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Using the Internet To Subvert Democracy

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-thought-diebold-was-bad dept.

The Internet 202

david_adams writes "All the recent talk about various polls and elections being pranked or hijacked, serious and silly alike, prompted me to write an article about the technical realities behind online polling, and the political fallout of ever becoming subject to online voting for serious elections. Even if we were to be able to limit voting to legitimate, legal voters, the realities of social networking and the rise of Internet-based movements would dramatically alter the political landscape if online voting were to become commonplace."

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202 comments

Dumb article. (5, Informative)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755823)

Stupid article - a transparent attempt to get his friend a new bicycle. I strongly urge everyone to go to the Kona website [konaworld.com] and vote for the Tanuki (if you don't understand why, RTFA).

Oh, and TFA states: That's why no country practices direct democracy. Wrong [geschichte-schweiz.ch]

Re:Dumb article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27755955)

Or just vote for "King Kilauea" - it needs more votes. =)

Oh, and http://www.konaworld.com/09_contest3.htm just in case you missed it in the previous post

Re:Dumb article. (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756185)

As of this writing, the counts are at 44% for Tanuki, 11% for King Kilauea, 45% for Cadabra.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756919)

As of this writing, the counts are at 44% for Tanuki, 11% for King Kilauea, 45% for Cadabra.

Now, Kilauea has been eliminated, & Tanuki is 68% vs Cadabra at 32%.

I feel almost guilty for fucking up that dude's plan.

Re:Dumb article. (2, Insightful)

NiteMair (309303) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756073)

Doesn't your suggestion to vote the opposite essentially represent the exact same behavior?

People should be encouraged to vote their minds, not vote how you think they should vote.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756137)

Doesn't your suggestion to vote the opposite essentially represent the exact same behavior?

No - it shows how an attempt to subvert a vote like this can itself be subverted in an unexpected manner.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756371)

Inb4 Colbert [slashdot.org] or Moot. [time.com] For the lulz.

When life...is just a game, who's to blame?
-- Green Jelly

Re:Dumb article. (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756561)

while Colbert fans voted fairly, i find it hard to believe there was no mischief behind moot getting 16m votes, it would take take 4chan 100% of there visitors to vote for the last 3 months (5.6 million visitors a month) to get that sort of turnout.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

robably (1044462) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757091)

i find it hard to believe there was no mischief behind moot getting 16m votes, it would take take 4chan 100% of there visitors to vote for the last 3 months

It's even better than that, and more impressive - they made the first letter of each of the top 21 names read "marblecake, also the game" link [musicmachinery.com]

Re:Dumb article. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27757161)

i find it hard to believe there was no mischief behind moot getting 16m votes

Mischief? 4chan? Pffft. We never go any further than shenanigans, I'll have you know!

At one point moot may have > 300% of the vote, however. Also, marblecake, also the game.

Re:Dumb article. (5, Insightful)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756085)

I like how it says that internet based movements would alter the political landscape (translation: people would be heard again) but the article is "Using the Internet to Subvert Democracy."

Since when was Democracy redefined to, "What the rich and powerful want?"

Re:Dumb article. (2, Funny)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756273)

(translation: Internet people would be heard for the first time)

And considering the types of subcultures the Internet puts out (ahem: 4chan) I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Re:Dumb article. (3, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757035)

What is really odd about your statement, you use sub as in subculture but I think you don't really know what it means, in light of the way you used it. So the new internet democracy, people as individuals have the opportunity to have a voice, and collections of people ie. all of the various subcultures of the overall culture of that particular societal group will be able to share their thoughts within that subculture as well as within society as a whole.

So 4chan, or the Republicans, or the Klu Klux Klan or Bankers or Corporate Executives or Religious Fundamentalists or any of the other subcultures which express views which substantially diverge from the average, more reasonable and moral view of the general populace, will have a voice, however they will not be able to inflate that voice through violence or by paying for a much louder voice and effectively silencing the majority as they have done for the last couple of hundred years.

So the internet age is, the age of "a government of the people, by the people and for the people" and not as a platitude but as a developing reality.

Re:Dumb article. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756383)

Since when was Democracy redefined to, "What the rich and powerful want?"

Well, when were labor unions formed?

Re:Dumb article. (3, Informative)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756441)

Democracy redefined

Quote [historyguide.org]: "The citizens of any given polis were an elite group of people — slaves, peasants, women and resident aliens were not part of the body of citizens."

Any attempt of 'change' would indeed disturb the process of finding the roots again.

CC.

Have you paid attention to the last few US (1, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757185)

elections? Because Wall Street has their man in the White House right now. Show me another transfer of public wealth to private hands as what has occurred under Obama's watch? Either Geitner and Summers are masterfully playing Obama or he is paying Wall Street back for filling his campaign coffers. For a party of the people it is amazing that it seems to only be the party of the rich people once in office.

