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What are Confirmation Elections? Icon

August 18, 2021

David Hume’s Ideal Commonwealth shows a federalized plan of government unified under an executive senate and a representative legislature. It includes an election system that is based on votes from the representatives instead of popular votes.

In Lectures on Jurisprudence, Adam Smith shows the advantages of the Swiss voting system:

When there are 100 votes and three candidates A, B, and C, the most odious candidate might get elected. There might be 34 votes for A,and 33 for B, and 33 for C. Thus, A wins even if there are 66 votes against him. To solve this, they vote on two candidates first to arrive at one candidate and then vote on him and the last candidate.

The Swiss system solves the problem of votes being divided. This is different from the current system wherein voting is done once and the candidates have to settle into two parties. The US system for example, holds primary elections for Democratic and Republican candidates so that the final vote will be a binary choice between the two.

In parliamentary systems, the leadership is voted by the majority which creates the possibility of a stalemate if no such majority is achieved. Communist systems let a single party hold power indefinitely and so reforms often happen slowly.

The Solution: Confirmation Elections

Instead of holding elections every four years, elections for top positions are held annually through ‘confirmation elections’ in which the people just have to vote ‘yes’ or ’no’ on whether their current leaders should remain in power.

For example, a country has:

  • 1 president
  • 1 vice-president
  • 24 senators

Each district has:

  • 1 congressman
  • 1 governor
  • 1 mayor
  • 1 vice-mayor

These amount to 30 leaders in total.

The confirmation elections of 2021 will ask whether each should stay to the next year.

Assuming that the result is a ’no’ for:

  • president
  • 5 senators
  • vice mayor

The confimation elections for 2022 will replace them by fielding candidates for:

  • 1 slot for president
  • 5 slots for senators
  • 1 slot for vice mayor

This is on top of the confirmation elections (yes or no) for the remaining 23 leaders.

In this way, in theory, good officials can stay for a lifetime, while very bad officials will only stay for 2 years. Outvoted officials can try again depending on the variations of this election system.

For example, assuming the elections are held every December 31.

  • President John was voted no on December 31, 2020.
  • His last day effective day would be in December 31, 2021.

Assuming Martha was elected, then she would take charge on January 1, 2022.

  • John can run again for the presidency when Martha gets a no vote.

In the current systems, the US has a 4-year period, while Communist countries have a lifetime period. This leads to flip-flopping policies in the US, and lifetime oppressive policies in Communist countries. Parliamentary countries can go on for many months without a government such as in Belgium, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland.

Binary Effect

This new system allows dynamism and a proper matching of policies to the actual needs of the people with a 1 year lag at the most. In the US, they had to wait for 4 years for Trump to finish his term before his policies could be reversed.

In the beginning, there will be flip-flopping of policies as the society changes leaders every 2 years at worst. But after 10-20 years, the patterns become clear and the differences between policies and parties will be smoothened. You could say that the whole election system would be like a giant ‘primaries’ eventually leading to a binary system because of the annual frequency of the elections.

The next post will explain Hume’s other political innovation called the Council of Opposition

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