directly affecting film industry.
    – user4012
    Sep 1, 2016 at 16:39

This does not work I am in a similar field as the OP and have been toying with this concept in my head for almost a year and here are the problems I keep coming to.

This system allows for a pure democracy which is great in ideal but falls apart for several reasons.

First as others have pointed out public sentiment swings randomly. A representative democracy is better because a society needs to have individuals whose time is dedicated to the understanding and scrutiny of public policy. Us ordinary folk don't have the time or knowledge to adequately review and deliberate each and every single legislation. [not saying our current representative system does this well either but imagine compounding that issue by several million fold]. Not to mention people(plural) are inherently resistant to change so revolutionary concepts would also be hindered by this.

Some people have noted that web access is one challenge. This problem is less of an issues as currently there are tons of corporate initiatives to get everyone access to the web. Raspberry Pi and Google as some of the bigger efforts.

The real issue here is security. Currently, everyone is getting hacked left and right and while there is concerted international effort on this issue a resolution is undoubtedly a distant dream. This is mostly because just as there is incentive to not be hacked there is plenty of incentive to hack. If a nation decided to control its public policy over web services other nations would have great incentive to hack that system to promote their agenda, let alone special interest groups.

There are other issues with this I have contemplated but cant remember now in passing. I think a more valuable solution would be to create a system that increases the dialogue and transparency between an elected official and their constituency. Where the official must justify their decision, where they can gain more knowledge and insight on an issue of contention. Recently, I have been hearing about various apps that are following this very concept, but I have yet to try them.


Lots of great answers already, also keep in mind that political systems are usually built output–oriented and with longevity in mind. They are able to respond to changes/problems/needs without much delay (voting) and are able to withstand the many sudden changes of opinion in the population (e.g. populism).

When you say you want to eliminate political parties and the concept of representatives, I don't think you are fully aware of the enormous scope of the issues they handle. Look it up! Many, most of the incredibly specific issues wouldn't be understood by the majority of all people and they would not care about them either. Parties formed for a reason, elimination of transaction costs, and while the information processing of the US/EU political systems isn't perfect it is probably the best there is...

Now if you are talking about more direct democracy, say like Switzerland, then I am all for it :)



The classic example is Socrates. Socrates favored democracy in Athens. People who disagreed with him promoted a vote to make Socrates commit suicide. Many of them regarded this purely as a lark. After all, Socrates wouldn't actually commit suicide...right?

Well, they won that battle and got the bill passed. They lost the war when Socrates committed suicide. Now, Socrates did this because he really believed in democracy. He gained something with his sacrifice, even though he never saw it.

Are you willing to be subject to a vote like that? On your worst day? Maybe you figure that you just aren't important enough to lose a national vote. But what happens when circumstances make you that well known? After all, you just made yourself the parent of federal direct democracy in the US.


Go look at what gets 50% support in polls sometime. We'd have a Muslim ban, a 100% tax on incomes over $100,000, a guarantee of free healthcare, a ban on political contributions by corporations, etc.

They'd ignore it

In California, they passed a referendum that requires companies to charge the same auto insurance rates regardless of zip code. But it isn't enforced. California has an insurance commissioner, and every one since the referendum has simply ignored it.

You say that's just California? Look at the eleventh amendment to the constitution. Not passed by referendum, but it is the law of the land. However, it is routinely ignored via a legal fiction. When a citizen of a state wants to sue the government of a state, instead of suing the state, they sue the individual responsible for enforcing the law. This effectively allows them to sue the state in federal courts, even though this was explicitly disallowed by the eleventh amendment.

In practice

So our Muslim ban would consist of an immigration official telling a group of people that none of them are actually Muslims. The official wouldn't ask them or anything, as that could lead to confusion (some of them probably think that they are Muslims).

The 100% tax on incomes over $100,000 would be evaded by each high income person declaring a business. The business would accept their wages and allow them to spend the money. But they would have no income themselves. This would lead to no tax revenue from the 100% tax, as everyone would evade it.