Sure they offer token dollars to us in the form of stimulus or whatever term they label it with but it is nothing compared to the money being spent to prop up hedge funds. Where is the accountability for Wall Street? Look at how the current Administration would make the car companies jump through hoops but has practically no real controls placed on Wall Street; if you haven't noticed all those cries of Barney Frank went suddenly silent.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757373)

when was Democracy redefined to, "What the rich and powerful want?"

Early 60's, I believe.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757505)

Nah, the people who first started using democracy applied to themselves and their rich and powerful friends (things like, white men only, land owners only, etc, were quite a bit more prevalent 300 years ago than they were 40 years ago).

Federalist #10 (4, Insightful)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757467)

Federalist #10 explores how true democracy would be susceptible to faction: http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm [constitution.org]. The "founding fathers" were very concerned about how easily swayed the common people are; in fact "mob" comes from "mobile vulgaris," the movable herd. I think Nietzsche's considerations on class resentment apply here too. Think about the true but disturbing populist movements like the French Revolution, the Stalinist and Maoist revolutions and so on. They're nasty things. Populism can become ugly quickly.

Re:Dumb article. (2, Interesting)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756093)

Well, if the Kona ends up winning, you are totally proving his point. His point being, for those of you that didn't RTFA, that an online community (such as an "OMG FRIST POAST!!!1!" on slashdot) can easily throw the results of an online poll.

Right now voting stands on 1587 total votes, 44% for the Tanuki and 45% for the Cadabra.

Multi voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756175)

And if you clear your cookie cache between votes, you can vote as many times as you want. I just voted twice for a name that was not the name being plugged by the article.

Re:Dumb article. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757217)

Yet another shitty website (micropoll) which requires javascript to initiate page loads. Who the fuck is teaching web developers to do this? They must be stopped.

Re:Dumb article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27757349)

Tanuki : Cadabra = 65% : 35%

Way to go, /b/! (Of course Tanuki is really Pedobear.)

Missing option? (1, Funny)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755827)

CowboyNeal

Re:Missing option? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27755917)

Ron Paul!

(This is referring to how Ron Paul supporters would in the year leading up to the election, for lack of a better term, "flash mob" any online poll that had Ron Paul as a choice and spam votes for Ron Paul. It didn't really matter what the poll was, it could have been "Who would you like to see devoured by a pack of dingos?", as long as Ron Paul was an option they'd be there spamming for him.)

Re:Missing option? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756553)

see: http://rompa.mybrute.com

Hard to Follow (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755845)

In one paragraph the article calls the Internet "meritocratic," but still wants to argue that it "subverts" democracy. Maybe, there is no "tyranny of the minority." Just maybe, people look at a lot of institutions as absurd and really would like to see Stephen Colbert in charge of them, and it's just taken the Internet increasing the flow of information for us to realize this.

Re:Hard to Follow (1)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756029)

Meritocracy is not Democracy.

Do you really think that if the during the 2008 presidential election, Stephen Colbert was on the ballot, he would get something other than a minority of the vote?

Or that 66% [msn.com] of a randomly selected cross section of msnbc viewers would pick Ron Paul as the "most convincing candidate"?

it's just taken the Internet increasing the flow of information for us to realize this.

That is exactly the problem. Online polls are only really representative of people who get news and information from the Internet, which is a minority of people.

Re:Hard to Follow (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756955)

Amen!

        People who use the Internet (and in particular, those in the media who think themselves part of the "in crowd") seem to think that they are the majority, and therefore, that trends appearing on the Internet reflect the population of the country--and sometimes of the world--at large. This has become ridiculuous to the point of comparing the rankings of, say, Google search results with the public opinion of a nation, or at times even fact.

        People should understand that, although there are millions of web pages on the Internet and that Google has indexed most, if not all of them; the entire collection of human knowledge is vastly larger than that. In other words, most of this knowledge is not available on the Internet, so you will not be as informed as you think if you depend solely on the Wold Wide Web.

        Likewise, there is a large majority of people in this country and in the world who do not use the Internet, or at least who do not depend on it as its sole source of information.

        This is precisely the reason why, after an insanely popular "protest" seems successful when offering massive outcry on an online forum such as Tweeter or Amazon.com's comments, it always ends up as an insignificant proverbial "drop in the bucket" when it is time to perform real world action. Suddenly they realize that only a very small group is participating on their march/boycott/picket-line.

        The Internet, and the World Wide Web in particular, is the world's largest and most efficient echo chamber.

          -dZ.

Re:Hard to Follow (1)

alexhard (778254) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756839)

Well, a meritocracy is pretty much the exact opposite of a democracy, so I don't see a problem with that.

Elections and online voting. (3, Insightful)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755851)

Computers have no practical place in elections unless there is a paper trail to verify the count. They just cause more confusion than hanging chads.

Re:Elections and online voting. (5, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755925)

Until computers are granted suffrage they ought not be trusted to count votes.

