Hierarchial voluntary constituencies

"Hierarchial voluntary constituencies" is a different way of electing representatives to a legislative body.

Voluntary constituencies

First, the "voluntary constituency" part. Instead of each voter being placed into a set district, each voter __chooses their own__ district. In this scheme, districts (which are referred to instead as __constituencies__) do not necessarily have anything to do with geographic boundaries; each constituency is simply a group of people who has decided to band together and elect a single representative. Any citizen may at any time leave their current constituency, and join some other constituency, or even create a new constituency along with a group of other citizens.

Constituencies have a certain minimum size; for example, one person cannot be their own constituency. Constituencies also have a maximum size; this ensures that a nationally recognized politican cannot create a constituency so large that its individual members effectively have no influence over hir.

It is expected that people who share political beliefs or interests will group together into constituencies. Many people may choose to group based on geographic proximity; therefore, a "voluntary constituency" system provides a way for local interests to be served, just as the current fixed-district system does; one might see, for example, a "Del Mar" constituency. Other people may choose to group together based on party affiliation, for example, a constituency named "Republican chapter #5341". Still other people may choose to group together based on groups of issues that cross traditional party lines; for instance, a "fiscal discipline" constituency that advocates reducing the deficit. Any of these may be combined; for example, one might see a "Del Mar Republicans" constituency, or a "Democrats for fiscal discipline constituency". Voluntary constituencies also provide a mechanism for groups of dissenters within a political party to have a voice; for instance, one might see a "Republicans for marijuana legalization" constituency.

In this scheme, the representatives are called __delegates__. Each constituency elects one delegate. The constituency's delegate is __recallable__, meaning that the constituency can vote to replace its delegate with another person at any time, not just at pre-specified election times.

All of the delegates from all of the constituencies together form the legislature.


In a medium-size organization, the structure just described may be all you need. However, in very large organizations, either the total number of constituencies would have to be very large (and since each constituency has one delegate, that means the number of representatives in the legislature grows unweildy; but as noted earlier, we'd rather have a very small number of people in the legislature), or the number of people in each constituency would have to be very large (causing problems such as the way that each U.S. Senator serves so many people that they don't have time to talk to you, and they don't really need your individual support anyway). This is where the "hierarchical" comes in.

Instead of putting all of the delegates into the legislature, let the delegates themselves play the part of the voters in a second level of voluntary constituencies. That is, the delegates group themselves together into 2nd-order constituencies, and each 2nd-order constituency chooses a 2nd-order delegate. For example, one might see both of the delegates from the "Del Mar Republicans" and the "Republicans for marijuana legalization" together join a 2nd-order constituency of "Southern California Republicans".

These 2nd-order delegates could themselves form the legislature, or the process could repeat again to produce 3rd-order delegates. The total structure forms a "delegate pyramid", with the voters on the broad bottom level of the pyramid and the legislators at the top. However, the delegates in the middle are not powerless. For example, the 1st-order delegates (who represent the base voters' constituencies) can always recall and replace the 2nd-order delegates representing them. Because of the constant threat of recall, each delegate will be expected to constantly consult with the members of the constituency that elected them.

The advantage of such a hierarchial system is that one can have both a small number of legislators at the top, and also a relatively small number of members in each constituency. The advantage of a small number of members in each constituency is, first, that delegate do not have to do mass campaigning; your delegate will be someone who attends group meetings with you, someone who has time to talk to you; someone who is a good friend of an acquaintence of yours; not someone who you see on T.V. and who has to be judged by soundbites. In other words, with small enough constituencies, there is no need for mass campaigning, and politicans can be chosen based on sounder criteria than who is good with television appearences. Second, because the delegate __can__ communicate with their individual constituents, they will be __expected__ to; if the delegate doesn't answer individuals' phone calls, and make time to explain to them why they voted a certain way, and let their constituents try to convince them of a point of view, then the constituency will most replace them with someone else who does.

It seems to me that it would be best to have the lower constituency sizes larger, allowing one to make the higher constituency sizes smaller. For a nation approximately the size of the U.S., with about 200,000,000 people eligible to vote [1], one could have a delegate pyramid with 4 levels, with approximately 1285 people in each voter constituency, 262 delegates in each 2nd-order constituency, 53 delegates in each 3rd-order constituency, and 11 people in the legislature.

What it would be like

In other words, you would get together with about 1,300 other people with similar political views (they can live near you, or they can be geographically dispersed), and elect a delegate. All the delegates would form themselves into groups of about 260 delegates, and each of those groups would elect a 2nd-order delegate. All of THOSE delegates would arrange into groups of 53 2nd-order delegates, and each of those groups would control one spot in the legislature.

This means that your delegate would only have about 1,300 constituents to answer to. Compare to the current average size of districts of U.S. House Representatives; 700,000 people (not all of these people are elgible to vote; but if only half of them are, that's 1,300 vs. 350,000). You won't be having lunch with your delegate every week, but s/he will be worlds more accessible than your current House Representative. Furthermore, since you got to choose your constituency, you probably chose one with people who share your concerns; so a lot of those 1,300 have very similar interests and beliefs as you, making the impact of that number not as big as it seems. The numbers get even smaller as you go higher up; each legislator directly answers to a constituency of only 53 people. This small number will enforce frequent communication and serious accountability, and will ensure that legislators are chosen by people who have personally evaluated them, not just seen them on T.V..

One criticism of a system with very small legislative bodies is that you would like to have at least a few legislators who are specialists on every issue. In a delegate pyramid, this specialization function can be fulfilled by the 53 2rd-order delegates behind each of the 11 legislators.


If you are interested, I've created some formulas that I believe give reasonable answers for how many levels there should be and large the constituencies at each level should be for any size group. They can be found as part of a larger document, describing some proposed rules of operation for a delegate pyramid (that document is part of a larger set of bylaws that aren't necessarily relevant here; but most of that document is just about the delegate pyramid).