Representational democracy is a form of governance that, in theory, is meant to protect the interests of citizens* when population size reaches the point that direct democracy becomes impractical or inefficient.
It is structured in such a way that groups of citizens elect, or have chosen for them, a representative who in turn casts votes on legislature and government offices in the manner that the citizens whom they represent would most likely choose. This is the first hurdle of the system.
The larger a population gets the less easy it is to efficiently discriminate information on what a vote entails (e.g. the full details of a proposed piece of legislature or the scope of an office candidate’s platform and political leanings). Larger populations mean more people who are not adequately informed casting votes based on missing or incorrect information, as well as a higher percentage of citizens intentionally abstaining or being unable to vote for one reason or another. It is the representative’s responsibility to vote based on the perceived notion of what the majority of citizens would decide if they could. This is accomplished by way of preliminary polling and the “popular vote”. The representative takes this information and then casts the only vote that actually matters.
While the concept of representative democracy is effective in speeding up the voting system and guarantees that the government hears the voice of its citizens, the biggest flaw with representative democracy is determining whose voice is being heard.
The group of citizens a representative is responsible for can be determined in a few ways, though generally by geography or population density. With appropriate forethought, vote outcomes can be rigged through planning what groups of citizens a representative has. In the US this is referred to as gerrymandering.
Consider a group of sixteen “citizens” organized in a square array like so:
O O O O
O O O O
O O O O
O O O O
Assign votes of O and X for each citizen casting a vote and A for each citizen abstaining or unable to vote.
X X O O
X X A O
O X A O
O X O O
X has six votes, O has eight votes, and there are two abstentions. In a direct democracy those who vote O will get their way.
In a representative democracy those citizens are grouped, with each group having one representative vote.
Simply split the array into four quadrants like so:
With quadrant 1 going to X, quadrant 3 a tie, and quadrants 2 and 4 going to O, O still wins the vote.
Now, it is possible those who determine who represents whom could have gathered the information necessary to predict the above vote break down near perfectly. For the sake of argument they have, and they want to organize things so that X wins the vote. All they would have to do is find a way to split quadrant 1 into three groups. This would give X three votes to O’s two, so X would win. If they wanted to get greedy they could split quadrant 1 into four groups.
And that is how you make democracy work for you.
* Citizens, meaning any person whom the government has issued the ability to cast a vote. This does not mean that everyone under the umbrella of said government has a say in what that government can and cannot do.