Re:Elections and online voting. (5, Interesting)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756039)

True story: When I was an undergrad I saw a table setup at the quad with a large sign that said "End Woman's Suffrage" I went up to talk to the guys and they literally had an entire clipboard of signatures, primarily from women thinking that "suffrage" was some bad thing akin to suffering. They were sponsored by the psychology department, I don't know what they were trying to prove, but I learned that day how stupid most people are.

Re:Elections and online voting. (2, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756157)

I don't know what they were trying to prove, but I learned that day how stupid most people are.

THAT is what they were trying to prove.

Re:Elections and online voting. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756161)

They were trying to prove that people want to be heard, that people want to make a lasting impact in the world. And that people more often than not don't even know what they're for, against or at all.

Go out in the streets with a friend who lugs some large camera around and pose as some sort of "opinion asker" for a local TV station. Ask random strangers whether they have heterosexual friends, or whether they are heterosexual. And be surprised of the answers.

Re:Elections and online voting. (2, Insightful)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756571)

They were trying to prove that people want to be heard, that people want to make a lasting impact in the world. And that people more often than not don't even know what they're for, against or at all.

That's a contradictory set of goals, purposes, and expectations...and nothing new, in fact, desire, or concept....nothing new at all.

Go out in the streets with a friend who lugs some large camera around and pose as some sort of "opinion asker" for a local TV station. Ask random strangers whether they have heterosexual friends, or whether they are heterosexual. And be surprised of the answers.

Don't try this in Boston if your camera has LED's. It could get ugly for you as a "terrorist".(sarcastic joke implied here)

Also, don't be surprised by how many times you get punched in the face and kicked in the 'nads in places like Oklahoma;-)...if you are lucky. (no sarcasm/troll/flamebait intended...too many times I have witnessed some 'crazy shit' here)

On the other hand, you could be given 'free reign' to go/do what you want....YMMV....preliminary research is highly advised.

Choose your venue very carefully. Good luck with this, irregardless...just be careful.(I would advise against this project in central Oklahoma unless you are pandering to the 'religious+++right'!!!!)
I was dumbfounded by the number of 'fellow cow-orkers' that were actually in fscking tears over Obama's winning the election, and the 'fact' that we would all be sold into Islamic slavery when he took office!!! Yes, the majority believed this!?!?!?!

Let them fire me if they can! This was at Oklahoma's "Oklahoma State University", in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
*note: the Administration, Faculty, and Students were/are not the problem, it is/was the 'Staff' personnel, that make up a large, and influential part of the total FUD here.*

Note: You college kids need to get involved, or at least pay attention to both your Student Government organisation, and your Campus/College Newspaper and Radio Station(if applicable).
You are the future, and the 'hope' of the next generation-fail this, and you will be reacting to shit, and delusionally blaming your woes on a third party. (think 'Editorials here...don't be bashful, at worst, your editorial will be turned down, you will not be taken out to be shot...yet.
Take charge, be aggressive, and don't take no for an answer without good cause.
After all, you are the ones that have to face yourselves in the mirror from now on, and justify your views/choices/decisions. It's all golden, if you have done your homework, and are not stupid, and have a 'pair'.

If you have 'done your homework/research', then it's all golden! If not, you are just another idiot...go back home to continue your stupidity, and pass it on.[see:DarwinAwards.com]...we will just add y'all to the statistics in some arbitrary, insignificant heading.
Avoid this!

Re:Elections and online voting. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756401)

Why exactly would people be expected to know what women's suffrage means in this day and age? At least in this country, the term hasn't been used in normal conversation for some time, it was part of a political battle that is 80 years gone, and left our vocabulary.

Expecting people to know the meaning of an archaic word with a phonetic relationship to something completely different seems silly.

Re:Elections and online voting. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756511)

So people don't know what Suffrage is, can't understand what "End womens suffrage!" means, yet signed the "petition" anyway. That's sort of the point...

Re:Elections and online voting. (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756563)

the term hasn't been used in normal conversation for some time, it was part of a political battle that is 80 years gone
the meaning of an archaic word

It is about time to write a SF-story about the consequences of a situation when the average memory span is determined by short term memory.

CC.

Re:Elections and online voting. (2, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757071)

Um, what?

Suffrage is not an archaic word and everyone, I mean everyone, should have learned about the suffragettes and the struggle to get women the vote. It just proves people are idiots, sorry.

Re:Elections and online voting. (1)

camken (568412) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757017)

Until computers are granted suffrage they ought not be trusted to count votes.

no offense to symbolset, but seriously.. this really isn't (or at least shouldn't be) a funny statement.

Re:Elections and online voting. (4, Insightful)

subreality (157447) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756053)

Computers have no practical place in elections unless there is a paper trail to verify the count.

To the point: Computers' place in elections should be solely to produce a clean, unambiguously marked, human readable, machine countable paper ballot, and the subsequent counting thereof.

Re:Elections and online voting. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756271)

Computers have no practical place in elections unless there is a paper trail to verify the count. They just cause more confusion than hanging chads.

Now you are talking about electronic voting. Home computers shall never have a place in elections.

