I’m an open-source developer working in the area of social and collaborative media. (Hello again.) I am seeking advice on the wording of a political slogan.
By way of explanation, I’ve been working with project textbender to develop recombinant text. It’s a collaborative medium for poetry, creative writing, musical composition, and so forth. But it also has socio-political applications. These are being explored in a sister project, Votorola:
I am working on a political slogan (of sorts), in order to express the purpose of ‘open elections’. Here is what I have, so far:
(Phew!) This summarizes the design purpose of open elections, well enough. It also roughly paraphrases Jurgen Habermas’s critical theory of society (communicative action), which happens to inform the design. But, as it stands, it’s not very inspiring… Are there any wordsmiths who could help? Can anyone suggest improvements?
(Note: The collaborative tools under development for policy and legislative drafting will also be applicable to creative art. As they’re developed, they’ll be released to creative artists, too.)
Sure, those are communities. I used to speak of ‘citizen’ or ‘electorate’. Common sense would have it that open elections are a political, governmental thing. But it turns out they’re purely social, and wholly embedded in societal communities. Here’s the theory (very rough, read at own risk):
I read your paper. Have you ever worked in a polling place on election day? I have, for many years, and I highly recommend the experience. The voters are all ages, they only come in to vote once a year or more, and a machine with its alien interface is the last thing they need.
Paper ballots are easy to read, mark, and count. Yes, they take time. But the work is done by people who know each other and more or less trust each other, even if they have differing politics. Yes, it takes a while for the results to come in. Yes, cheating can occur. That’s true of any system, but the possibilities for fraud in computerized voting are exponential.
If democracy will endure, we need to keep it simple. Voting is like going to church or getting married: it’s an act of faith and trust in the fabric we weave of our social life. There are some places that computers don’t belong. Let’s keep them out of the election booth?
Tame the machine sounds conspiracy theory and will make many communities shy away from the rest of your words.
Try something less aggressive like
“Putting oversight back into the hands of the people”.
Now to your idea and theory I can point out quite a few ways why it won’t work.
(1) No one “owns” their own personal email. A company rents/leases a domain to a person and a majority of times it is their hardware that is their email so tying an email to a person canot be done like tying a social security number or other form of ID to that person. Since that cannot be done the security of the system is already flawed for accountability.
(2) Spam Filters could effect an election based on this theory.
(3) Anonymity of the voter is lost because IP and hardware ID numbers can be logged violating federal law of voter remaining anonymous. This is were voter fraud would become rampant and “vote selling” would occur.
(4) Recount system is flawed becuase of the first 3 items I listed making accuracy non-existant.
(5) This system is easily cheated, especially with a lack of voter registration checks in place, no ID check, no address check, etc. More rampant voter fraud.
(6) It would violate at least 6 federal laws and an unknown amount of state laws which each law would have to be overturned or ammeneded before this could be used leading to a lot of money and training which would make the system cost more than sending a man to mars in reality. Who is going to pay for that? The tax payers? They would have a riot.
(7) You would violate ADA compliance voting so then your system would not be ADA compiant and that would be another snafu you would have to deal with because then under your system a person who is blind and deaf or cannot read (which is more common than you think) would not be able to vote.
(8) It is an unsecured system and unreliable which would lead to the “machine” being able to empower themselves without oversight of the voting process.
(9) The majority of people would not go for it. Simply put. People are funny when it comes to voting. They will give you their Social security number, credit card number, mother’s maiden name, address, insurance, everything pertaining to their identity and will trust people with it without a thought. BUT their vote? Hell no. They are suspicious, paranoid, and down right confrontational if they feel their vote is not 100% secure. They want something tangible that if need be, at a later time they can go back and ask for a recount and see with their own eyes how each vote was cast if someting comes into question.
(10) THis system does not allow a voting official a clear means of determining voter intent leading to much confusion (remember the hanging chad)
I can go on for hours on how this will never work but all I can truly tell you is this.
People want a paper trail and they want security. Your idea, although neat, offers neither.
(Yes, I did work at a polling station – as a deputy returns officer, Ontario – but only for one election.)
