Could do better
The debate about replacing our first-past-the-post electoral system is back. As the argument goes, FPTP is disenhranchising because it leaves too many people with a vote that doesn't count because they don't vote in key marginals. It also unfairly exludes smaller parties who get no representation at all despite significant numbers of votes (although for some parties this is perhaps a good thing). The British proclivity for strong government and a dislike of horse trading has ensured FPTP longevity, but that might be about to change.
I have a different idea. The biggest problem with our - and indeed every other democracy's - voting system is how little we can say with our vote. Roughly speaking, once every 5 years we cast one vote. With that vote we are obliged to say:
1) what we think of each party's specific policies in health, education, defence, tax and so on
2) what we think of the party leaders
3) what we think of the encumbent government's performance.
I may love the Conservative policy on schools but not inheritance tax, be furious about Labour's lack of action on older people's care, but like their handling of the economy. What am I to do? There is no way to transmit that in one vote, and whether it's FPTP, SIngle Alternative Vote or whatever, that problem remains. Albert Hircshman, called this the 'silence of exit' in reference to consumer choice - if you change products there is not way of letting the producer know why.
This is nothing new of course. We live in a representative, not direct, democracy after all, But it can be improved.
My idea: a report card which accompanies the ballot paper. Everyone obviously still has one single vote of course - nothing changes there. But voters have the option to complete a short report card, allows them to give a satisfaction rating, say 1-10, on the previous administration's performance in key areas: health policy, foreign policy, economic policy. A lot of people wouldn't bother, but then a lot of people don't bother voting. I think it would do two things specifically:
1) Prevent incumbent governments lazily believing that if they are returned to office, it is a vindication of everything they did
2) Offer some useful leverage - and information for the parties - for changes in unpopular policies
3) Make people feel less frustrated with the voting system as their once-every-5-years-verdict is more meaningful.
Expect a lot of 'could do better'.