They always let your family members (such as abusive father, husband, etc.) and possibly others (blackmailers, party representatives gestapo agents, etc.) to watch who you vote for or even vote on your behalf. Proper voting places with booths and people who make certain that only one person goes there at a time is the only way to secure voting, whether it is by paper or by machines.

Of course these said groups could even then prevent you from getting to vote if you can't fool them about who you would vote but even then it is only half as bad as someone forcing you to vote a party you don't support.

Re:Elections and online voting. (1)

tomtomtom (580791) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756461)

It is possible to design a (cryptographic) voting protocol with the property that, even if you were to show someone a copy of your actual electronic "ballot paper" (which is encrypted in a certain way so as to maintain a secret ballot), it is impossible to prove whether you voted one way or another.

By then designing the system to allow multiple votes from any one voter and only counting the last valid vote, this makes the only possible method of coercion physically imprisoning the voter during the entire time the polls are open. Since paper ballots are already susceptible to the same attack (albeit this only prevents people from voting at all, rather than forcing them to vote one particular way), this is probably acceptable to most people.

These schemes are designed to preserve the secrecy of individual ballots using a form of distributed decryption between multiple authorities (e.g. you could assign each political party to be an authority), so that at least a majority of the authorities would need to collaborate in order to decrypt any one vote. Systems can also be made robust to "rogue" authorities who don't follow the protocol correctly.

The votes can all be summed while encrypted and then the parties collaborate to decrypt the actual result.

Unfortunately there seem to be no real-world implementations of any of the numerous proposed protocols for proper cryptographic electronic voting, and very few people seem to be interested in implementing one. It's the sort of thing that governments, if they want to go down the route of online (or even electronic) elections, really ought to be sponsoring the implementation of.

Re:Elections and online voting. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756751)

It is possible to design a (cryptographic) voting protocol with the property that, even if you were to show someone a copy of your actual electronic "ballot paper" (which is encrypted in a certain way so as to maintain a secret ballot), it is impossible to prove whether you voted one way or another.

By then designing the system to allow multiple votes from any one voter and only counting the last valid vote, this makes the only possible method of coercion physically imprisoning the voter during the entire time the polls are open. Since paper ballots are already susceptible to the same attack (albeit this only prevents people from voting at all, rather than forcing them to vote one particular way), this is probably acceptable to most people.

Not really. An family member could tell "Vote like that" and after the vote is done take away your codes/chip card/whatever is needed for you to vote. Or alternatively a family member could take those things and vote with them just before the polls close and that would would be only one counted by you.

And well, paper ballots aren't suspectible to the same attack. As you stated it yourself, it only prevents you from voting at all but you can't be forced to vote against your will. This is a lot smaller evil. Even then you could (knowing the situation with such family members, etc.) claim to be voting for the one they will vote but really vote for the party you prefer and they would never know. This is not possible to ensure if people vote from homes.

With the increase of immigration from cultures in which men of the family do all the decisions this is a growing problem. It doesn't necessarily need to mean that the man would physically threaten the woman the whole time but it could be that man says who they should vote and the woman is expected to obey or she'll be in big trouble.

These schemes are designed to preserve the secrecy of individual ballots using a form of distributed decryption between multiple authorities (e.g. you could assign each political party to be an authority), so that at least a majority of the authorities would need to collaborate in order to decrypt any one vote. Systems can also be made robust to "rogue" authorities who don't follow the protocol correctly.

Majority of all the parties? Here in Finland there are a lot of small but official parties (most of which have little to none seats in the parliament). I don't like the idea that a dozen smaller parties which total 10% of the vote could together choose to decrypt votes. Or majority based on seats in the parliament? IE. if let's say Nazi party gets 55% of the seats, they can decrypt the votes and find out who didn't vote for them?

Re:Elections and online voting. (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757105)

So you want a ballot paper that nobody can read apart from the authorities doing the counting?

Interesting, but pointless. If you can't read it to verify your vote then there's no point having it, you may as well leave it at the place of voting. If you can read it then you can be coerced.

Robustness (4, Interesting)

noz (253073) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755887)

Changing democratic preferences is not a subversion of democracy. Many would argue it would make for a more robust democracy.

Re:Robustness (2, Insightful)

vandan (151516) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755923)

Agreed. The original story makes it sound like a deviation from the current would be bad. I think pretty much anything would be better. In particular, more actual substance ... more discussion ... more grouping of people of similar interests. This isn't "subversion". It's just discussion. God forbid people actually have a fucking clue what they're voting on before the fact ...

Re:Robustness (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756673)

Fred Doucet, a long-time friend and aide to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, likely doesn't recall three mysterious letters he wrote about Airbus plane deliveries to Air Canada because they were "mundane notes," Mr

Re:Robustness (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757433)

Agreed, but the tone of the article is that the change is "we're letting all the riff-raff in". Mostly that's hot air, because it's conflating elections where actual humans are allowed to vote only once with unauthenticated web polls.

