This project, which I presented to the French Parliament, is entirely suited to adaptation in your country, which I - like all democratic countries - must tackle the problems of abstention and extremism.
I commend it to you with pleasure for your possible own use. I should point out that my idea could also be implemented for "PARLIAMENTARY" or "LOCAL ELECTIONS"...
I am convinced that this project can be a workable blueprint for all European countries.
PROPOSAL FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION REFORM
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a "responsible citizen", may I submit to you an innovating proposal for a new approach to the Presidential Elections, designed to motivate our fellow citizens to vote as from the first round of the 2007 ballot, and renew interest in 'political life'.
My wish is to persuade you to:
1. Change the polling method for the first round of the Presidential Elections before 2007, which, without reform, will be a risk for Democracy.
2. Spare the few minutes required to read through this proposal.
3. Present this proposal myself, if need be, for the first round of the 2007 Presidential Elections.
This proposal (5-point voting) was initially presented to some of your Ministerial, Parliamentary, Senatorial and Mayorial colleagues in June and July so as to obtain a clear picture of the attitude of French political circles regarding the abstention rate problem and possible solutions which may be implemented before 2007.
The replies received spoke volumes: in truth, no practical solution is planned or proposed to fight this scourge, and no decision could in any case be taken ahead of a number of electoral milestones. The overall finding from these consultations is that we must 'reconcile' our fellow citizens with politics... Who would disagree with that? But what are the solutions?
In 2007, France will enter an alarming situation.
Indeed, 5 million young voters (aged between 13 and 18 from 2002 to 2007) will automatically be added (new legislation) to existing registered voters between now and 2007. But (1) the voting participation of young people is already very low, (2) no pollsters take these 5 million newly registered teenagers into account in the voting forecasts for the 1st round, and (3) no-one asks their opinion. Consequently any opinion poll is necessarily flawed, and underestimates the foreseeable abstentionist reality on the night of the 1st round of the Presidential Elections. My own research has confirmed that very few of these young people have any intention to vote in this 1st round...
Consequently, the very real risk is that following the 2007 1st round the first and/or second position(s) will be taken by (a) candidate(s) representing minorities...
· In 2002, only 13 % of registered voters to be in the leaders
· Less than 9% of the registered voters will thus be enough, undoubtedly, to be in the 2 first at the end of the 1st turn (By taking account of, amongst others, these millions of registered young voters: simple arithmetic).
By integrating the 'unregistered' into the total, we are facing a situation where nearly two-thirds of Frenchmen will not cast their vote in this first round. Where, then, is the legitimacy of the top candidates? Moreover, who will they be? We already hear in the media of opinion poll results giving the result of the second round in 2007. Are memories so short? To be there in the second round, one has to qualify in the first!
Ladies and Gentlemen, you who are in charge of our country, can you guarantee that, with less than 9% of registered voters electing the first round winners, the second round candidates will truly represent the wishes of our fellow citizens? Some candidates, for various reasons, will secure their first round results through lobbying or extremism. These will not be those who represent the majority of citizens, but those who fire up their electorate before the first round – not a 'big parties' strategy.
First round abstentionism is obviously an insurmountable problem in the current state of our voting system, as these so-called 'extremist' or 'lobby group' candidates, by ‘filling up’ with votes in the first round, see their voting scores increase with every new election – since the number of abstentionists increases!
The future of our democracy is thus in the balance during the first round of the 2007 elections: a slight change in public opinion – and these minority candidates will be in the lead following the first round. That is surely democracy turned on its head! It is therefore of the upmost importance and urgency to work out how to get those who abstain to vote in the 2007 first round. This hypothesis – both realistic and heavy in consequences – warrants a careful and objective examination of all possible ideas and solutions to avoid this risk, with, if at all possible, consideration given to a ‘moratorium’ on behalf of the republican parties to avoid, amongst other things, misleading ‘quick fixes’, e.g.: “Vote real in the first round!”. Getting our fellow citizens to ‘vote real’ in the first round would be Utopian – and probably an ‘historic mistake’ in 2007…
Why? Because the first round vote is an emotional one (anger, disappointment, anti-Establishment, &c.), whereas in the second round it is rational (logic). My research shows that the French will not see any purpose in a second round if they are asked to ‘vote real’ in the first, with a similar level of frustration if one tries to persuade them so to do, and therefore a possible negative boomerang effect in the ballot boxes!