People would be expecting a guarantee of free healthcare to mean Cadillac plans for all. In actuality, in order to get free healthcare, you have to go through Medicaid. No doctors would take it, as it pays lousy. Everyone would have to buy supplemental plans to get actual care. Because of course, we still wouldn't want to pay taxes for our "free" healthcare.

A ban on politics by corporations would eliminate political reporting by newspapers if enforced literally. If not, then you'd find that everyone was a newspaper. Or that we'd have selective censorship. This organization that I like is a newspaper. This one that I don't? Ban them.

Addressing your benefits directly

Eliminates the concept of representatives and political parties

No. The laws still need to be enforced, so you still have representatives. And even if those representatives don't belong to political parties (itself questionable), people promoting the laws would form political parties.

Not a benefit.

Eliminates lobbyists and interest groups

No. It eliminates lobbying of legislatures. The interest groups would still have interests and they'd directly lobby voters.

Not a benefit.

Creates a platform in which new ideas pass the barriers, and become laws more quickly than ever

Sure. But would they be good ideas? Most ideas follow a pattern. First, someone proposes one and people come up with reasons why it would work. Then, later, people start thinking about why it wouldn't work. But under your system, the idea is already passed by then. I'm really not convinced that the problem with our current system is that there aren't enough laws. Personally, I'm more interested in pruning than growing.

Not a benefit in my opinion. Admittedly this is an effect.

No salaries to pay. Thus cheaper than having Parliament or senate and congress.

Not true. You'd have this huge voting apparatus and someone would have to run it. Also, most of the cost isn't the legislature. It's the executive that costs money. The legislature is just a rounding error in that. In the US federal government there are 535 legislators making less than $200,000 each. That's only $100 million. The government budget is in the trillions.

Not a benefit.

Eliminates thirst for power (i.e. representative runs for office many times and multiple terms)

And again, this would still exist, as wielding executive power is still power. Even if you somehow eliminate elected officials, someone is still going to actually be running the government. Who?

Not a benefit.

  • Your "Trump" category twists one topic that he supported and then includes a whole bunch that are clearly his political opposition. Perhaps you could find a better heading.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jun 11, 2021 at 19:32

I am wondering what are possible disadvantages of such a political system and has the idea of direct voting in every issue (referendum) ever been implemented or is it even possible to implement?

There are many places where direct vote is used for tense / complicated matters.

As an example, the last mayor of a nearby town foresaw the problems that "enforcing" changes to the town's main street ( 1 less car way, and more parking space ) , would cause to his reputation, so he made public, electronic poll (with voting stations on public spaces) on that district (and lost). the changes were not made, and a new poll was made to find out a alternative change, and a similar measure was found to be greatly accepted.

Ofcourse, we're speaking of a concrete change on a city, so answering your question:

- is it possible to implement?

Completely? no. We will always need political representatives to do the job, hire contractors, make the plans, etc...


we can (and in my country, if everything goes well, we will soon) prepare the ground for the citizens to decide on the crucial matters .

  • how we might do it?

The plan is that every party inside the parliament / local government would have to power to call for a referendum on a subject or matter, and that any social movement / group of citizens with enough signatures (equal to the vote cost of 1 seat on the parliament / local government , for example) could do so too.

Changes to the constitution, or bills passed that go against the elections program / promises of the ruling party should have to be passed by referendum too, because nobody voted you ( the politician ) to do that.

Example, the "Open Government" initiative of Barcelona's City Council. Open Government

- does that mean that every issue can be solved by referendum?

No, because that would both take too long to be efficient, and would make those same referendums become useless, and, in a long time , increase abstention in the voters, giving power only to the interested ones.

  • Welcome to SE. I would love to see more citations. You obviously are referencing actual events, so links to more information would improve your answer a lot. Jan 12, 2016 at 16:19

Mechanical Concern
As a computer scientists, how do you propose a system that would provide access to every citizen for voting would be secure?

Abandoning the Rule of Law
You're suggestion demonstrates a drastic upheaval of the initial design of the Federal Government for these United States. We aren't a democracy, ruled by the whims of the majority, subjugating the minority (at least, not as designed). Instead we're a republic, built upon the novel concept that the individual is endowed with inalienable rights, and that it is for the interest of their protection and growth that they surrender a portion of those rights to the government.