I do understand, it’s a human thing. And I take it to heart in the design. But Votorola is not a voting machine… It is not meant for polling stations. It is not meant to replace traditional voting, or to replace any part of the state’s electoral system. It is meant, rather, to replace the various electoral systems of the political parties. We’ll use it (those of us who wish) to nominate our own candidates to the ballot, as alternatives to those nominated by the parties.
We’ll also use it to draft our own policies, and our own legislative bills. Again, the intention is not to replace (nor even to alter) any existing government institutions. The intention is only to shift the responsibility and competence for legislative and policy decisions – shifting them out of government and party hands, and into the communities that are affected by them.
These changes would (I hope) strengthen the social fabric of communities; strengthen the authority and legitimacy of state institutions; and improve the relationship between government and governed.
You’re right Wock, “tame the machine” is rather aggressive. Open elections aren’t intended to be aggressive, or forceful in any way. Maybe we need a shortened version of what you suggest; something that could wrap around the icon, as here (top right):
We have authenticated voter lists, tying email address to voter identity. These are still poorly documented (yet to be coded), but authentication is via a neighbourhood trust network. Near neighbours will cross-authenticate each other:
Email is only sent between the voter and the electoral office (not voter to voter). Any problems with spam filters (rare occurrence, on either side, I predict) could be dealt with case by case.
Also, there will be Web interfaces (though not till the beta). Most voters will use the Web, I think, rather than email.
Only the community electoral office would have access to IP address. If the voter did not trust the electoral office, then she would not have to vote. (And if enough voters had doubts about the office, they’d just set an office of their own, and abandon the untrustworthy one.)
Voting is optional. This is not a governmental electoral system, rather an independent community system. Government regulations on voting do not apply here. (The community may have its own regulations, though.)
Voters can cast anonymously if they choose. (This has yet to be documented.) Most voters (I predict) will cast publicly. All delegates will cast publicly, of course (else their backers could not trace the path of their own votes, through the cascade).
Vote buying may be a problem. We can discuss possible solutions (it has come up before). Basically, at the bottom level (among non-candidate voters), vote buying rings are easy to detect (hard to keep secret). Where the voters are casting publicly (as the buyer will usually insist) the detection will be an embarrassment to the voters. This will deter them from selling their votes, in the first place. This will make it even harder for the vote buyers to keep their efforts secret. And so on…
At higher levels, among delegates, vote buying would be equivalent to what political parties call ‘campaign financing’. This would be harder to detect. But we expect less of it in open elections (than in party HQs), for two reasons: cheaper campaigns, and tighter voter oversight. Election campaigns are cheaper because mass media is not needed. Politicians will be less at the mercy of financiers, less desperate for funds. In theory, one could campaign and win office for $0 (even making a platform plank of it, up front).
The other reason why ‘campaign financing’ would be less effective is because elections are continuous. Any politician who favours her financial supporters over her electoral supporters will suffer a loss of electoral support. That loss will become the gain of the rival candidates for her office, each of which will be hoping to replace her in the next term. Those rivals will proceed to grill her in public. This will act as a deterrent. Politicians will no longer be such a good investment for those who wish to buy political influence. The influence peddling market will therefore lose ‘liquidity’ (as economists like to call it), and hopefully dry up all together.
(The recount system should be OK. It may not be completely functional for early beta trials, though.)
Are there no email tools for the blind??
Innocent till proven guilty! For security and reliability, we have these safeguards:
Open source code.
Electoral offices (running the code) are administered by independent volunteers at the level of counties, municipalities, and so forth.
A watchdog interface allows anyone to independently download the electoral data from the local office, and verify the results of an election.
With so many eyeballs, we should be able to discover and fix flaws quickly. (Meantime, if you see any, please tell me. I will fix them.)
Community electoral systems will provide stronger guarantees, in that regard, than governmental systems. When you vote in an open election, your vote does not disappear into a ballot box, never to be seen again. You can see exactly where it goes, and to what effect. If you don’t like the result (or if you change your mind), you can take your vote back, or shift it to another candidate. (Try that, at the polling station!)
Voters have feedback for every vote that is cast. And later, too, they can simply send an email message to the election, consisting of the single word ‘vote’. The electoral server will then reply, showing the full trace of the vote, as last cast.
If a voter has problems with the system, and is unable to reach the electoral officer (or sysadmin, or whatever these volunteers will be calling themselves), then she’d have the option of complaining directly to a candidate; e.g. to the candidate she intends to vote for. The candidate could then help her, or could relay a message to the electoral office.