There are currently only 4 possible solutions to avoid this democratic disaster:
These solutions could of course be cumulated if necessary. It appears that no other alternative exists to check the rise in abstentions.
My research across all social classes proves that our fellow citizens would demonstrate much flexibility in adapting to the ‘five-point system’ introduced below. In order to convince you, I propose to expedite a large-scale test study across all economic and social strata of the French population.
I would remind you that these same fellow citizens had no choice over the transition to the Euro, which nevertheless came and went without any major problem – although far more complicated than my proposal – and without referendum. For example, Maastricht was far more difficult to understand than my proposal… which is very easy to implement, cost-effective and requires no constitutional change: the citizen still elects the President of the Republic through direct universal franchise as required by the constitution (the latter contains no directive on either form or procedure for this direct franchise).
It would, however, be wise to obtain our fellow citizens’ buy-in to this new system through a referendum – just as a referendum would have been likely for any constitutional change…
WHO other than yourselves could explain this proposal to the voters? WHO also would be held to account by the nation if nothing were done to forestall the abstention rate before a collapse of our republican values as early as 2007? This straightforward ‘question’ also shows why our fellow citizens have lost interest and no longer believe in politics…
Comment: For decades now, as soon as it has become necessary to shoulder heavy responsibilities, the political classes (of both sides) seem to have forgotten the very meaning of the word ‘politics’ – which is to bring a ‘better’ life to the community with evolutionary – and not fixed – laws and institutions! This comment would be equally valid at a European level – although April 2002 is specific to our country: most elected representatives appear ‘open’ to change, but seem to think that future day risks should be managed by their peers, not themselves! Thus nothing will happen from now until 2007 – unless there is a national movement free of political undertones. This comment stays unequivocal regardless of the interest shown in my proposal.
2007 will see elections that are hazardous for our country unless the 1st round voting system is changed. Who could objectively disagree today? The main concern for those elections is: How to turn abstainers into voters?
The proposal below provides part of the answer.
IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE 2007 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS each voter is given ‘5 voting points’, rather than the current system – which still equates to one registered voter = one vote. The Constitution guarantees each citizen the right to vote, without defining the method – a vote thus becomes a capital of 5 voting points which the registered citizen can spread over one or as many candidates as desired.
“One registered citizen = 5 voting points” (regardless of social status – principle of equality).
THE VOTER ALLOCATES HIS/HER POINTS AS HE/SHE SEES FIT, e.g.:
Firstly, to enable each citizen to spread and balance his/her support across candidates. Many first round ‘ex-’ abstainers would thus be able to better express their opinion and be encouraged to vote (research backs this up).
Secondly, citizens who use ‘extremist’ votes to protest would nevertheless give ‘real’ or ’moderate’ candidates 1, 2, or 3 points in the first round (my research also confirms this).
These two points are FUNDAMENTAL to my proposal, as currently first round votes are 100% to the advantage of extremist or lobby-based candidates, who nevertheless remain in a minority in this country! With our current system, due largely to the abstention rate, we are heading for a situation which is completely at odds with the principles of democracy, i.e. to ensure voters elect MAJORITIES and not MINORITIES!
Of course, the existence of ALL political parties is vital to democracy. However, with such a galloping abstention rate, does the result on the night of the first round truly reflect the electoral weight of all the parties? Are results not in fact misleading, due to abstentions? Have we not in truth reached the limits of the current system? Is it not possible to have a debate on this subject before 2007, simply because democracy appears to be expressed freely in the ballot box? My proposal does not eliminate any party, but does give a truer reflection of reality.
In this proposal, the (odd) number of points awarded to each citizen seems judicious, as although the majority (according to research) do not wish to give all of their 5 points to a single candidate, they will nevertheless be able to show a real preference, e.g.:
3 + 1 + 1 = total of 5
3 + 2 = total 5
4 + 1 = total 5, etc.
Why abstain ?
Our current system needs to be changed, simply because abstentonism and protest voting are not inevitable, but are largely due to three simple factors – which are either unknown to, or obliterated by, the ‘experts’ in political studies:
1- The Media (unquestionable influence) emphasize candidates’ weaknesses rather than their qualities. It therefore becomes difficult for a citizen to give a kind of ‘blank cheque’ to any given candidate rather than another. The result is that he/she stays at home for the first round (lack of motivation).
2- Better knowledge of the ideas and progrmmes of each candidate may enable us to better understand his or her projects, but also not necessarily agree with part(s) of the whole (even if overall, it is the candidate that best matches our opinions). The result is to wait for a clearer picture in the second round...
