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Thread: Non Geographical Constituencies?

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    Politics.ie Member Finbar10's Avatar
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    Default Non Geographical Constituencies?

    Various voting system reforms have been suggested to lessen the effects of "parish pump politics" in Ireland, e.g. a list system, larger PR constituencies, or even a single national constituency. But recently there was a rather novel suggestion on the politicalreform.ie website (see the post Do we need geographical constituencies? ).

    The basic idea is that all connection between constituencies and geographical location is severed. Each citizen on reaching voting age is randomly assigned to a constituency, an assignment which lasts for life. It would be no problem keeping the current system of up to 5-seat PR constituencies. But instead of having 40 or so geographically based constituencies, we would have a similar number of constituencies whose electors are randomly selected from the population at large.

    This means that the electorate for any given constituency would be randomly distributed and scattered throughout the entire voting population. So it becomes impossible to regionally buy an electorate by building a school or road in the locality. A prospective TD is going to have to be much more national in his outlook. The voting dynamics would probably be quite similar to our current system, there would likely be incumbent TDs for each seat and a similar distribution of parties. Whereas the voting dynamics of having a single national constituency could be quite different.

    There's also the possibility of weakening dynastic politics. If a person was restricted to going for election to the Dáil only in the constituency to which they belonged (i.e. were randomly assigned to upon reaching voting age), then it's likely the children of TDs would be assigned to different constituencies to their parent, hence would have to face an entirely different electorate if they went for election themselves.

    Of course there are lots of problems with this suggestion. The logistics could be very difficult. It would be possible to produce electoral lists for the constituencies but how would one canvas to such a scattered electorate? Building political constituency organizations would also be a nightmare. And would one have to travel across half the country if one wants to consult with one's TD? Maybe increasing use of the internet would help with such things. Maybe a system that might become more possible in the future. And if one has a genuinely local issue such a system isn't going to be of much help.

    Have my doubts if people would really be prepared to give up having a local representative. There are advantages in local representation after all. But thought there was definitely *something* to this idea. Certainly a completely different angle on tackling political localism that hadn't even occurred to me before.

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    Hmmmm. Interesting alright.

    If we had a real functioning system of local councils who actually had power and fund-raising powers and had control over local issues then that in itself might reduce the parish-pump aspect for TDs.

    I think ideas like your randomly-assigned constituencies, a single national constituency, or maybe even functional or demographically-based constituencies would probably only work for the under-40 internet generation. But why not combine them all in the interim?

    I always thought the Seanad Panels had the germ of a good idea, atrociously implemented. What if there were seats in the Dáil elected from functional constituencies e.g. agriculture, community & voluntary, industry - the actual panels we can argue over but you get the idea. People self-register on the electoral panels that interest them (maybe only allowed to vote on up to 2 panels?) and there are websites and other modern channels to freely allow the candidates to put forward their proposals and debate the issues with the electorate. Keep some of the geographic constituencies for the auld wans and parish-pump junkies but make them much larger. A national list system too if we like.

    Sure it's a mixed system but isn't the Scottish system already something like this, with one vote for the local geographic constituencies and another for the national party lists? There's no reason why not really, and it can hardly be worse than what we have!

    I'm just thinking aloud right now so feel free to shoot it down in flames...

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    Politics.ie Member Panopticon's Avatar
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    If we're doing that, we lose any meaningful link between TD and constituent. Then it just makes more sense to elect people based on a list. It's not that it is a bad idea objectively, but we have simpler and better alternatives that are better in some ways and worse in none.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panopticon View Post
    If we're doing that, we lose any meaningful link between TD and constituent.
    How?

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    Politics.ie Member Bobert's Avatar
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    Hang on! How are we supposed to campaign?
    Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.

    - Niccolò Machiavelli

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    An idea not without interest...but as likely in Ireland as Political Party-Funding Pariahs

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    Politics.ie Member DeGaulle 2.0's Avatar
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    What about the following constituencies:-
    a) unemployed
    b) public servants
    c) private-sector workers
    d) farmers
    e) retired
    f) students
    g) everyone else

    Can anyone suggest other constituencies?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobert View Post
    Hang on! How are we supposed to campaign?
    See that's part of the problem - the electoral system as it exists is essentially passive. Like Television. Punters sit at home and get visited by canvassers, or absorb info from de meeja.

    What we really need is a system that requires and encourages much more active engagement from citizens.

    There was an interesting programme on BBC2 recently, The Classroom Experiment. The basic idea was to experiment with new classroom and teching methods that would actively force the students to get engaged rather than passively sitting there learning by rote. Some of it was a bit cheesy but it was food for thought alright.

    Course the last thing the neo-feudalist mentality of the existing political class wants is an engaged and questioning active electorate!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SideysGhost View Post

    I always thought the Seanad Panels had the germ of a good idea, atrociously implemented. What if there were seats in the Dáil elected from functional constituencies e.g. agriculture, community & voluntary, industry - the actual panels we can argue over but you get the idea. People self-register on the electoral panels that interest them (maybe only allowed to vote on up to 2 panels?) and there are websites and other modern channels to freely allow the candidates to put forward their proposals and debate the issues with the electorate. Keep some of the geographic constituencies for the auld wans and parish-pump junkies but make them much larger. A national list system too if we like.

    Or why not just give the Seanad a more prominent role in Irish politics so that these panels actually work?

    If there are non geographical boundaries, who looks after the constituencies? Where would people vote?

    I don't really think it is practical.

    I am not a fan of these plans for electoral reform (though I do really think that the Seanad needs massive reformation. It should perform an important function in our democracy). Our current electoral system is, as far as I can see, by far the most democratic system available.

    The reason we have a load of gombeens in the Dáil is not a fault of the "system" but of the electorate who voted them in there. Most of the worst gombeen-men are some of the most electorally popular candidates in the country.

    What is needed is for the electorate to realise their responsibilities and take ownership of their democratic rights and exercise them properly. They need to realise the importance of their vote and prepare themselves for it accordingly
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    Politics.ie Member Bobert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SideysGhost View Post
    See that's part of the problem - the electoral system as it exists is essentially passive. Like Television. Punters sit at home and get visited by canvassers, or absorb info from de meeja.

    What we really need is a system that requires and encourages much more active engagement from citizens.

    There was an interesting programme on BBC2 recently, The Classroom Experiment. The basic idea was to experiment with new classroom and teching methods that would actively force the students to get engaged rather than passively sitting there learning by rote. Some of it was a bit cheesy but it was food for thought alright.

    Course the last thing the neo-feudalist mentality of the existing political class wants is an engaged and questioning active electorate!

    So if John and Mary have to vote for Michael they've to look into everything themselves because Michael can't possibly visit every single person registered in his constituency which in this instance is Cork because they live all over the country? Right, that plan doesn't work.
    Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.

    - Niccolò Machiavelli

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