Citizens Referendum

Describe your idea:

Note This was submitted by standard e mail on 3 Sept – resubmission here was unavoigably delayed until now.


Do they know what you think? Do they really care?

It is no longer satisfactory just to cast a vote every four years or so and then in between elections the Administration enjoys almost free rein. Your elected representatives need a more accurate measure of Public Opinion. We believe in this age of secure & verifiable electronic communication this process is practical, reliable and cheap and should take its place in the democratic process.

What problem does it solve?:

Web based petitions are popular and appear on several sites – some simply providing a template and operating sdoftware. But petitions display only support – not dissent – and we know that they have not cut much ice in Parliament. A referrendum – conducted by a reputable host – would however be a more powerful tool and might also attract media coverage.

Type of idea: New feature for an existing project


  1. Reckon the trick here is localised propositions.
    San Francisco has for some time had highly localised propositions on the ballot for even relatively trivial elections (mid-terms etc). The key is that they are attached to something that already needs doing. If passed they more or less pass into law. They don’t need a party to put them forward. So the citizens referendum, from the mysociety perspective, should be aimed at getting the propositions concept to become law. Is there a way? I don’t know. But will keep looking.

  2. I agree it needs to be a third party.

    This is my recommendation.

    Referenda by Proxy.

    First, what are we trying to solve?

    1. Reduction in turn out at elections.

    The causes are pretty clear, its party politics. You vote for a party and they don’t do what they promised, they do lots of things they didn’t. In addition you have to vote for a package. What if you like some and not other parts? You should be allowed a vote on the issues.

    2. Growth of single issue groups.

    Again, because the parties do not allow you a vote on the issues.

    3. Dead duck parliaments that drag on when the majority want them out.

    So I propose the following.

    1. MPs decide on, and write the laws and acts.

    2. The electorate get to vote on each Act, yes or no. Without the electorates approval, its not a law.

    3. Fixed term parliaments.

    The problem then is how to make referenda cheap. Here my idea is referenda by proxy. You get to nominate an MP as a proxy, and they need not be your MP. You might like Vince Cable and nominate him. Alternatively you might vote for an MP who promises to toe a particular party line. No dissent. The most promising part would be an MP who agrees to cast their vote according to your wishes, based on a website. Hence the relevance for a citizens referenda.

    The registation of your proxy is done at the same time as you register to vote. 1 extra field. Currently each registration costs 2.50 a year to maintain, 111 million a year.

    Since the electorate approve and check bills, we can get rid of the Quango House of Lords. That saves 121 million each year. (2,000 pounds a minute!) I’m sure for a small fraction of this cost we can run a referenda website that is secure.

    Issues to consider.

    1. What if a proxy dies?
    2. Proxies revolting from their promises.
    3. What about re-election and an MP who’s kicked out.
    4. Possibles for fraud.
    5. Frequent changes of proxies. Should their be a limit of 1 free a year, and a 5 pound cost for any other switch?

    What it also gives is league tables of influence. If an MP fiddles expenses, expect to find their proxies quickly changed to another.

    It deals with unpopular governments.

    It deals with corrupt MPs

    It reduces costs because its fixed term parliaments.

    But above all, it allows the citizen to vote directly on issues.