(If I’ve answered your points, please don’t hesitate to make more. The system’s not perfect, and not completely coded yet. But it is quite different. And that makes it interesting to run scenarios in the imagination, to ask ‘what if…’)
(2) How would you email compliance be compatible with a puff/sip ADA system. (How would Christopher Reeds have voted with an email system without assistance?)
(3) How would you prevent an ISP from “sifting” or “changing” a vote once it is sent through their system enroute to your server.
(4) If it is open souce code how can you show 100% security.
(No exploits). This has yet to be achieved in the world of Open Source.
(5) How would you determine party affiliation?
(6) How would you keep a bot from “voting” by creating new email addresses and registering them. (CAPA is not 100%)
(7) How would you do a “recount” if the vote tabulator is in an earthquake or other natural disaster.
(8) How would people who do not have emil addresses nor computers partake in voting. SOme people may rebel and say your system is geared toward the rich and leaves the poor without a voice
(9) How do you keep the vote tallied for region or location?
(10) How do you determine a vote is already cast for one person if they have multiple email accounts or if they have already voted.
(11) How do you handle Overvoting/Undervoting?
(12) How do you present precicnt information tallies?
(13) How does one “nominate” another person.
(14) How do you check to make sure the person’s rights were not invalidated due to law violation. One who is either serving time or is currenlty on payroll, prohobation, etc may not be eligiable to vote until their rights are reinstated.
(15) How do you “curbside vote”?
(16) How do you verify legitamicy without a voters signature or in person with a photo ID check?
(17) How do you prevent someone from hacking the email server and “changing” a vote.
(18) How do you prevent an illegal alien from voting?
The problems you face are instilling trust, security, transparancy, andequality for all who participate. People relate computers and technology to “big brother” and it terrifies them to think of “electronic voting” because of the fear of the vote being rigged. They get viruses on their computers, phishing sites, spam, hackers, trojans, back door bots, etc and when you mention electrnic voting they will ask the big question.
If Microsoft could not do it, Apple could not do it, Unix could not do it, linnux, could not do it, OS/2 could not do it, and every other operating system and software made how are you going to offer 100% security and reliability? If your software runs on a commercial OS or an OPEN source one you still do not have 100% propritary rights to all of the code and therefore cannot offer 100% reliablity. If you use anything but your own properitary OS and software code then someone else can have the ability to reverse engineer your security.
You face a tough cookie.
As to party nominations and electoral collee etc.
It is antiquated and needs an overhaul. We now have the technology and ability to have 1 election nationwide using current voting equipment and could decide the nominees in 1 election and then have the election in November.
And we could do it all by popular vote.
As to your slogan you need to express the idea of checks and balances. The ability to vote is the check and balance instilled to keep the politicans from taking away the people’s voice and not have them answer to anything but themselves
I liked the word ‘free’ in your answer, Howard. I think it can apply in the historical (American) sense, too. Open elections are independent of government and parties. They enable communities to ‘declare independence’ (in a sense), take charge of their own destiny, and protect themselves from external interferences. (The external interferences are even called ‘colonization’ in social theory!)
I must confess, I’m not much concerned about the slogan. It was just my excuse to get artists’ talking about the idea of open elections. (I’m temporarily in YAK mode.)
I agree, Fancesca, these will be problems. I don’t have answers, but maybe communities will…
It will be communities that run the open elections, open policy and legislative processes. It will be communities that set the priorities. And since these are basically social problems, they’ll be a high priority, and we’ll solve them. (Not sure how, yet.)
Translation will need more thought, I agree.
Right, these were Francesca’s points (1 and 3 further above). Again, no such capability is assumed for all. Those handicapped will work to overcome their handicaps, while others more fortunate will come to their aid – only this much is assumed.
Many lack the means to participate, true. (Many also lack the freedom.) Their voices cannot be heard, so they cannot be included in the consensus. And this is wrong. But the question then becomes: ought we (those who are fortunate and free) to exclude ourselves, too? Ought we to remain silent?
If we could pose that question to them, what would they answer? What would they answer if we explained: “We have this ability to deliberate and reach agreement on issues of world-wide importance. Please tell us, excluded people of the world, what ought we to do with this ability?”