3- As Presidential Elections invoke an individual rather than a political party, first round voting will always favour subjectivity (disappointment, anger…) over reason – which is why this vote should be weighted. The result is a protest vote in the first round.
The majority of our fellow countrymen agree with 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% &c., of a presidential candidate’s ideas, and less and less with 100%; whether we like it or not, this fact must absolutely be taken onboard as soon as 2007, as our current system does not allow them to express this in the first round! No political idea can change this state of affairs – only a new first round voting method can.
Once this is agreed, the citizen should be given the possibility to express in the ballot box both his/her preference for a given candidate, but also support for other ideas that are championed by different candidates.
For example, a voter who wishes to express disagreement with our political representatives sometimes votes for extremist or lobby-based candidates in the first round, because that vote is seen as the only way to express short-term anger or disappointment. Can our democracy live with this situation? My proposal gives this angry or disappointed voter to spread that vote between feelings and reason by distributing his 5 voting points without endangering our republican values.
A survey has confirmed that with such a system, that voter will give points across ‘moderate’ republican candidates. Why force our fellow citizens to award a vote equivalent to 100% support for a single candidate - to the advantage of extremist or lobbyist parties – when a majority of them find better-suited positions on some topics in other candidates?
This analysis, a determining factor in my proposal, explains a large part of the abstentionism and extremism shown in the 2002 first round. This mathematical weighting will necessarily benefit democracy, renew interest in the ballot box, and deliver a real picture of the French people’s opinions in the first round of voting.
Question : Upon reflection, would we (or our friends and relatives) have given all 5 points of such a system to a single candidate in the 2002 first round, or would we not have spread our vote ? This is worth investigating, since my research shows that with this system the majority of ordinary citizens would have distributed their points.
My proposal will also give a new sense of purpose to those citizens who feel increasingly excluded from the first round of voting, and encourage many young voters to vote to vote in both rounds. All is required is for our fellow citizens to be canvassed on this proposal – as I have done. You will be surprised by the positive impact of this idea amongst your friends and colleagues (of all ages).
This proposal really is positioned above political divides – and should to my mind be limited to the first round of the Presidential Elections, as in this round emotion has the upper hand over reason.
The debate remains wide open for the second round. Two solutions/suggestions for the second round can be envisaged:
The first is to continue voting for one of the two leaders from the first round.
The second is to decide that the three leading candidates from the first round will go through to the second – which widens the democratic debate, and may even lead to a more representative and easier to govern Parliamentary majority through a consensual approach.
In both cases, the current second round voting system (voting paper for the chosen candidte) appears to be satisfactory.
As I have given this proposal much thought, I attach in this document annex some simple and cost-effective measures for implementing the projet, so as to overcome objections about its feasibility.
The April 2002 first round results (often quoted, and rightly so by politicans) is a final call for our current system, which has enabled our democracies to evolve, but has become obsolete in the new millennium.
This system will have to change one day – that much is certain. And this country should be the precursor and innovator, as it has so often been in the past, in re-affirming our republican values… Only those elected by the Nation can carry this proposal and explain it to our countrymen (with or without a referendum). It can be done in 4 years.
I SINCERELY HOPE THAT THIS PROPOSAL MAY SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY BY 2007.
If, however, if this project cannot be implemented by then, I am so convinced of its merit that I am prepared, with the backing of those of you who wish to measure the full-scale impact of my idea on the FRENCH PEOPLE, to gather the necessary number of signatures to become a candidate myself and explain the proposal to our fellow citizens, using the access to the national Media which the presidential campaign guarantees.
This proposal could then be offered to our fellow citizens either before or after the second round, if you feel that my results from the first round justify it. Objectively, this hypothesis carries major advantages but also major disadvantages.
· No danger of discrediting any political party, since the proposal would not be provided from a party-political standpoint.
· Raising of public awareness towards a possible new voting system in the future, opening the political debate on this topic..
· The probem of the 2007 first round is not resolved.
· Danger of record abstention rates (depending on, among other factors, the attitude of the abovementioned 5 million newly-registered electors), with consequently random results for our democracy of the first round.
Having never joined any political party or trade union (which would in no sense have been derogatory) my citizen’s approach in this case is neutral, open and candid. I have no desire to obtain any political mandate whatsoever – for which in any case I lack both experience and competence. On the other hand, a ‘citizen candidate’ expressing one or more robust and citizen-centric ideas may consider offering them to the French people in the first round if the nation’s elected representatives feel that his project is of interest to the democratic debate.