I think there are two important metrics at play here: #1, what percentage of eligible voters will vote; #2, how well informed they are on the issues, on average.

#1 clearly goes up with internet voting, or any other method that makes it easy for the sick, elderly, remote, lazy, wage-slaves, intimidated, or whatever to vote.

At first blush, you'd expect #2 to be much lower in this crowd. Whether that's a good criteria for excluding their votes is certainly debatable, but misses what's likely a bigger issue: Will the people who would have voted anyway, vote SMARTER if they can consult Wikipedia, Rock the Vote, Vote Smart, their buddies on IM, or whatever source they trust to help form an opinion, and they're not in a rush to get out of the hot polling place and let the next guy in?

My money's on #2 going up.

Unfortunately, it's at the expense of subverting paper trails, guaranteed booth privacy, identity authentication, and a whole host of other problems that, in my opinion, probably aren't worth it.

Polls != Democracy (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#27755947)

Democracy is the force of the majority over the minority. It doesn't matter if you have elections or not.. that's just a formality.

Re:Polls != Democracy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27755989)

"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."

~ Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

Re:Polls != Democracy (4, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756223)

"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."

He's right, democracy stinks. That's why many people past and present prefer the alternative of ruling the mob, where one percent of the people take away the rights of the other ninety-nine.

Re:Polls != Democracy (4, Insightful)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756289)

from heinlein:

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again too. Who decides?

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.

Re:Polls != Democracy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756681)

ok [porn-motion.com]

Re:Polls != Democracy (1)

twostix (1277166) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756327)

Unfortunately all advanced forms of government seem to devolve into to populist democracies, probably then onto dictatorship but we're not quite far enough along the timeline to see yet.

Re:Polls != Democracy (2, Insightful)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756653)

A quote that's often led to the comparison that democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for lunch.

The more accurate comparison would be two poor men and a rich man, deciding who foots the bill.

The 51% of Jefferson's quote, or the majority in its trite examples, are not the wolves. They are the sheep. In a country like America, it is the poor, (the not-wealthy) who will always be in the majority. That's the nature of capitalism.

So it's not about 51% taking away the rights of 49%. It's about the 75% say, making sure that the 25% don't get mega rich at the expense of others. Or even that the 5% of the people can't own 50% of the wealth. That sort of thing.

There's a reason that James Madison objected to democracy on the grounds that it would "undermine the responsibility of government to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority."

Democracy is your friend, America. You just don't know it.

Re:Polls != Democracy (2, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756851)

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
-- Benjamin Franklin

Re:Polls != Democracy (5, Interesting)

damona (1182755) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756035)

<quote><p>Democracy is the force of the majority over the minority. It doesn't matter if you have elections or not.. that's just a formality.</p></quote>

That's just a facet of first-past-the-post democracies.

There are actually democracies where it's virtually impossible to get a majority.

Americans...

Re:Polls != Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756675)

There are actually democracies where it's virtually impossible to get a majority.

Americans...

How would one get anything done in such a system? I suppose one could form "coalitions" with other parties but that could make for some downright strange bedfellows.

Re:Polls != Democracy (3, Informative)

Maelwryth (982896) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756139)

MMP [wikipedia.org] and is currently in use by Bolivia, Germany, Italy, Lesotho, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, United Kingdom, and Venezuela in one form or another.

Can't really talk about the other countries, but in New Zealand the biggest downfall seems to happen when the major parties are closely matched and have to form coalitions with the minors for trade offs. This appears to be both a benefit and a disadvantage, depending on who you agree on at the time. :)

Luddite alert (1)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756033)

Stop pretending that online voting will not become the norm in the very near future. The fact that some previous implemented systems are inaccurate and insecure doesn't mean that ALL future systems are. I have yet to see a satisfactory e-voting system where they incorporating existing security technologies like encryption for eavesdropping, digital certificate/signature for identification, OTP like RSA for authentication. Combined all these security measure would be a good starting point, in the future potential technologies like quantum cryptography may even offer much higher security.

And if you somehow think paper trail is somewhat more secure, you are just delusional. Unfortunately, the current implementation of the internet is just not very secure. So ultimately, it is all about how secure the process and implementation are, and not whether the medium is on a piece of paper or through the internet.

Re:Luddite alert (2, Insightful)

maharb (1534501) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756089)

Even if you could transport that vote 100% of the time securely and accurately you still have a huge problem. The problem with any system where you can vote in plain sight of other people will lead to all sorts of complications. Mainly the creation of a new market, the votes market. People will probably buy votes. Even if its not enough to change an election it is still going to be considered far more important to ensure this isn't happening than to let people vote from home.

So maybe we can transport a vote safely, but without some way to make sure that a vote is a 'real' vote and not a product of bribery or criminal behavior is still in question.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756727)

There isn't anything really stopping what your suggesting with the current system, other than verifying that the bought vote was cast the way the buyer wanted.

