What would it take to change legal systems so that general elections operate on a votes-per-dollar basis, where the election is not final until budgets are submitted, and vote totals are divided by campaign budgets so that the rich can't really buy votes very easily?

It seems to me that anything less would be, here in Canada, ultimately vulnerable to a charter challenge on the grounds that classism violates human rights.

I am writing to express my concerns about current voting systems used in general elections.  Specifically, I believe that simply counting total votes violates human rights due to the classism inherent in those votes being easy to purchase, and that a more equitable and non-discriminatory system should be implemented.

I believe that choosing candidates by total votes unfairly disadvantages marginalized and low-income communities and creates a barrier to full and equal participation in the democratic process. Therefore, I propose that candidates be elected based on the ratio of votes to dollars spent on their campaign, rather than the total number of votes they receive. This approach would incentivize candidates to use their resources more efficiently and reach voters effectively. In this system, candidates who are able to attract a larger number of votes with less spending would be rewarded for their effectiveness in connecting with voters.

I strongly believe that this approach would result in a more equitable and fair representation of all citizens of a democratic nation, and would be consistent with the principles of equality and fairness enshrined in, for example, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, failure to implement this system now that it has been proposed would be a violation of human rights due to the classism inherent in maintaining a ruleset that is dramatically more vulnerable to buying votes. Therefore, not adopting this solution is an omission that violates human rights.

The costs of changing the rules to implement this system are negligible compared to the benefits of a more equitable and fair representation of citizens.

--
adamgolding.ca

PS you would need to do something like require one dollar minimum spend to avoid divide by zero -- otherwise having a budget of zero would be the winning strategy ;-)  The alternative is to say that 1/0 is 'undefined' and that 'undefined' comes after all numbers lexicographically -- this way all fees could be removed from running for office.

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Voting has a dual role - not just determining the winner, but also demonstrating to the losers and their supporters that they lost fairly, in the most transparent way possible. How do you convince the losers that the winners did not cheat on their budget reporting? How do you account for "unpaid" volunteers? How do you account for "uncoordinated" spending by non-candidates?

These are all problems with the existing system as well so they are irrelevant for A-B testing the two options.

Hm? With the current system, at least the final vote counting process is relatively transparent. Yes, there are some opportunities to cheat on the margin of election finance laws, but importantly that opportunity is before the vote count, so has to be balances against the negative electoral consequences of being credibly accused of cheating. With you system, the final accounting happens after the vote, and in a close election, there is just too much incentive to cheat at that point...

it's hard to cheat on paid advertising as it has to be visible

The advertising has to be visible, but who exactly paid for it does not have to be. And there are plenty of less obvious spending (e.g. paying people to go door-to-door, phone calls, etc, etc - pay people, then claim they were volunteers?).

This seems like the wrong place for such a proposal.  It seems far too shallow to be taken seriously in terms of rationality, politics, or economics.  More something to chat about while high in a dorm room.

Two trivial (to make) objections: The obvious equilibrium is to spend $1 on the books, and $infinite in indirect non-legislated support.  And it's utterly impossible to implement or enforce, as it violates basic constitutional voting rights.

It's no more impossible to enforce than existing campaign spending limits.

The result of this will be that no one will spend more than the $1 minimum. It's just not worth it. So your proposal is basically equivalent to illegalizing campaign spending.

what coefficient in the numerator would change your conclusion?

I don't understand what you mean; multiplying the numerator by a coefficient wouldn't change the analysis. I think if you wanted to have a formula that was somewhat sensitive to campaign spending but didn't rule out campaign spending completely as a strategy, Votes/(10X+Y) might work, where Y is the amount spent of campaign spending, and X is an estimate of average campaign spending. (The factor of 10 is because campaign spending just isn't that large a factor to how many votes you get in absolute terms; it's easy to get maybe 45% of the vote with no campaign spending at all, just by having (D) or (R) in front of your name.)

This counterproposal has a data dependency where we need to know averages from the past, and also will still present a spending barrier for dirt-poor candidates if the average happens to be large (it is).

What I meant in response to your original comment is that whether it's 'worth it' depends on the current 'effective exchange rate' between votes and dollars, which is represented by a coefficient of '1' in this first approximation.  There should presumably be an update rule for 'learning' the 'correct' coefficient....

I don't think the data dependency is a serious problem, all we need is a very loose estimate. I don't know what you mean by a "spending barrier" or by "effective exchange rate", and I still don't know what coefficient you are talking about. Maybe it would help if you wrote down some formulas to explain what you mean.

"votes-per-dollar" IS a formula -- aka v/d -- 'per' means division -- spelling out the coefficient we have:

1*v/d where 'undefined' is ranked last and infinity is not a return value

OR

1*v/(1+d) where 1/0 approached from the right is +inf

(there are no negative votes  -- if dollars are negative eg a campaign turns a profit we could take abs(1+d) or abs(d) as the denominator)

v = total votes for the candidate
d = total dollars spent by the candidate

But here's a basic unit test, riddle me this:

If one candidate gets 200 votes and spends 200 dollars, and candidate 2 gets 201 votes and spends two MILLION dollars, who has the strongest mandate, in the sense that the representative actually represents the will of the people when wealth differences are ignored?

