Now, a group of technologists and blockchain enthusiasts are asking whether a new approach could reform the system, bringing citizens closer to their representatives and holding congressmen accountable to their voters in a public, verifiable way. And if you live in western San Francisco, you can actually vote to put this system into office.
The concept is known as liquid democracy, and it’s a solid choice for fixing a broken system. The idea is that every person should have the right to give feedback on a policy issue or a piece of new legislation, but often people don’t have the time to do so. Using a liquid democracy platform, however, that voter can select a personal representative who has the authority to be a proxy for their vote. That proxy can be changed at will as a voter’s interests change.
Here is where the magic happens. Those proxies can themselves proxy their votes to other people, creating a directed network graph, ideally connecting every voter to politicians and all publicly verified on a blockchain. While there may be 700,000 people in a congressional district, potentially only a few hundred of a few thousand “super proxies” would need to be deeply engaged in the system for better representation to take place.
David Ernst is a leader of the liquid democracy movement and now a candidate for California Assembly District 19, which centers on the western half of San Francisco. He is ardently committed to the concept, and despite its novelty, believes that this is the path forward for improving governance….
Following college (which he began at age 16) and a few startup jobs, Ernst began working as CTO of a startup called Numerai, a crypto-backed decentralized hedge fund that allows data scientists to earn money when they solve data challenges. “The idea was that we can include many more people to participate in the system who weren’t able to before,” Ernst explained. That’s when it hit him that the decentralized nature of blockchain could allow for more participation in politics, fusing his two passions.
Ernst followed the campaign of the Flux Party in Australia in 2016, which is trying to implement what it calls “issue-based direct democracy” in that country’s legislature. “That was when something clicked,” he said. A congressman for example could commit to voting the calculated liquid democracy position, and “We could elect these sort of remote-controlled politicians as a way to graft this new system onto the old system.”
He built a platform called United.vote to handle the logistics of selecting personal representatives and voting on issues. More importantly, the app then tracks how those votes compare to the votes of congressmen and provides a scorecard….(More)”.