The whole vote buying scenario is filled with problems.. both for seller and buyer.. so many problems that idea doesn't seem practical. First the buyer trying to find sellers (and vice versa) without getting caught.. Then you have the whole problem of establishing a price that the seller is willing to accept based upon the risk.. And then there is the matter of payment.. I think the whole thing would be so risky and expensive as to have such limited participation to be meaningless.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756925)

One more thing to illustrate my point... If someone tries to sell me illegal drugs I can say no, and let them go on their merry way.. same thing if they are trying to sell me what I suspect is stolen property (within reason), or a variety of many other petty crimes that some lowlifes might try and get me involved in, I'd pretty much walk away.. However I can assure you that if someone tried to buy my vote, I'd turn their ass in in a heartbeat.. and I be disgusted with anyone who told me that they did such a thing as selling their vote and probably turn them in too.

I have a feeling that there are so many people who would do the same thing, that I have little worry that vote selling would be a problem.. now there might be a problem of what to do with all the people who get caught.. but I think it would work itself out.. You know, creating jobs vacated by the people caught, and new jobs for prison guards.

Re:Luddite alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27757211)

Buying votes doesn't have to happen in an explicit way. How would you vote if you knew that your employer is a fanatic supporter of party A and would not consider you for a promotion if he knew that you voted for party B? There are lots of dependencies in the real world and secret votes are meant to give dependent people freedom from coercion of any kind.

Not being able to verify that the "bought" vote was cast the way the buyer wanted is exactly what stops vote buying. Secret, unprovable votes are one of the key requirements of a proper democratic voting system.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756097)

We are still working on ways to get grandmas email connection secure. I think trusting a national election to the internet is still quite a ways away.

Re:Luddite alert (5, Informative)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756117)

So ultimately, it is all about how secure the process and implementation are, and not whether the medium is on a piece of paper or through the internet.

I program computers for a living. They are an excellent tool for a lot of things. Totally electronic voting (whether at a polling place or over the Internet) is not a good use for that tool.

Here is a user interface. Push some buttons on it. It is going to send some data somewhere. Did it send the data you thought it would? Did it send it at all? If so, was it properly received at the other end? How would you know? Even if the UI tells you so, it could be saying so incorrectly, by either accident or malice.

Here is a piece of paper with readable language on it. Are the dots in the columns where you wanted your votes to be cast? You can answer that.

Here is a data file with a million entries in it. 35% of those entries are for value A. Change that to 60% with little to no evidence anything was changed. A well-designed script can do that in a blink.

Here are one million pieces of paper, 35% of which are (marked in ink or with punches) for value A. Change that to 60% with little to no evidence any changes were made. Now you've got a laborious and intensive process ahead of you, that aside from the fact that the papers are watched and you are very likely to leave evidence of tampering.

Recognizing a technology's legitimate limitations does not a Luddite make. The Internet is great for informal polls. It is not a good tool for serious ones such as an election where the results must be accurate and verifiable.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756747)

The financial institutions seemed to have cracked it with regard to verifiable, traceable, tamper-proof data exchange - why aren't VISA or MasterCard getting in on the act?

Re:Luddite alert (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757009)

Right. That's precisely why credit and debit cards are infallible and secure, and why we never hear about identity theft or fraud.

          -dZ.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757097)

But do you ever hear about the clearing houses losing data etc? The issues you describe are not failures of the system, but failures outside of the system that use the system in the same way as normal events.

If you ever look into fraud cases, its obvious that banks can track financial transactions throughout the system, they can't simply disappear until they are taken out of the system.

Re:Luddite alert (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27757155)

I can create a voting machine which I can trust. I can not create a voting machine which YOU can trust. You see, the problem isn't to write software which works correctly. That's easy. The problem is to make a system which is verifiable by laymen (so that everybody can trust it), but still keeps votes secret. Hand-counted paper ballots are an amazingly simple system which satisfies all requirements of a proper voting system. Consensus among programmers is that computers can not satisfy all requirements. Voting machines are made by people who knowingly disregard one or more of the requirements.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757167)

"I program computers for a living."

CS degree, 20yrs commercial experience - IMHO the parent is one of the best posts I have read on electronic voting.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757261)

There are two simple responses which I feel invalidate your analysis. Point the first: I can log into my bank and transfer funds, nobody thinks I should be unable to do this because I might enter the wrong number. Why should I be held responsible for my own banking activity, but not my own voting activity? Point the second: Since we apparently can't recount the paper ballots anyway, who fucking cares? Voting is masturbation so long as the majority believes that there are only two parties and that voting for anyone else is a waste of time. We need substantial percentages of the population to vote for third parties before anything can possibly change. Voting for one of the two major parties has so far been a massive FAIL, but people keep doing it...

Re:Luddite alert (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756225)

Computer based voting can never be secured to the same point as paper based voting. For a very simple reason: Trust. You would have to trust someone.