In response, would they not ask, “In your deliberations, will you give some thought to us?”
We could answer, quite honestly, “Yes. From the day these deliberations were first proposed, and ever since, the problem of exclusion has come up, again and again. It’s a long-standing problem. It has political, economic, cultural and social dimensions. Our governments (and yours) have been unable to solve it. So we’re going to [deliberate], amongst ourselves, and decide what to do.”
It would be a qualified consensus, not broadly representative of the world’s population. It would have to be interpreted in that light…
Solutions have been proposed in past discussions. (I can’t find the original posts, at the moment.) One suggestion was to reach out via non-technical interfaces. Voters need not be online, then, provided they have some kind of access to others, who are. So, for example, a variation of sneaker-net was proposed.
No system is 100% secure and reliable, whether the code is open or closed. (Even the command and control system for a nuclear missle silo is less than 100% secure and reliable.)
It will be impossible to prevent all conceivable exploits. What we cannot prevent, therefore, we must detect (and correct). In some cases, the volunteer administrators will be the first to detect exploits. In other cases, the wider community will detect them. For this purpose, we provide a watchdog interface. The watchdog interface allows the public to verify the reported results of any election:
If those arguments are correct, then political parties will not be a factor. Political parties (as we know them) will cease to exist.
The bot would have to be authenticated by the neighbourhood trust network, before its votes would count. No neighbourhood would extend its trust to a bot, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Interesting scenario… By ‘tabulator’, you must mean the community electoral server, where the electoral data is stored. Well, the easy answer is, “No need. Just set up another electoral server, and re-start the local elections from scratch.” These are continuous elections; they just keep running, with no end – until interrupted by a cataclysm, of course. But cataclysms are rare.
We could do better, perhaps. Many copies of the electoral data will be scattered about the community (from watchdog and synchronization interfaces). If some of them survive, we could cross-authenticate them (looking for signs of tampering). We could use one of them to restart the elections, and thus avoid restarting from scratch.
How determine which jurisdiction a voter is in? Is that the Q? Every voter’s residential address is recorded in the electoral register:
Every voter (email address) must be authenticated by the neighbourhood trust network. Multiple email accounts per resident will be discovered (by your neighbours) leading to loss of trust, exclusion from the network, and ineligibility to vote.
The database keeps track of each voter’s current vote (one vote, per election, per voter). A voter may shift her vote around, or withdraw it, but she can never cast a 2nd vote.
It is impossible to accidentally cast for 2 candidates (overvoting). The interfaces will not allow it.
Accidentaly casting for nobody (undervoting), or for the wrong candidate (misvoting), could be detected by the voter. The interfaces will provide her with feedback. If she learns that she has voted incorrectly, she can simply re-cast her vote. She can re-cast it then and there, or tomorrow, or 6 months later. The elections are continuous. They keep right on running. There is no deadline. There is always time to correct a vote…
How break the votes of a larger electorate into jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction sub-tallies? Is that the Q? Jurisdictions are known from (9). It is easy to compute sub-tallies, if that info is needed.
By casting a vote for her. (Anyone with an email address can receive votes.)
Under the current implementation, all residents would be entitled to vote. The only eligibility criteria are: 1) verified an authentic resident by neighbours; and 2) residing in the election’s jurisdiction.
If a community wishes to impose additional criteria on itself, then it may do so. But note: the community must also do the work to ensure the accuracy of any data on which the eligibility tests are to be performed. The community already polices the rolls with respect to residential address information. Any additional criteria could increase that burden.
For people who are unable to enter a polling station, owing to disability etc? This is an online voting system. It has no polling stations.
Legitimacy (authentication) is verified by neighbours. They do not need photos or signatures to decide whether a registrant is bonafide. They know the registrant, personally.
Communities will help them. They’ll help anyone who, wishing to vote, is unable owing to personal, economic, cultural, political or social disadvantages. That includes people who simply have a fear of technology.
But there won’t be time. They’ll run out of time. The electoral system of every political party is about to be replaced by a single, open system.
True, an election is a check. Once every 4 years or so, politicians receive a check from the electorate. Balance is restored. In between, balance depends on a politician’s foresight of future checks, and her calculation of the strength of voter memory. That is how it works, now.