I understand concerns about manipulation and abuse of modern communication channels, but I completely fail any sort of ITT for support of this kind of gross exaggeration of impact.  No way is the relationship between money and outcome linear, and all political spending is not actually evil.

If one candidate gets 200 votes and spends 200 dollars, and candidate 2 gets 201 votes and spends two MILLION dollars, who has the strongest mandate

Well, 201 > 200, right?  If you think voters have free will, and are competent to vote, and each vote is equal in strength, then clearly candidate 2 has the support of the majority.

in the sense that the representative actually represents the will of the people when wealth differences are ignored?

I don't know how one would predict or measure this kind of counterfactual will, or partial-pressure voting, or whatever it's supposed to mean.  Is the will of the people expressed in voting, or is it not?  

Look, I'm sympathetic to playing with non-democratic election and decision systems.  I'm strongly suspicious that one-person-one-vote is suboptimal (even aside from FPTP winner).  I wish there were some sort of directed voting where more informed, smarter, less selfish, voters had more strength than the median citizen.  But I strongly expect any change in that direction will immediately be Goodharted away, and the legitimacy conferred by "everyone is equal" is not something to mess with.

"No way is the relationship between money and outcome linear"

What do you claim is the relationship?

"Well, 201 > 200, right?  If you think voters have free will, and are competent to vote, and each vote is equal in strength, then clearly candidate 2 has the support of the majority."

By this logic, payola makes music sound good, which we know is not true.  Is it possible that the additional spending is what affected the result, rather than the truth about people's preferences.  If not, why would the right have become obsessed with freedom of speech to preserve citizen's united?

"Is the will of the people expressed in voting, or is it not?"

False binary, this is a comparative question between two voting systems (in an infinite space) and the question is which system expresses the will of the people better, and the new system does so better by controlling for the confound of payola in measuring preference.

"Look, I'm sympathetic to playing with non-democratic election and decision systems.  I'm strongly suspicious that one-person-one-vote is suboptimal (even aside from FPTP winner).  I wish there were some sort of directed voting where more informed, smarter, less selfish, voters had more strength than the median citizen.  But I strongly expect any change in that direction will immediately be Goodharted away, and the legitimacy conferred by "everyone is equal" is not something to mess with."

I am proposing a change in the opposite direction from what you propose.  One person, one vote, is, let's say, the ideal, (why say this? considering Condorcet's jury theorem, in the context of general elections, we have an education system tasked with making voters better than chance so that the conditions of Condorcet's jury theorem are met, making voter turnout an epistemic virtue--with these conditions provided, one person, one vote is the ideal)

BUT, the extreme fungibility of both attention and money means that one person, one vote, is 'drowned out' by the one person, many dollars system of capitalist inequality, which progressively undermines democracy (one person, one vote) as it in increases in size, as votes are easy to buy.  In this context 'money' is the 'noise' and 'preference' is the 'signal':

'Getting the money out of politics' has been a bugbear of many an idealist in the anglosphere (and I presume elsewhere) and I propose to simply divide it out mathematically by law.

I think I'll bow out after this - feel free to respond, and I'll read, but I don't think we're likely to come to agreement here.

The key difference between payola and political spending is that payola goes to the authority who unilaterally decides what gets played, and political spending is indirect, influencing some voters but not overriding the vote.  

I'm deeply opposed to political systems more complicated than "whoever gets the most votes, wins (with some decisions that have a reasonable "no winner" result requiring supermajorities)", because every time politicians touch complexity, it gets twisted to incomprehensibly biased results.  

Then you're against the electoral college?

I explained the problem with the votes-per-dollar formula in my first post. 45% of the vote / $1 >> 55% of the vote / $2, so it is not worth it for a candidate to spend money even if they can buy 10% of the vote for $1 (which is absurdly unrealistically high).

When I said maybe a formula would help, I meant a formula to explain what you mean by "coefficient" or "effective exchange rate". The formula "votes / dollars spent" doesn't have a coefficient in it.

If one candidate gets 200 votes and spends 200 dollars, and candidate 2 gets 201 votes and spends two MILLION dollars, who has the strongest mandate, in the sense that the representative actually represents the will of the people when wealth differences are ignored?

Sure, and my proposal of Votes / (10X + Y) would imply that the first candidate wins.

"it is not worth it for a candidate to spend money even if they can buy 10% of the vote for $1 (which is absurdly unrealistically high)."

So what is a realistic price / 'exchange rate' for this example, in your opinion?  

I provided a coefficient of '1' spelled out in the line below that, it could be '10' or '100', etc.

"Sure, and my proposal of Votes / (10X + Y) would imply that the first candidate wins."

Which invariant(s) would you construe this as maintaining?  Why not just add a constant coefficient?  This is more efficient to compute, and the average price is already too high, that's 'half the point'.

This seems like a wrong forum. Consider reddit.