Paper has one key feature that a computer can never reach: Anyone literate can use it and verify it. You can read, or at least tell left from right and someone tells you left is Party A and right is Party B, you can recount. Also, should someone try to mess with the ballot, anyone with normal working senses can be a bystander to ensure this won't happen. You can see that someone opens the ballot, a simple (but very, very special) paper slip glued to the lock (aka a seal) can already show whether someone tampered with it.

With computers, you first of all have to trust the maker of the election hardware and software, or at least you have to trust all the auditors, first that they did their job right and second that they're not "in" with the makers. You, Joe Average, cannot test the reliability of the setup. You're no computer expert. And if you are, and even if you're giving the chance to audit the software, you know that you simply cannot ensure to 100% that every single vote will be counted the way it is supposed to be. With paper, no problem. Take the votes and start counting. Anyone can do it.

Tamper proof... is it? I can't tell if the ballot has been opened, I cannot tell whether someone will see who voted which way. Can you? Can Joe?

No matter how you twist and turn it, computer elections cannot be made reliable to the same extent we have today with paper ballots.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757271)

Computer based voting can never be secured to the same point as paper based voting. For a very simple reason: Trust.

The last time somebody tried to actually recount ballots in a presidential election, the recount was halted under completely bullshit premises. The only thing that I trust is that the election will be stolen no matter what means we use to tally votes. We might as well just work by a "Show of hands" system if we're not going to elect by the will of the people.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

twostix (1277166) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756275)

You think that any government sponsored vote tallying system will ever use such complex and costly things as quantum encryption?

RSA has been around for how long again? Do any of them use it...No.

*Hint* No government in the world is going to develop or pay hundred of millions of dollars for an ultra secure hollywood movie style electronic systems that will be used for one day every four years. Especially when there's a perfectly good, proven and cheap way of doing it that's worked over and over for the last few hundred years.

They'll do exactly what they have been doing, half assing it to satisfy people like you, the technology for technologys sake crowd. And then when it all fails scrap it and go back to the cheap, easy and proven method.

It is you who is delusional; delusional of where government departments priorities lay. Certainly not in maintaining the type of multi-million dollar secure networks that you want which will be used once every four years and spend the other 3 years and 11 months costing money and manpower.

Your bizarre expression of paper not being more secure is rather bizarre too, given it's 300+ year proven track record, I and ten thousand others can stand and watch paper votes being counted. Hell I can volunteer to count them myself. How is that possible with a computer? And What if there's a sun spot, or defective memory stick or a million other problems and a single bit that flips and causes 500 to become 5000? That's enough to win an election. Will these electronic systems need to be that hardened as well? How much will that cost? Would they have to redo the election?

Probably easier and safer to stick with the tried and true method I'd say.

Re:Luddite alert (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756587)

I am a singularist, I am a far cry from being a luddite. I think electronic voting is the worse idea that democratic leaders accepted recently. Why ? Currently, it is a mathematical problem that *may* be solved one day but that currently isn't, to design a cryptographic system that allows :
* Anonymousness of votes
* Verifiability of votes
* Verifiability of results/counting
* Not to rely on a trusted third party

Currently, paper ballots allow all of these and no cryptographic system works with all these features. All of these features are absolutely necessary. There are historical and even recent cases where only one was missing and the democracy failed.

So the CIA would have to hire more "normal" people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756079)

Like "Joe the Plumber"? And spend less grooming the next generation of news reporters?

Oh noes, the paradigm shift and what not.. I'll be in my tinfoil hat, thankyouverymuch.

Kind of redundant, isn't it? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756153)

Isn't subverting democracy kind of like framing OJ Simpson? Sure, people do it, but does it really matter?

Increase voter participation... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756163)

If we had a web-enabled voting and polling system that was workable and secure, these 'polls' would be as relevant as the Semaphore, Telegraph, and Pony Express is today competing with the internet. Oh, yeah, with smoke signals for a 'back-up system. Printing presses for extra points.

jj (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756329)

um....

May be a good thing (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756377)

A few years of turmoil may be a good thing as it would hopefully teach the people the value of good leadership over what most "democracies" currently have which is wishy-washy in-it-for-themselves brain-dead corrupt morons running the place.

What I think we really need is the next generation of rule beyond democracy. I don't know exactly what form it would take but just like democracy brought about a separation of the legislature and the judiciary we should probably now work towards a separation of the needs of the people and the needs of the state. perhaps into two separate governments.

Think about it for a moment: the wants of business and the wants of the people are often at odds with each other. At the moment business almost always wins because it has the money so the people get trampled. The peoples-government could be run on a set of guiding principals based on freedom and responsibility and would make laws that affect the person. The businesses-government would have the task of making the country rich through trade and commerce, it would make laws that affect how businesses work.

Perhaps the idea won't fly but it certainly makes for an interesting idea I think.

An easier way to make democracy more effective (4, Interesting)

SystemicPlural (1405625) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756415)

Describing this for the UK but it can be adapted for anywhere.
After the election which took place as normal. Every member of parliament gets a vote that is proportionate to the number of constituents that are eligible to vote.
Everyone who is eligible to vote can change who represents them to any of the sitting MPs, once every 3 moths or so. This takes a vote away from their MP and gives it to the MP they want to have it. (Suggest that libraries are used for this purpose).