  • 3
    We are a democracy; we're just a representative democracy.
    – Publius
    Jan 7, 2016 at 6:54
  • 2
    @Awi No. These United States were designed as a Constitutional Republic. Choose your reference: wikipedia, washington post, NY Times, Merriam-Webster, etc. Jan 7, 2016 at 7:22
  • 1
    The two are not incompatible. We are also a democracy. Choose your reference: wikipedia, Freedom House, Economist, etc.
    – Publius
    Jan 7, 2016 at 9:54
  • 3
    To elaborate on the mechanical concerns: It is possible to have an online voting system which guarantees anonymity of voters and to have a system which is resistant to any manipulation attempts, but there is no way which can provide both at the same time. So either you will be able to tell exactly who voted for what or the system will be vulnerable to manipulation. Pick your poison.
    – Philipp
    Jan 7, 2016 at 13:06
  • 2
    @drunkcynic First, that clause applies only to state governments. Second, as I pointed out, our government is republican and democratic. Third, the term "republican" in that clause has no defined legal meaning (its exact definition had been determined by the courts to be a non-justiciable political question).
    – Publius
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:08

In addition to the above answers, there are other issues such as:

  1. Hackers and people who will try to manipulate the system. Hacking and attacks such as ransomware have harmed digital systems and allowed others to manipulate these systems to their advantage or steal important data. You need to have a secure system to hold the votes that will not be stolen or manipulated by a single collective of skilled hackers.

  2. 77% of Americans have smartphones, which means a large number of Americans - even if your system is smartphone accessible - won't be able to connect to your system through the internet with a personal device. Only 73% of American households have internet, so these people would either be unable to vote or have to go to designated voting similar to what we already have.

  3. Even if this is a large open source program, you still might have to have salaries to pay the people who will have to work to implement this system. Many new technologies like distributed ledgers, machine learning, and cybersecurity alerts will have to be implemented for this system. Thus, the pay that might have gone to representatives will have to go to these individuals as well as the resources to keep everything functioning smoothly during situations where everything isn't working properly (hackers, malware, hardware issues, etc.).


Steve Melnikoff gave an excellent example: tyranny of the majority. The link he provided gives several strong disadvantages. Basically, direct democracy can quickly deteriorate into a mob rule and oppression of minorities. Picture lynchings 75 years ago; that was pretty much the direct democracy you propose.

Let's go through you advantages one at a time.

  1. Eliminates the concept of representatives and political parties

What is the advantage of that?

  1. Eliminates lobbyists and interest groups

Not even close. Lobyists and interest groups avertise to votes probably more often than to politicians. And common folks often don't even understand that they are being lied to by the interest groups.

  1. Creates a platform in which new ideas pass the barriers, and become laws more quickly than ever

OMG! The dumbest ideas that can wreck about everything but sound good to untrained ears would pass the vote, then, after they cause the damage, an extreme correction would pass even quicker, causing even more damage. There would be no stability whatsoever: one day we'd be building the wall, the next day we'll be breaking it, and the next day we'd be building it again. The purpose of bicameral Congress is to avoid rash decision; with direct voting there will be no safeguard.

  1. Eliminates the uncertainties in voting result (i.e. bipartisan support)

As if it's easier to have 340,000,000 agree on something that less than 600.

  1. No salaries to pay. Thus cheaper than having Parliament or senate and congress.

Congressional salaries are peanuts compared to the wasteful damage dumb decisions can to to economy. And to understand why decisions would often be dumb consider that, unlike the elected representatives who usually have graduate degrees, many people don't understand fractions

  1. Eliminates thirst for power (i.e. representative runs for office many times and multiple terms)

Thirst for power doesn't require elected positions. Bullshit artist will run the show by appealing to voters, pretty much like politicians do during elections, except that with direct voting that would be going on continuously.

Also consider how Facebook, Twitter, and Google CEO drastically affected votes via censorship, and they weren't elected by anybody.

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