Amongst others, a simple and commonsense idea:
To create a Department of State for French Mayors, made up of a National office (elected by the mayors themselves), and mostly composed of mayors of the smaller districts (less than 3,000 inhabitants).
WHY ? Mayors representing small districts are the only real elected representatives who meet and listen to our fellow citizens on a daily basis. It follows that these mayors are better placed than any other to forward to the highest level citizens’ preoccupations and ideas. This Department of State would therefore also be in a position to federate individual initiatives from citizens willing to be civically involved with ideas and/or projects for the general good, &c.
Advantage: Certainty that simple ideas will be communicated to the highest level of government by this Secretary of State for Mayors, who would therefore sit at every meeting of the Council of Ministers.
I am sure that a large proportion of Mayors will agree with this analysis, especially since successive governments have given them ‘penal’ responsibility (e.g. the Mayor is responsible if a sports ground post damages property or persons, &c.). Why not also give them responsibility for participating officially in the political decisons that concern citizens? That seems like commonsense to me…
I am 56 years of age, available – having practised in the fields of Sales and Marketing – and now wish to serve our democracy by defending and/or proposing projects for the common good. This innovative project attempts to provide answers to our fellow citizens for the benefit of all; clearly, not all elected representatives will reach agreement on it, but 2007 is paradoxically both ‘tomorrow’ and ‘far away’.
Dear Ministers, Deputies and Senators, thank you for giving your careful consideration to this Proposal for change to our electoral law – which I commend to you, hoping of course for some support from those who are entrusted with the Nation’s representation.
METHOD or simple and practical application of this proposal
First implementation example – once names and faces of the first round candidates are known:
Print the voting slip with names and faces of the first round candidates in boxes of equal size in alphabetical order by candidate name (Number of boxes = Number of candidates). This/these slip(s) replace the old voting papers as the voting medium.
The boxes are designed to contain a maximum of 5 crosses (X).
Each cross (X) has a unitary value of 1 point (a separate box is available for a BLANK vote which cannot be divided, i.e. it counts for 0 or 5).
Theoretical example: For 16 candidates, slip(s) (a maximum of 1 or 2 slips should suffice) contain 16 boxes, each corresponding to a candidate (with name and photograph of the candidate in each box), plus one box for a blank vote.
Practical example in the voting booth: a citizen wishes to spread his points thus: 3 points to one candidate and 1 point to each of two others. He writes 3 crosses in the box of his ‘favourite’ candidate and 1 cross in each box of the other two candidates.
Slips containing 5 crosses are declared VALID during the count. Those with any other total of crosses (e.g. 3, 4, 6, &c.) are declared NULL and VOID.
These slips will be made available to all registered voters at polling stations (savings can be made by not necessarily posting them to voters’ home addresses).
Each candidate’s photograph (on a light background) in each box enables voters who cannot read to vote whilst maintaining secrecy. The needs of blind voters must also be considered (braille slips to be supplied). These two cases are not currently catered for.
The citizen then inserts this slip (in a large envelope) into the ballot box (the opening process remains unchanged).
The count is no more complicated (some countries have far more complex systems – e.g. Eire, USA, Switzerland, &c.).
ALL the citizens contacted on this subject easily understood the principle outlined above.
Second implementation example (more complex, but more ‘participative’ for the citizen).
1) Slip printing as per first example. 2) Instead of ‘receiving’ 5 crosses (X) ech candidate’s box is designed to accommodate 5 self-adhesive ‘points stamps’ with a unitary value of 1 point (same principle as self-adhesive postage stamps). These ‘points stamps’ would be printed with, e.g., « RF 1er tour 2007 » (RF –French Republic – first round 2007). 3) The citizen fixes his 5 stamps in the boxes of his chosen candidates.
This project should also be examined alongside the potential of information technology (Internet, but also bar-coding and electronic tagging of voting slips, &c.). NON-EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF EXAMPLES.
|On the evening of the 2002 first round, this quote by Albert Einstein came
to me as a flash of inspiration for solving the recurring problems of abstentions and extremism (Alain Mourguy)
"If after much searching you can't find any solution to a problem, it must be that the problem's postulates are poorly framed - they can then only be solved with imagination and not knowledge". Albert Einstein