This process has the following effects.
1. It does not disenfranchise those who don't want to do more than they already do.
2. It maintains an element of local representation.
3. It makes MPs do what they say they will do, because if they don't people will stop supporting them a lot more quickly.
4. It allows for a far greater degree of representation. Out of the several hundred sitting MPs it is likely that at least one will closely represent your views.

Re: (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756631)

The problem with the internet is the anonymity that persuade people to do these destructive prank things, but there are room for good and bad. It is a double edge sword, personally I am more on the pessimistic side as the internet tend to bring out the worse and harshest in individuals, also the most idiotic. For more good to come out out of it, education and responsibility still have to precede the internet, and the lack of it is the real threat of democracy today.

Internet? (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756659)

...the rise of movements would dramatically alter the political landscape if voting were to become commonplace.

There, fixed that for you.

Subvert 'Democracy'?-HahHahHaHooHeeeHah! (2, Funny)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#27756781)

"All the recent talk about various polls and elections being pranked or hijacked, serious and silly alike, prompted me to write an article about the technical realities behind online polling, and the political fallout of ever becoming subject to online voting for serious elections. Even if we were to be able to limit voting to legitimate, legal voters, the realities of social networking and the rise of Internet-based movements would dramatically alter the political landscape if online voting were to become commonplace.

"[all emphasis mine]

Yes!1 Yes!1 Abso-fscking-lutely!1!
Let's put EVERY-FSCKING-THING that determines/influences our political process online!...ASAP!
The only realistic questions become then are:

1. "Should we concentrate on learning Russian, Chinese, or both?" (least pessimistic scenario)
2. Will 'Twitter' [wikipedia.org] take over Congress, and sentient life?(do not confuse the two to your detriment)
3. ???
4.Profit!!!**

What could possibly go wrong???? (Hint: I am learning Russian)

** Can I still post on /. if I voted for CowboyNeal?

Fi@8st post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27756817)

they're gonde Came

Technical analysis of online voting (1)

mbarkhau (1137557) | more than 4 years ago | (#27757057)

Working on the Metagovernment project, I made this technical analysis of online voting:

We emphasise making decisions by coming to consensus and synthesising proposals rather than deciding through a majority vote. This may be impractical and idealistic if put to the extreme. It has been shown practical in small scale open source projects. Even if it isn't possible to reach consensus for every decision, the fact you are forced to decide on something with a vote raises a flag that something is wrong and that there is the possibility of discrimination against a minority.

In any voting scheme there are some criteria to be considered. I've taken the voting principles used in Germany as a basis (Grundgesetz Artikel 38 Â 1).

Voting must be open, direct, free, equal and secret.

Open means anybody must be allowed to vote. Direct means that the decision isn't made through intermediaries. Free means that no pressure may be exerted on the voter to vote against there will. Equal means that every vote has equal weight. Secret means that nobody should be able to determine how an individual voted.

For each of these there are some considerations for online voting.

Open: Using computers to vote may be discriminatory against those who aren't comfortable with them. On the other hand it may increase participation, by making voting easier for those that are comfortable and for people with disabilities.

An exception to this principle is made for people under 18. The intent is for the electorate to have a certain degree of experience. The system would be much more open though, if anybody could participate based solely on merit.

Direct: Representative democracies are by definition indirect, so you could argue, that in spirit Artikel 38 is being violated with the current system. I think it was mainly introduced as a reaction to the electoral collage in the US. Online governance has great potential to do this principle justice.

Free: I can't think of any system that can guarantee this other than a voting booth in a public venue. By voting on the Internet from any computer the risk is introduced of a third party having control over that resource and forcing the voter to vote a certain way.

I think this problem is inherent an haven't been able to come up with a solution in the few years I've been thinking about these systems. I can only find a partial justification that in a civilised society this should be a statistically insignificant problem.

Equal: No difference as far as I can see.

Secret: I could talk for hours about this but the best solution I've seen so far tries to limit the number of parties you have to trust to as few as possible. And even that system relies on Public-key cryptography, which due to a lack of understanding and thereby transparency may not be trusted by every voter, even if they trust the one party they are sending their votes to.


Considering all the problems with online voting, my conclusion is that we should reconsider voting not as a binding for decisions, but as an indicator for the direction the community wants to take, so that gradually consensus can be reached.

The entire thread can be found here: http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.politics.activism.metagovernment/1048/focus=1056 [gmane.org]

"Time" must have been in on it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27757461)

Regardless of cake, see those numbers under "Total Votes"? Monotonously decreasing until #22 where it suddenly pops up to over 9 million for a popular boxer they had to vote down millions of times (the graphs suggest that he might have had his own votebots, just not as powerful ones). Even people that use GETs for a poll can't pretend they didn't notice those numbers before publishing the results.

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