Penny Vote

For budget-type issues, a penny vote is used. Each voter is given 100 pennies. Each penny represents one percent of the total budget to be decided. Voters are charged with distributing the pennies among the various options, as they see fit. Traditionally, the pennies are actual physical pennies, placed in labeled containers. However, the pennies in a Common Good Community budget vote will be virtual pennies on the internet, to accommodate the representation system.

For example, voters use this method to decide what the community's investment priorities will be, in the coming year, or how the community will make grants of Common Good Credits to advance the common good. A voter might put in 10 pennies for disaster relief in Sri Lanka, 6 pennies for an educational initiative in Montana, 23 pennies for local alternative energy research, and so forth.

Voters may also VETO any option they feel is wasteful, immoral or unethical, at the cost of a few pennies. Any item that is vetoed by over 5% of the voters will not be funded at all.

When all the votes have been cast, each (direct) voter's penny votes are multiplied by the number of people the voter represents, before totaling the amounts for each option. Each budget item will be funded in proportion to the total number of penny votes it received.

Some additional complexity comes into play when budget items have a minimum or maximum amount. However, this complexity is easily handled in the counting, without requiring any further action by the voters:

  1. Ratchets. Every item that receives at least its minimum percentage of votes (that is, any item that isn't "under-voted") will be funded with at least its voted percentage of the funds available.
  2. Over-votes. Nothing actually gets overfunded, so anyone who voted for an over-voted item is refunded some of their penny votes for that item. This refund is automatically distributed proportionately among that voter's under-voted preferences (or ALL their remaining preferences if none of their preferences are under-voted). The fully funded over-voted items are then set aside and the vote is counted again, subject to the ratchets. The tentative budget for the ratcheted items may go up, but it can never go down.
  3. Under-votes. Similarly, items with insufficient votes are not funded at all. Beginning with the most under-voted item, pennies are refunded to the voters (thrown back in the pool), distributed proportionately among their remaining under-voted preferences (or ALL their remaining preferences if none of them are under-voted), and the votes are counted again, subject to the ratchets. This procedure is followed for vetoed items as well. Voters who voted FOR the vetoed item get a refund; voters who vetoed the item do not.

This system of refunds is inspired by Instant Runoff Voting (also called "Alternative Vote"). However, the penny vote does not suffer the shortcomings of Instant Runoff. In the penny vote, there is no incentive for voters to abuse the system with dishonest "strategic" votes, because there is generally more than one winner and the size of the majority is just as important as which items win.