Democracy is a great political innovation. Being able to voice your opinion and having a say in who and how a country is run is powerful and leading to far greater social reform and happiness.
However, a significant number of people freely choose not to vote. Further, many people vote along a party or historical line and attach their vote to a specific issue. In many cases, the reason for supporting (or opposing) an issue is not very clear as the voter has not spent much time understanding their view or the other.
Is it time to change the way we allow people to vote?
In Canada, once you reach 18, you are allowed to vote as long as you are a Canadian citizen. That's it. You magically become eligible to vote! Why are there no other requirements to be able to vote?
First, I don't like the 'regional representation' model of Canadian politics. Years ago, this made sense because travel and communication were limited. However, nowadays voters can easily vote on specific issues and don't necessarily need to be 'regionally' recognized. In fact, if political parties were assigned seats based on national support, minority parties would actually receive more seats since their support is usually thinly spread out and unable to gain power in any one region. Further, some voters may not vote for their preferred party recognizing that their vote will be useless if they are in a minority. Also, this would prevent 'defensive' voting (ie. voting Liberal just to make sure Conservatives don't get a lot of votes even though you support Green).
I think voting on important issues requires an educated voter. The main problem with Democracy is that anyone can vote, even those who know little about the issue they are voting for! I'd like to see a system where people are required to learn about issues and then earn the right to vote on it. This class of people would become 'qualified' or even 'expert' voters.
The idea is to have a test that neutrally presents the sides of an issue. A potential voter must answer questions that show they understand the arguments being presented and then earn the privilege to vote. This does not mean that uninformed people cannot voice opinions, it simply means they don't vote.
Take the issue of Evolution in America. Should Americans 'vote' on whether it is taught in public schools? There are arguments for and against teaching evolution. However, due to the low levels of science education in America, does it make sense to have citizens, illiterate in evolution, to decide whether it's taught?
Imagine critics of evolution want to remove it from the curriculum. To gain support for their idea, they would need to educate those who agree with them not just on the anti-evolution arguments, but also the pro-evolution argument because they know the potential voter must pass a questionnaire to see if they really understand the issue. Only those who do will be allowed to vote on it!
My goal with this idea is to get public policy issues passed by those who are most qualified to decide them. This is very similar to the peer review process in science. In fact, it should ensure that future policies are decided by scientific methods and not on rhetorical arguments. Would you vote for that?