With open elections, this will change somewhat. Politicians will acquire a new means of keeping balance. If they begin to fall, they’ll immediately receive a helping, guiding hand from the electorate. The checks will come daily, hourly.
(1) An infamous murder gets “nominated” and pulls in enough prison votes or a pediphile how do you answer to the community? If every single prisoner/parolee all voted for one person they would carry a very strong vote which could horrify the public because they forfeited their rights by breaking the law. Circumventing the Law is not a good way to start things off.
An example is what Howard Stern did to American Idol. He “encouraged” people to practice their own right to vote and purposely vote for one who should not be there to “rig” American Idol. He succeeded for many weeks in doing this.
Or a political nominee is all for amensty for illegal aliens and illegal aliens can vote with your process then what happens is you devalue the most prized possession of “citizen” and that is the right to vote. If you allow illegal aliens to vote you are allowing foreign nationals to decide the political future of a country they are not a citizen of. This of course would violate the Constitution/Bill of Rights and pose a serious threat to National Security.
(2) ADA compliance is a Federal obligation and law. Business owners have to follow ADA guidelines. If your voting process alienates people then it goes against the very essence of what you are trying to achieve and thus you become the “machine” you wish to avoid. You become a political arm of choice and yet you are selective to those you listen to.
Howls of rage would be heard if your system was put into place and didn;t allow the poor or illeterate to vote Yet you let illegal aliens (foreign nationals), Murderers, Pediphiles, and anyone in Prison who by law has the “rights” to access a computer and thus can vote yet a law abiding illeterate cannot. The irony would lead to hypocrisy.
(3) Politicans do not care what the public think unless they are going to be impeached or voted out or if they are coming up for election.
The “up to date” results will not do anything to change policy or political views and attitudes because of one big thing. The votes don’t count for anything after the election UNLESS they are found to violate the publics trust enough that the public moves to vote them out which is costly, time consuming, and in reality doesn’t happen much.
The current administration has an all time low of public opinion and yet policy hasn’t changed to “improve” the public view. Once a politican is voted in it is easy street unless they have a gross violation they usually can go about doing what ever they want until Election time.
Your software would do nothing more than give a complicated and skewed public opinion because of the fact that anyone can literally vote whether they legally can or not because you have no security infrastructure in place to prevent a non-valid voter from voting.
In other words your idea segrates people by access privalages and yet gives the number one prize (Voting) to anyone that has a resident and thus giving anyone a voice which would devalue the right which so many have fought for. Voting.
This would be more like a Nationwide lottery. The problem is who is going to be encouraged to vote this way? Many people do not vote now because the system sems complex enough. Turning the voting process for nominees into a free for all for those that have access limits the countries choices of nominees to the ones these “select few” will choose.
I would nominate my cat. He has a valid email address, valid residential address, and my neighbors would go along with the ruse. I could then encourage enough people to vote for my cat and he could win the nomination. The funny part would be when he wins the nomination for whatever party and I bring him in to be sworn in. Although I think he may be strict on the dog population and want free Kitty Litter.
Sound bite: “Government knows what it wants (power). Commerce knows what it wants (wealth). Yet who can predict what a community will aspire to?”
Responding to Wock’s concerns,
These questions can only be answered by individual communities. You and I cannot speak, here, on behalf of communities that are scattered all across the world. We can only address these questions in a general way. Regarding law, and other social norms: If a certain community has laws (or norms) that cover online services of this sort, then the community’s electoral office (and voters) must obey those laws. If they require technical assistance to achieve legal compliance, then they’ll communicate the requirements to developers, and the developers will help them.
Regarding barriers to access: Where not covered by the norms above, these problems will be handled at the initiative of community members. Are you under the impression, Wock, that open elections will be provided by an outside agency, such as a business, or a government? Not so. The following Q and A are from another forum:
True, and barriers to access will be especially high for poorer communities, e.g. in the developing world. Again, this echoes Francesca’s points (1 and 3). I think my answer serves: the solutions (partly social, partly technical, partly others) will come from the communities. The initiative will come from those who feel (or see) the need most acutely.
