Thomas L. Knapp
The Hill reports that US House Republicans, who made a show earlier this year of opposing remote and proxy voting in Congress, are warming to the latter practice.
US Representative Paul Mitchell (R-MI) gave his proxy to US Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) in early December, declaring by tweet that “I will not risk my family’s health in order to vote on key items.”
Fast food cooks and grocery store cashiers don’t get to assign their work to proxies. They show up each day or lose their jobs, risking their health with every shift. Apparently Mitchell doesn’t consider his job as important as flipping burgers or bagging beer and bagels. But he still wants to collect that paycheck while someone else covers for him.
OK, fair enough. But if proxy voting is an acceptable practice for members of Congress, why not extend it to the selection of those members?
American politicians love to crow about the beauty of “our representative democracy.” That’s a fun fable from the get-go.
Not all Americans are allowed to vote for their supposed representatives.
Of those who are allowed to vote, it’s not unusual for less than half to actually do so.
And once those who choose to vote have voted, a single plurality or majority winner, who seldom receives the votes of as many as 25% of his or her supposed constituents, claims to “represent” 100% of those constituents whether they like it or not.
And now, that winner can just farm out his or her “representation” duties to others with a proxy, then go play golf or sit at home and binge the new season of Amazon’s latest.
Why not allow each supposedly “represented” American to choose a proxy that sticks, instead of casting a “vote” that may or may not result in real representation?
Increase the size of the US House of Representatives to a maximum of 1,000 votes. That’s votes, not members. Passage of a bill requires 501 votes (a majority). Overriding a veto requires 667 votes (2/3).
Based on current population as calculated on some kind of schedule (every two years, perhaps), any constitutionally qualified candidate who holds the proxies of at least 1/1000th of the population becomes a member of the House with at least one of those thousand votes. If the candidate receives more proxies than the required 1/1000th minimum, his or her vote is weighted accordingly.
Constituents can withdraw or re-assign their proxies on the first of each month. Constituents who choose not to assign their proxies at all are “represented” as an absence of votes on the House floor. It takes 501 votes to pass a bill. If there are only enough assigned proxies to empower 500 votes, nothing can be passed.
It would take a constitutional amendment, and getting 2/3 of both Houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to give up Congress’s fake “representation” claims in favor of real representation is a long shot. But if proxy voting is good enough for our “representatives,” it’s good enough for the rest of us too.
(Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.)