What is Liquid Democracy and why is it so great?

David Ernst
Sep 21, 2016 · 4 min read

This is only a brief introduction. Sign up for more information: https://liquid.us

Liquid Democracy is a new form of democracy that combines the practicality of Representative Democracy with the authenticity of Direct Democracy, enabled by 21st century technology.

Direct Democracy means everyone votes on every issue. It’s a true “government by the people”, where everyone can participate as equals. It’s been tried before, but it’s not always practical: how does everyone stay educated and up-to-date on everything?

Representative Democracy is supposed to fix this. Instead of expecting everyone to know the ins-and-outs of policy, we hand over the work to a small number of full-time representatives.

This solves the issue of not enough time to stay informed, but introduces new problems:

  • Many people are unhappy with their limited choices of representation by candidates who may seem inauthentic or without substance.
  • Winner-take-all elections entrench a two party system, leading to extreme polarization.
  • And perhaps worst of all, power corrupts and skeptics wonder if the system is rigged by corporate lobbying and campaign finance.

Liquid Democracy aims to solve all of this, to offer the best of both systems.


In a Liquid Democracy, you pick a trusted delegate to vote on your behalf when you’re not able to.

By default, you inherit your delegate’s votes on each piece of legislation, but you can manually override them on any issue. When you feel more informed or passionate, you can vote directly.

Real Options

Unlike traditional elections, you can select any resident of your jurisdiction to be your delegate. You’re not limited to just the few choices on the ballot. And your delegate doesn’t have to quit their job to campaign. The people you already know and trust, and many more wise individuals, suddenly become options to represent you.

A Network of Trust

Delegation passes transitively, from one person to the next. So if you entrust your vote to your close friend, and your friend delegates to their favorite professor, the professor can vote for all three of you. This creates a network of tightly knit connections that rewards the most trusted people.

This is the key to Liquid Democracy. Networks of trust allow it to flourish at scale, where Direct Democracy fails.

Play with this vote delegation simulator: https://demo.liquid.us

Representation & Accountability

Unlike traditional elections, Liquid Democracy is not winner-take-all. In Representative Democracy, even when a candidate wins only 51% of the electorate’s vote, they’re expected to represent 100% of their constituents.

Political movements are forced to consolidate, else they risk going home with nothing. Winner-take-all elections entrench a two-party landscape.

In Liquid Democracy, when 51% of voters choose the same delegate, 51% of the power flows to that delegate. And their “rival candidates” still get the voting power equivalent of their earned votes. True representation.

Illustration by Cliff Andrade

But there are actually no “candidates” because in Liquid Democracy, there are no elections. Right now, it’s too expensive to run elections more frequently than every few years. But in Liquid Democracy, you can change your delegate from your smartphone anytime. True accountability.

tl;dr —

By implementing Liquid Democracy, we could empower our most trustworthy leaders, give ourselves true choice and accountability, and transform our politics and society.

Thank you for reading.

Our plan is to bring Liquid Democracy to the United States, in a way that doesn’t require constitutional amendments.

Join us. Sign up for your jurisdiction: https://liquid.us

Edited by Jared Scheib. Thanks to Rohan Dixit, Alex Pack, Luke Davis, Andy Coenen, Teresa Yung, Eshan Kejriwal, Matt Conrad, Nick Sippl-Swezey, Naomi Njugi, Ryan Atkinson, and Dominik Schiener for feedback and other contributions.

Liquid Democracy

Bringing Liquid Democracy to the United States

David Ernst

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Liquid Democracy

Bringing Liquid Democracy to the United States