The Texas Senate is turning to crowdsourcing to open up the legislative process and make it more inclusive. A recent Gallup Poll indicates that congressional job approval for September stood high at 15 percent, a clear indication of America’s continuing frustration with the U.S. economy and state of the nation.
Unfortunately, as is characteristic of representative democracy, policy changes cannot be directly brought about by the community’s votes. However, the situation could soon change if a new project by the Texas Legislature succeeds. According to the Texas Tribune, in anticipation of the 2013 legislative session, the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce is planning on implementing crowdsourcing legislation. Anyone with Internet can log on to a forum and give their input on a piece of legislation. The idea is to allow individuals without access to legislative hearings to get involved in policy formulation.
As of yet, the Texas Senate committee has not decided what form the crowdsourcing platform will take. Nonetheless, the project signals a crucial first step in mainstreaming the legislative process.
These highly politically charged times call for a bottom-up approach to managing national affairs. The Texas Senate Committee’s move is laudable, given the power of social media and the implications of its integration into the legislative process. However, implementing legislative crowdsourcing comes with challenges.
For starters, writing legislation is a complex undertaking and requires that individuals wishing to participate in the process have substantial knowledge of current laws and the particular topics in question. The committee will also have to determine a fair system for gauging the value and weight of individual contributions.
Because crowdsourcing takes place online, many of the contributions will be anonymous and perhaps border on the extremes. A way to moderate such anonymous entries and ensure the process remains open and transparent must be established. For that, the committee must be able to track down each contribution to its source, whether individuals or groups.
Nevertheless, crowdsourcing remains a unique idea that stands to enhance the legislative process substantially. The move by the Texas senate is a key first step towards political reform.