Nevil Shute in his 1952 book, "In the Wet" came up with a novel solution to the issues outlined above. Basically, he portrayed a situation in an alterate Australia where, although suffrage was universal, people were able to 'earn' a larger say in how their country was run.
I don't necessarily agree with Shute, but nonetheless, his ideas were very interesting.
In his system of government, people were able to acquire up to seven votes, alloted in the following way:
- The Basic vote, which every citizen received.
- The Education vote, given to those who studied to degree level.
- The Military Service vote (self explanatory).
- The Family vote, given to a couple who stayed together long enough to raise their children to adulthood.
- The Business vote given to employers, on the basis that in providing work for others they were contributing more to the country.
- The Travel vote, awarded to those who had lived and worked overseas, on the basis of the broader experience and knowledge they had gained.
- The Special vote, awarded only for instances of outstanding service to Queen and Country (Shute's Australia was still actively part of the British Empire).
Any citizen could acquire any of the votes, each one being awarded independently of the others. It is worth noting that Shute himself was rabidly anti-socialist, so his criteria for gaining a vote tended to the right-wing, but it is also worth commenting that solid contribution to a community was worth more in his eyes than any form of intellectual elitism. It didn't rely on sixth-grade tests or cleverness, but on what each person actually did. Nobody was disenfranchised, nobody disregarded, and literally everybody had the opportunity to earn a greater voting power.
Oh, and the book has a really great plot, too -- it's an involving political thriller ... worth a read, if you can find it.