Liquid democracy

Liquid democracy is a form of delegative democracy[1] whereby an electorate engages in collective decision-making through direct participation and dynamic representation.[2] This democratic system utilizes elements of both direct and representative democracy. Voters in a liquid democracy have the right to vote directly on all policy issues à la direct democracy, however, voters also have the option to delegate their votes to someone who will vote on their behalf à la representative democracy.[2] Any individual may be delegated votes (those delegated votes are termed "proxies") and these proxies may in turn delegate their vote as well as any votes they have been delegated by others resulting in "metadelegation".[3]

This delegation of votes may be absolute (an individual divests their vote to someone else across all issues), policy-specific (an individual divests their vote to someone only when the vote concerns a certain issue), time-sensitive (an individual decides to divest their vote for a period of time), or not utilized by voters.[2] In the case of absolute delegation, the voter situates themselves as a participant in a representative democracy, however, they have the right to revoke their vote delegation at any time.[3] The appeal of the retractability mechanism stems from an increased accountability imposed on representatives.[3] In policy specific delegation, voters may also select different delegates for different issues.[4] Voters may select representatives they feel are more equipped to adjudicate in unfamiliar fields due to elevated expertise, personal experience, or another indicator of competence.[5] Moreover, automatic recall allows citizens to be as engaged in political affairs as the rest of their lives permit. A voter may delegate their vote completely one week but decide to participate fully another. For those who wish to exercise their right to vote on all political matters, liquid democracy provides the flexibility to retain the option of direct democracy.

Illustration of delegated voting. Voters to the left of the blue line voted by delegation. Voters to the right voted directly. Numbers are the quantity of voters represented by each delegate, with the delegate included in the count.

Most of the available academic literature on liquid democracy is based on empirical research rather than on specific conceptualization or theories. Experiments have mostly been conducted on a local-level or exclusively through online platforms, however polity examples are listed below.