So Sunday came and went and Parisians voted overwhelmingly to ban shared electric scooters in the capital. Of those who voted, 89.03% were against them. And this, to be honest, is not all that surprising. Also not surprising is the low voter turnout (7.46% of 1.3 million registered voters).
But I do think it raises important questions about this “democratic” process — and not just because I happen to like electric scooters. One problem is that there’s an inherent bias. And this same phenomenon can be found in community meetings for new developments.
If you’re upset about something (and you have the time), then you are probably more intrinsically motivated to participate. In other words, if you think that electric scooters are a horrible nuisance, then you’re more likely to take the time to say something about them. But if you think electric scooters are just, like, fine, then you’re probably less motivated to go out and vote.
Maybe this doesn’t matter. Maybe the turnout percentage itself is the answer you’re looking for. Only 7.46% of registered voters cared enough about electric scooters to voice an opinion. So if the rest actually liked them, it’s their problem for not voting.
But if you think that this percentage should be higher to be more representative, then one solution is to try and reduce the barriers to participation. And I think there’s an argument to be made that something as dumb as a Twitter poll, open only to Parisians, might have been more inclusive.
Paris only had 1/4 the polling stations that they use in a general election. One might wonder if the powers that be set it up to ensure only the most motivated came out to speak.
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Great point, Brandon. Democracy vs Common Sense…. the true battle.
Quite right that mostly just those with a grievance bother to show up and protest There are however tools developed to help create positive and actual useful citizen participation either from home or even in a public forum Have a peek https://metroquest.com/ Their tools get better participation from both a quantity and quality perspective. As for banning the scooter why could they not address the issues instead, put the same restrictions that they do for bikes (and cars etc.), use the lanes only, park them in racks, make a noise (bell, horn, or whatever) with them and so forth. Now they have lost all the benefits of teeny tiny affordable vehicles which have virtually no negative environmental impact
40-50ish years ago, I created an alien civilization in a portfolio/book, including the government. It was obvious democracy was in trouble from apathy even back in the 1960s and 1970s, so I studied solutions and came up with a sliding majority system (I didn’t call it that back then).
How it works is if 75% or more “people” vote then you only need 50%+1 to pass a referendum (the Imp society is largely governed by pure democracy referendums). If only 25-75% of the Imps vote, you need 70%+1 of more to pass something. If <25% vote, you need 90%+1 to approve something.
This way, participation is encouraged, even by those who want to pass something esoteric and of small interest to most citizens, because you need a smaller majority to pass a referendum that way. It's hard to get 90% of people to agree on anything, and even 70% is difficult.
If you're interested in more details, you can buy an updated Kindle version of the book for $5 here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Impland-Alien-Utopia-Anniversary-Retrospective-ebook/dp/B0BFJT4CQP/ref=sr_1_1 (Because it was over-sized color pictures, I couldn't produce a full sized book out of it; no one can print 13"X17" apparently).
I haven’t been following this that closely, but I also sort of hate referendums on almost all issues, except maybe nation-forming/affirming ones. I just don’t understand why the democratically-elected representatives of Paris can’t make these sorts of decisions on their own.