We are used to government taking the initiative, and to being critical of them. But open elections are a community initiative. We have no choice but to be self-critical. Some kinds of problems can only be solved by a community, working together. And that’s what communities do best, it seems – provided they are left in peace, without interference, and allowed to work things out for themselves.
I can understand your doubts. Six months ago, I shared them. Six months ago, I was unaware that open elections are possible. In this thread, a Swedish politician is expressing (in rather colourful language ) similar doubts to yours. The discussion is ongoing:
I stand by the answer in my last post. We have authenticated voter lists, backed by a neighbourhood trust network. Scientists, engineers and politicians have looked at it. They think it could work. That doesn’t mean they’re right, and you’re wrong; but you ought to be more specific in your criticism (give reasons). Else how am I to answer?
You imply that the existing system of nomination is superior to the new one, as proposed. Again, I stand by the answer in my last post. An open electoral system will be superior to the existing array of party electoral systems, and it will out-compete them. Here is the complete argument. Do you disagree with any part of it? (Following is a quote, from the link at bottom.)
The counteraction would begin at the ballot box, where open elections would out-compete political parties in the role of nominating candidates for state ballots. To understand how open elections can affect the System in this way, the important thing to bear in mind is that state elections typically depend on multiple electoral systems:
Party electoral systems (one per political party)
State electoral system (one)
The relationship between them is that the party elections together determine the candidature of the state elections. Effectively they print the ballots. When voters show up at the polls on election day, they choose between candidates A and B (and sometimes C). But those candidates were pre-chosen for them by the electoral systems of the parties.
Open elections may be viewed as a system in direct competition with political parties. The two are in direct competition because they perform similar political functions (in theory), and because party members will have a choice (in practice) of which to use for the purpose of conducting nominations for the ballot. As well, the rest of society (non-party members) will have a way to participate in the nomination process without joining parties.
In the competition between the political parties and open elections, it is expected that open elections will have two key advantages: technical superiority of electoral facilities; and a single facility to serve all interest groups. Technical superiority follows from the observation that engineers and other technicians have a work ethos that embraces openness (in the sense of knowledge sharing). The argument is that, because the technology of open elections is based on similar principles, it will attract more of their interest and effort. And that will be sufficient to ensure that open elections are the best equipped.
The other key advantage is a single electoral facility, serving all interest groups in common. It replaces a plurality of separate elections (one per party) with a single election. This is an advantage, in part, because it offers a convenience to voters and candidates who have interests that happen to cross party lines. With a single electorate and a single pool of candidates, votes can more easily find their targets. More important, an open election with a broadly based electorate would provide not only nominees for the state elections, but, increasingly, an accurate prediction of the final winner. The desire to influence that prediction will attract the membership of the political parties.
If open elections do attract more participants, then they will win the competition. Then, come election day, the candidates on the state ballot (A, B and sometimes C) will have been pre-chosen by open elections, and not by the political parties.
Open elections will come to Fayetteville, possibly as early as this summer. All it takes is a local volunteer to set up the electoral server. At first, there’ll be some people who don’t take it seriously (not you, you have already said that you take voting seriously). There’ll also be people who are outright opposed to it. But if any of them does abuse the electoral system, you’ll have the opportunity to see how the community responds. I predict they’ll be somewhat tolerant of good-natured practical jokes (if not taken too far) but quite intolerant of outright sabotage, or election rigging. Exploiters will lose both their voting privileges, and the respect of their neighbours.
(Hey, the forum’s back! And lookin’ better than ever.
In follow up, I’ve been able pin down (tentatively) the cultural effects. These may be of interest to creative writers and other artists.
This section (see links) hypothesizes the effects of placing an open electoral medium at the disposal of societal community and culture. In general, the predicted effects are the disentanglement of Lifeworld and System (Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action), and the consequent rationalization of the four subsystems of society. Specifically, societal community (bottom right) will effectively take the driver’s seat of the political machine, so that community interests come to guide the general course of politics (top right). Distant goals will be expressed through the cultural sphere (bottom left), which will be disentangled from the economic (top left), and hooked, instead into community. Artifacts of collective creation – of consensus expression – will then become the travelogues, the sign-posts, and the visions that fill the blank spaces of the journey’s map.
The last two sections (links repeated below) are written in an informal style (not too theoretical or technical). These concern the direct cultural effects, with particular emphasis on creative literature: