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CS Professor Announces Run For VT State Senate On a Platform of Internet Polling

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the of-by-and-for-the-internet-people dept.

Government 226

Cynic writes "Having read pretty heavily on the topic, weighed the pros and cons, and seen a few relevant slashdot articles, I wondered why an elected representative couldn't use online and in-person polling of constituents to decide the way he or she votes. Though we are living in the 'information age' and have rich communications media and opportunities for deep and accessible deliberation, we are getting by (poorly) with horse-and-buggy-era representation. In the spirit of science and because I think it's legitimately a better way of doing things, I recently announced my candidacy for Vermont's State Senate in Washington County." How do you think such polling could be best accomplished? Do you think it's worth trying? Whether or not you buy into it, it's something that's only been made feasible in recent times with modern technology.

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226 comments

It's Possible (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147347)

You'd have to set up the system so people can't vote multiple times. Otherwise they could have a bunch of bots automatically do thousands of votes to sway things however they wanted.

Re:It's Possible (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147689)

You'd also run into vocal minorities, which would be especially heavy as time wore on. John Q. Public doesn't really want to vote on every single bill or issue that arises, that's why he's happier with a republic than a direct democracy. Of course, if John is a heavy advocate of a fringe idea, he'll make sure to log on and vote at 6:00 AM sharp when that issue is up on this representative's poll page.

Over time, as people forget that they elected this guy, fewer and fewer people will bother voting, leading to decreasing accuracy. I don't think it would be the worst situation for the voters (certainly it would be harder for single entities to lobby), but it would come with its own set of political issues.

Re:It's Possible (3, Interesting)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#40147799)

You'd have to set up the system so people can't vote multiple times.....

There are so many other possibilities.

  • people who aren't supposed to vote, manage to vote
  • people who are supposed to vote get stopped voting through tricks (like in Canada)
  • the right people vote, but a trojan changes their online vote to a different thing from the one they wanted
  • a computer manufacturer or OS vendor uses their control to modify votes, just like the trojan
  • a minority of people has time to vote, the rest of the people have to work to keep their families together
  • a "special" minority of people go round people's houses and make sure they vote the "right" way.

Election security is difficult and makes voting processes slow and difficult. This is why democracies moved from direct voting to "representative democracy" in the first place.

Computers just make it much easier to get a wrong system into place. They don't actually make it easier to make a good system. Maybe in the long long term, once everybody has access to a properly vetted secure device from a trustworthy manufacturer then we might be able to start thinking about online voting. Until we have that, such ideas are just asking for disaster.

Re:It's Possible (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about 2 years ago | (#40147995)

... a properly vetted secure device from a trustworthy manufacturer ...

There's the issue in a pinch, isn't it? Who vets it? Who makes it? Who determines the trustworthiness?

Let's decide on the group that gets to decide that by internet vote! We'll elect our representatives to make sure the system gets in place properly!...

Re:It's Possible (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#40148235)

There's the issue in a pinch, isn't it? Who vets it? Who makes it? Who determines the trustworthiness?

That's simple. Me. rtfa-troll for uber-dictator^W^Wguardian of the world. You've seen my Slashdot postings. You know you can trust me.

Seriously, though, you could do this provided that you had fully peer reviewed open designs; had greatly developed circuit reverse-engineering and analysis; had developed quite a few isolation techniques such as efficient Homomorphic encryption [wikipedia.org] and have enough experience with them to truly understand their security. We probably also need to have provenly secure public key cryptography and shown that quantum attacks against it are impossible. We certainly need to have developed a level of civics education which means that the average voter fully understands economic models, the limitations inherent in them and how to work with uncertainty; statistics, large number mathematics and government budgets; social structures, human interactions and how to work with them; etc. etc. etc.

In other words, we are probably several lifetimes away from being able to do this even approaching safely.

There are other, much safer and better ways to introduce more direct democracy; for example the Swiss referendum system.

Re:It's Possible (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#40148283)

a "special" minority of people go round people's houses and make sure they vote the "right" way.

This.

Here's a great way to do it - you go knocking on people's door with a WWAN-equipped tablet or laptop and say "Hi, we're petitioning for issue foo. We think it should pass, do you agree? If so, help us by signing our petition". Of course, the petition is really either the voting site thinly veiled (i.e., by signing, you're directly voting that way) or just some fancy proxy that votes for you.

(A petition is a request to put something up to vote, not how you'd actually vote...)

Re:It's Possible (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40148533)

Election security is difficult and makes voting processes slow and difficult. This is why democracies moved from direct voting to "representative democracy" in the first place.

The state of public/private key technology today suggests to me that the system could be reasonably safe from each of the points you list, other than the purely social ones, (people with interest and time). You can't expect a polling system to solve social issues, such as disinterested voters, or organized vote buying. But duplicate or authorized users should be able to be controlled by a system of public/private key pairs.

Other than state actors, I believe an Open Source on-line polling system where registration was still handled (or at least vetted) by election authorities, would be at least as safe as any system currently in place.

Remember that the professor is looking for feedback from his constituents as to how he should vote, he is not looking to replace the ballot box.
Perhaps this is where your worry about direct voting went off the rails. That is NOT what he is proposing.

Direct democracy provides the people with a direct, unfiltered voice in that government. Stopping somewhat short of that, Hansen proposes a system of direct democracy in combination with our current system of representative democracy. He suggests that, “A representative should be elected who would work strictly as an advisor and make all policy and voting decisions based on the will of his or her constituents, regardless of personal opinion.

So the bar is much lower than replacing the voting system. He is perfectly capable under current law to do exactly as he proposes, simply by setting up a web site and collecting opinions, and then voting that way.

And in this regard such a system (if done right, or even approximately right) is probably better than the current method of lobbyists and letter writers, and campaign contribution fueled decision making. It at least has the potential of being more open, and more transparent.

The risk is more from "anonymous" denial of service attackers taking down the system during polling periods when ever an issue they didn't like was under discussion. Even this could be somewhat mitigated by making so many targets (ip addresses) available that anonymous would run out of bot-power. But that solution is probably beyond the capabilities of any given representative and would have to be run at the state or at least county level.

legitimate polling? (1)

netwarerip (2221204) | about 2 years ago | (#40147351)

How do you think such polling could be best accomplished?

Have a bunch of people walk around and ask other people questions, then have them log in via a portal and report the results.

Not everyone uses the internet, yet everyone should be represented. See the dilemma?

Re:legitimate polling? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 years ago | (#40147631)

How do you think such polling could be best accomplished?

Have a bunch of people walk around and ask other people questions, then have them log in via a portal and report the results. Not everyone uses the internet, yet everyone should be represented. See the dilemma?

Not everyone votes in a traditional election, either. The percentage of the population with internet access far outweighs the percentage of the population who actually bother to go to the polls on election day. Further, anyone can go to a public library and access the internet for free.. at least they can do that in the state I live in.

Re:legitimate polling? (1)

Galestar (1473827) | about 2 years ago | (#40147713)

Not everyone uses the internet, yet everyone should be represented.

If this became a widespread phenomenon, I'd agree with you. However this is one (potential) senator. If you don't have internet or don't believe in this model and live in his district you can vote against him in the general election like everyone else. You will not have been disenfranchised in any way, or at least no more than the current representational system.

I'd be more worried about the ability of the state or other powerful parties to disenfranchise a citizen by denying internet access, especially when it is done without being found guilty of anything in a court of law.

Re:legitimate polling? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40148167)

>>>Not everyone uses the internet,

Why not. Netzero offers it for free. Netscape ISP offers unlimited net for $7/month. Anybody can afford to get online once a week, vote on the representative's website, then log-off.

slashdot polls (3, Interesting)

anonymousNR (1254032) | about 2 years ago | (#40147363)

Need I say more

Re:slashdot polls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147461)

Multiple choice is a really bad idea. Even if you include the CowboyNeal option.

Like Henry Ford said... (4, Insightful)

bigredradio (631970) | about 2 years ago | (#40147553)

Leaving all the decisions up to popular vote makes for poor decision making because the general public (usually) are not as informed as the lawmakers. Like Henry Ford said, "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse."

Re:Like Henry Ford said... (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 years ago | (#40147665)

Leaving all the decisions up to popular vote makes for poor decision making because the general public (usually) are not as informed as the lawmakers. Like Henry Ford said, "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse."

It's amazing the similarities in decision making skills between the general public and elected officials, isn't it?

Re:Like Henry Ford said... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147677)

Yea, TFS seems to imply that representative democracy was some kind of compromise based on logistics rather than a conscious choice. Even ignoring the lack of knowledge and understanding the average person has of complex issues, the tyranny of the majority is very real and something that all democracies need to keep a careful eye on. To use the most obvious of historical examples, in 1860 more than 50% of those eligible to vote supported slavery. That didn't make them right. And even looking past that, the practicalities of direct democracy go far past the logistics of collecting votes. Everyone will gladly vote for every tax break and most spending initiatives, then stand around wondering what happened when the city/state/country goes broke. Managing a national government is a full time job, best left to people able to work on it full time.

*Disclaimer: I have zero faith in the current US Government and the way it operates. I just don't think direct democracy is anything resembling the solution since the only thing I have less faith in than the US Government is the US general voting population.

A fantastic idea (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147369)

Nothing like mob rule to really get some well-thought-out laws passed.

Maybe we can all vote on criminal trial verdicts too.

Re:A fantastic idea (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147627)

Maybe we can all vote on criminal trial verdicts too.

Week 1: "Zimmerman's guilty, hang him!"
Week 10: "Oh, maybe he wasn't, unhang him. We can't? Oh..."

Re:A fantastic idea (3, Informative)

magarity (164372) | about 2 years ago | (#40147639)

This is exactly why even if this sounds like a good idea, it is not. The point of representative government is that one picks a representative, not a pass-through object. Representative candidate A takes certain positions on certain issues, representative candidate B take an alternative set of positions. Whoever is elected is supposed to do the dirty work of finding out that the proposed Sunshine For Kittens Act has nothing to do with neither sunshine nor kittens and vote for or against based on its actual provisions based on their platform. If you have an internet poll for "Should I vote for or against the Sunshine for Kitten Act (see link for details)" you're going to end up voting for it, even though the actual provisions are to spend billions on a combination tunnel/bridge across the Bering Sea. You can talk all you want about how voters are SUPPOSED to be informed, but if your experience in reality hasn't taught you the value of that truism yet, you'll never learn it.

Re:A fantastic idea (1)

GodInHell (258915) | about 2 years ago | (#40147653)

Maybe we can all vote on criminal trial verdicts too.

::cough:: Jury of our peers. What exactly is it you think juries DO to reach a verdict?

Re:A fantastic idea (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#40147759)

::cough:: Jury of our peers. What exactly is it you think juries DO to reach a verdict?

Sit in court for days/weeks/months, listen to both sides' arguments and evidence, and assemble for a period of discussion among themselves for as long as it takes to reach a decision (after, of course, being vetted by both sides and the judge). The Internet... well, let's just say it tends to be a little less objective, far less informed, and significantly more hasty than that, 99% of the time. Would you want random Youtube commentators to decide your verdict in a trial?

Re:A fantastic idea (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 2 years ago | (#40148247)

Of course not, but that isn't what is being proposed here. This is a candidate for elected office actually taking whatever position on an issue the people he represents dictate. The method used for polling is of debatable merit. But who would honestly complain about having a representative actually represent them?

The merit of such a system in my view is that it would help alleviate the absurdity of a two party system.

I vote for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147371)

Jersey Shore and so will the LCD of your constituency.

Security (2)

sideslash (1865434) | about 2 years ago | (#40147373)

So the most effective hacker gets to determine the representative's positions?

Re:Security (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 2 years ago | (#40147573)

While hacking the polls is one danger, the other danger is gaming it. If his constituents were polled and voted in favor of something he found morally reprehensible, would he still vote in favor of it, or would he claim that the poll broke his way? Who is going to verify the results?

Re:Security (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40147617)

Still better than the richest corporation.

Re:Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147985)

well the richest corporation will pay off the hacker... so business as usual.

Polling? How last decade. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147379)

A modern candidate would be running their platform via Facebook and/or Google+ Likes.

The First Thing I Thought of Was (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 2 years ago | (#40147383)

What if the constituents that want to voice their opinion don't have access to the 'net?

The other thought that came to mind is, "um, do you feel compelled to sign a 'pledge'?" If so, then as a solid Republican since '71; I say, "we don't need you."

Let's be honest here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147447)

Do you really care about the opinion of people without the internet? I know I don't.

Re:Let's be honest here (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#40147541)

Given the kind of content at places like 4chan, can you really honestly say you care about the opinion of people with the internet?

Re:Let's be honest here (1)

zero.kalvin (1231372) | about 2 years ago | (#40147607)

4chan represents human nature! Well a certain aspect of it. It is just a place where thoughts that were concealed and buried away comes to life. But it is human!

Re:The First Thing I Thought of Was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147471)

What if the constituents that want to voice their opinion don't have access to the 'net?

The same thing that happens to constituents that want to voice their opinion to other elected officials but don't have political connections or the money to buy them...

Re:The First Thing I Thought of Was (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147735)

Everyone has the ability to access the internet these days. The public libraries I've known have had computers with internet access in them since the 90s and I bet by now virtually all of them do.

Not a better way (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147391)

"I wondered why an elected representative couldn't use...polling of constituents to decide the way he or she votes."

Because the electorate are stupid and ignorant, and malware will be developed to submit votes.

"In the spirit of science and because I think it's legitimately a better way of doing things'

If you really believe these things, then you should absolutely never hold any public office whatsoever.

Ignoring your constituency is very bad; doing exactly what they say is worse.

New level of populism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147393)

This is just populism on a new level.

We would be better of being represented by an assembly which is appointed by a lottery than by one which has been elected: less lawyers making laws to start with.

so... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147395)

he'll be running on a platform of legalizing pot?

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147993)

as should every candidate..regardless.

Easy answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147411)

Because politicians are not in office to do what the people want. They are in office to do what lobbiests and what corporations that pay them money want.

You are told "It will never work". You are told "People are too stupid". You are told "Joe Six-pack doesn't know what he wants or what is good for him". They can come up with a thousand excuses so that they never have actually represent their constituents.

Bah, Hum buggy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147417)

Horse-and-buggy era eh?
Bah Humbug!

Why when I was your Age, we "had" direct democracy. Of course, you had to be a an adult male whom had completed their military service, or own property. So, about 20% (tops) of the populace were citizens.

Thems were the days.

Re:Bah, Hum buggy (2)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about 2 years ago | (#40147937)

I know you are being tongue in cheek with this remark, but I think our Founding Father's might have actually had a clear plan in mind when they said you had to own property to vote.

I think it has to do with being invested in the future of the country. Maybe we should bring something like this back. It doesn't have to be property, but maybe paying taxes? Just something to show you are actually a responsible citizen.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of
: government. It can only exist until the voters discover
: that they can vote themselves largesse from the Public
: Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes
: for the candidate promising the most benefits from the
: Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always
: collapses over loose fiscal policy always to be followed by
: dictatorship.

: The average age of the worldâ€s greatest civilizations has
: been 200 years. Those nations always progress through the
: following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith,
: from spiritual faith to great courage,
: from great courage to liberty,
: from liberty to abundance,
: from abundance to selfishness,
: from selfishness to complacency,
: from complacency to dependency,
: from dependency back into bondage."

: â€"Alexander Fraser Tytler Lord Woodhouselee (1748-1813),
: "The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic",
: Scottish historian at Edinburgh University

Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147425)

Use slash dot polls!

This is why we are a Republic, not a democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147431)

Because we don't individually have time to research and analyze all the issues.
So we hire people to do it as a full time job.

This guy is basically asking his constituents to do his job for him, while ignoring the fact that they're mostly guaranteed to screw it up.

Re:This is why we are a Republic, not a democracy (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 years ago | (#40147751)

Because we don't individually have time to research and analyze all the issues. So we hire people to do it as a full time job.

This guy is basically asking his constituents to do his job for him, while ignoring the fact that they're mostly guaranteed to screw it up.

An elected official's "Job" is to represent the will of the people who elected him.

Re:This is why we are a Republic, not a democracy (2)

Atzanteol (99067) | about 2 years ago | (#40148097)

An elected official owes the people not only his industry but his judgement. And he betrays them if he sacrifices it for their opinion.

Paraphrased.

Stupid idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147457)

So the group with the best astroturfing organization wins? I guess it forces companies to actually do something other than hand the politician money, think of all the jobs created as corporate turfers, it will be great! Yes that was sarcasm.

People need mediation (1)

Tester (591) | about 2 years ago | (#40147533)

Even if the polling could be made to work to get a true representation of the people's will (and not of some determined hackers, social engineer or just well organised group), there is a much bigger problem. One of the important uses of representative democracy is that the People are often wrong about the details, and you can't let them make all the choices. As an example, see California, which has a very strong popular initiave system (referendums), and they voted themselves low taxes and lots of services, and now the state is more or less bankrupt. And California how has a constitution that runs hundreds of pages with all kind of crap added by referendums. You can't trust the average man to know what's best in details. That why we vote for politicians along broad principles and let them figure out the details.

Re:People need mediation (1)

mycroft16 (848585) | about 2 years ago | (#40147583)

I think the important thing is to use the polling system to gather information about public opinions, not necessarily as a vote to approve or set policy. Especially if competently coupled with facts, pros and cons from both sides written and vetted so that they are as honest and truthful as possible. I've actually been thinking about coding something like this for quite some time.

Re:People need mediation (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#40147657)

So it's like every other government poll/petition site, where the popular but shortsighted positions get replies that are politically-correct forms of "fuck off, dimwits", then people complain that their idiocy isn't being fairly represented?

Re:People need mediation (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#40147609)

What are you saying? Are you trying to imply that 4chan isn't the best choice for President?

Who cares about poor people anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147545)

In your face poor people! Yet another way to marginalize you and make sure that your concerns aren't heard!

But hey, they don't vote anyway so what's it matter?

Re:Who cares about poor people anyway? (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 2 years ago | (#40147859)

Too bad there isn't a place where people can access the internet for free, regardless of economic standing. While we're at it, lets put a bunch of books there for people who can't or don't want to buy their own so they can educate themselves as well.

Re:Who cares about poor people anyway? (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | about 2 years ago | (#40147997)

And let's also give them extra time to get there between holding down two jobs and taking care of their kids.

Bad Idea (3, Insightful)

nuckfuts (690967) | about 2 years ago | (#40147567)

Even if one disregards the technical hurdles, the very idea of government run strictly by polling is ill advised. Firstly, poll results are heavily influenced by the wording of the questions. This would essentially be handing over a great deal of influence to whoever gets to phrase the questions. Secondly, it is likely to encourage demagogy. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bad Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147779)

And this is different from the current way of doing things how?
On a state level, I can see how this makes sense. Federally it can, and will, turn into a clusterfuck, but as long as things are kept small and local, it should give people a less-infinitesmal voice.

The Lesser Voice (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#40148229)

as long as things are kept small and local, it should give people a less-infinitesmal voice.

How does it give PEOPLE a less-infinitesmal voice, when the percentage of responses that are generated automatically by hackers will far outnumber real people?

Yes, even at a state level. Why would it not be so?

I cannot believe a CS professor came up with this plan, unless he basically has the polls pre-rigged for the result he desires and the polls are just there to lent legitimacy to his choices.

We already have this - it's called..."polling" (2)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 2 years ago | (#40147577)

>> an elected representative (could use)...polling of constituents to decide the way he or she votes

We already have this. It's called..."polling", and it's a major function of entrenched political parties and their support groups.

Of course, the way the question is phrased has a lot to do with the outcome (remember opposition to the "dihydrogen oxide" plants?), so political support groups spend time crafting polling questions that help show that the majority is clearly with their team. (e.g., "Do you support the terrorists and my opponent, or apple pie and me?")

So, meh. Interesting proposal, but ridiculously naive.

Virtual Representatives (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#40147579)

Why not just remove the representatives completely? With that strategy, you get rid of the worst problem in government: lobbyists. If anyone in the country could be voting, then they will have to lobby everyone and no one has problem with that.

The voting could be statistical and random. Use some nice mathematics and multiple ways to vote from verified citizens and certificates. Just get the thing done. Institute a requirement for a super majority (60-80%) to pass anything. Bam! Problems solved.

As far as those without the Internet, statistics and public libraries could be the answer. Or, we could still have a vote by phone option.

Re:Virtual Representatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147761)

Wow, you're fucking naive. Lobbyists aren't the worst problem in government. You've drunk the progressive (lobbyists) coolade. Let me give you a hint. Facebook, NBC and the like are all massive tools for lobbyists to use to manipulate the public.

Re:Virtual Representatives (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 2 years ago | (#40148011)

What gets me is the number of people who fail to realize that the majority of lobbyists work for non-profit organizations, from Greenpeace to the NRA. That is the majority of lobbyists are hired by groups of people who have gotten together and pooled their money so as to petition Congress to take action on issues that are of particular concern to them...you know, the way some here on slashdot have done concerning Network Neutrality.

Re:Virtual Representatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40148365)

You could have it both ways -- the legislature is in session when 90% or more of the citizenry are represented by persons in the chamber; each person in the chamber would have as many votes as the number of citizens who have registered their declaration that that person represents them (and each citizen may change this declaration at any time). So if you didn't trust anyone else to represent you, you could attend yourself and vote, or declare someone as your representative (and switch to someone else if they start voting in opposition to your interests). It would even be possible for an individual to represent a group of citizens, but not themselves,

Not A Good Idea (1)

kaellinn18 (707759) | about 2 years ago | (#40147589)

Here's how I see it. Feel free to add your own. It would be an interesting experiment, but I think the cons may outweigh the pros. Pros: -True democracy -Actual representation of the constituents -Ability to gauge public opinion on X almost instantly -People may get more interested in politics and more willing to participate Cons: -True democracy (all people are ignorant on a large amount of subjects which could lead to poor decisions en masse) -Uninformed voters, instead of voting for a person to make decisions, will now be voting on specific items. -Representative not free to act without first consulting the people. This would be cumbersome. -How do you deal with decisions based on classified information? -How do you propose a law? Do you have to go through a draft process with your state citizens first? -What happens when your constituents make a choice that you can not in good conscience follow through on? Say they are against equal marriage rights and you are for it.

Re:Not A Good Idea (2)

kaellinn18 (707759) | about 2 years ago | (#40147621)

Ugh, let's try this again with formatting. Note to self: preview exists for a reason. Here's how I see it. Feel free to add your own. It would be an interesting experiment, but I think the cons may outweigh the pros.

Pros:
-True democracy
-Actual representation of the constituents
-Ability to gauge public opinion on X almost instantly
-People may get more interested in politics and more willing to participate

Cons:

-True democracy (all people are ignorant on a large amount of subjects which could lead to poor decisions en masse)
-Uninformed voters, instead of voting for a person to make decisions, will now be voting on specific items.
-Representative not free to act without first consulting the people. This would be cumbersome.
-How do you deal with decisions based on classified information?
-How do you propose a law? Do you have to go through a draft process with your state citizens first?
-What happens when your constituents make a choice that you can not in good conscience follow through on? Say they are against equal marriage rights and you are for it.

not exactly the way government was intended to wor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147615)

Our government is not exactly based on a direct democracy. The elected official is assumed to be a better decision maker than the masses. I hope the professor got in touch with a political science or law professor before making this decision.

Aha..Another Newcomer (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 2 years ago | (#40147671)

Vermont has a long tradition of town meetings where people actually meet - in person - to discuss the issues.

It has worked pretty well. Too bad yet another newcomer feels the need to remake Vermont in his image.

Maybe I can get Avi Rubin to run against him.

He doesn't understand the job he is applying for (4, Insightful)

rgbrenner (317308) | about 2 years ago | (#40147685)

This guy clearly doesn't understand the job he's applying for. We live in a REPUBLIC.. which means we elect people to vote on our behalf for/against proposed laws.

Our founders knew that people did not have the time to read, understand, and vote on each and every issue.

Do you really think technology changes that? In the 2009-2010 congress [govtrack.us] , there were: 9239 proposed bills, 998 acted on by the congress, 26 failed, and 366 enacted = 10629 bills.

Each one hundreds or even thousands of pages long.

So seriously ask yourself: do you have time to read a several hundred page law, filled with legalese and references to other laws, 29 times per day every day of the year?

There's a reason why our REPRESENTATIVES have dozens of staff.

Re:He doesn't understand the job he is applying fo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147815)

Why does it have to be all or nothing? Can't we have both? A representative that runs his staff and goes through all the legislation and decides which ones they would like to advocate for. The representative then makes a brief case for each piece of legislation and solicits feedback from his constituents.

It doesn't have to be a pass-through so much as a check that the representative is ACTUALLY representing his constituents...

Re:He doesn't understand the job he is applying fo (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | about 2 years ago | (#40148427)

We have something even better than that...

If you have an opinion (strongly or not) on a piece of pending legislation, you can CALL or WRITE your representative.

So even if your rep chooses not to solicit your opinion on an issue, if enough people write and call to voice their opinion, the rep may choose to change his vote, so that he doesn't risk losing the next election on an issue people feel so strongly about.

Isn't that cool? It's like some smart people over the last 200 years have thought out a thing or two about our system.

Re:He doesn't understand the job he is applying fo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40148481)

The 'reason' you quote is THE PROBLEM.
 
Can we pretend for one second that "government" is not exactly complicated, and that legalese exists entirely to obfuscate the purpose of the law? Because that is the reality, even if you don't know it. The vast majority of bills introduced could be boiled down to a handful of simple yes or no questions. The really complicated stuff, should just be immediately canned. There isn't any need for it.
 
75 years ago California and the Steel workers union built a big ass bridge, UNDER budget, EARLY, and CORRECT. 10 years ago California and 28 various organizations teamed up to build another bridge. It's a BILLION DOLLARS over budget, it's 2 years late and it's not even close to done. Now, you are probably asking what this has to do with your post. Everyone else thinks the answer is obvious.
 
The problem isn't that this stuff is hard, or complicated. It's that YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE THAT BULLSHIT.

Number of votes = number of people who don't care (1)

Ameryll (2390886) | about 2 years ago | (#40147687)

I always thought it would be interesting to try this system:

Each Senator (or Congressman) get N votes, where N is the number of their voters minus the number of their constituents that care enough about the issue to vote on it themselves. So if there's a vote on an issue (say for changing the calendar to an 8 day week), and 100 constituents in Smallville care enough about this to vote on this, they get to vote however they wish. If you're the Senator of Smallville population 500, you now cast a vote equal to 400 votes.

There are problems with this system. A) It encourages Senators to play down a particular vote if they think the populace will go against their interests B) It may lead to the majority suppressing the minority in bad ways (like racial, sexual, or gender in-equalities) C) could potentially take a lot of time D) could require people to understand lawyer-speak.

But I think it has some interesting pros. A) It means that on an issue where the corporations are throwing their weight around with kickbacks to the Senators, the public just needs to mobilize and the Senators are powerless because they don't have any votes left. We know that people *can* mobilize. They did when SOPA hit the senate floor. And the public could find ways to make sure people know what's being voted on. B) It may nerf the current policy of tacking unrelated items together to get them through the senate.

Polls don't write bills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147697)

The issue is that someone has to write the bill. Then someone has to propose it to a committee. Then the committee has to vote on it. Then, and only then, would this guys polling come up.

Who cares if we have a democratic vote on what the special interests buy, it's still bills written by the special interests for the special interests. It's no more populist than what we have.

A better idea. (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | about 2 years ago | (#40147701)

Get elected, actually READ legislation before voting on it, actually WRITE legislation you submit, abstain from or vote no on anything where neither of the above are possible.

The "horse and buggy" model isn't just because of distance. It is because even the most well-informed voter cannot possibly have the time to comprehend every piece of legislation that comes up, so they vote for someone who generally aligns with their interests who's f'ing JOB it is to know how to analyze and vote accordingly WITHOUT a f'ing poll of the consituents, who honestly might as well be your cats. You risk voting "NO" on necessary, well thought legislation and "YES" on outright insanity at the whim of easily manipulated ignoramuses responding not to measured reason, but irrational frenzy.

This sort of crap is NOT being responsive to your constituents, it's being willfully lazy, actively incompetent and easily used.

internet makes it easier to cheat then in the old (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40147727)

internet makes it easier to cheat then in the old days of voteing.

Hell you can code a page to make it look like you voted but make it really vote for the other guy or not even take your vote at all.

your employer can make you vote at work there way (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40147747)

your employer can make you vote at work their way with your boss breathing down your back as you vote online at work.

Some of the major flaws (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#40147771)

1. Those without Internet get no vote.
2. Ballot-stuffers, firewalls, botnets, etc.
3. The most vocal and thus most likely to vote are not necessarily representative of the public's opinion. Case in point: The Parent's Television Council, which represents about 120,000 people, is able to dictate what the other 300 million people in the US are allowed to see on broadcast television.
4. Those without the time to do the research don't vote in a way that makes any sense.

Its about time! (1)

PetiePooo (606423) | about 2 years ago | (#40147777)

One big plus: you're opponent can't wield the "wishy-washy" label over you. "It's not my stance, it's that of the people."

Another plus: you get to brush off the lobbyists with, "you're talking to the wrong person. Go convince my constituents."

Go. Experiment. Learn. Then run for a federal congress-critter position. They could all use a little more "by the people, for the people."

How will he ever be elected? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40147861)

How will he ever be elected?

Our system is based on "one dollar one vote" more or less whoever donates the most re-election funds.

So his election donors have no idea how he will vote, vs the other guy who will do what he is paid to do.

Will he be able to afford to run a campaign at all?

We were never built to be one of those (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147899)

The founding fathers never wanted a Democracy. They built a representative republic. That wasn't an accident or due to the lack of communications and polling tech. It's because they didn't trust ordinary people to look beyond their personal desires. You can get the preponderance of the people to vote for a helicopter to pick them up and fly them to work every morning. Hell, sign me up for that.

Wired had a really good article (which I can't find a link to) on a real viable alternative: focus groups. When a topic needs to be voted on, pick 100k random people, have them watch a 4-8 hour lecture/debate from both sides of a topic with fact-checking resources etc., and let them make the call. You'd get a more informed voting block, better decisions, and it would cost a hell of a lot less. The random sample could be anonymous to deter special interest bribes, and with 100k people you will statistically squash the dipshits. Thing of beauty.

LiquidFeedback ? (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 2 years ago | (#40147915)

I assume that he'd use something that's already been tested, like LiquidFeedback [liquidfeedback.org] , which was developed by members of German Pirate Party. ... or any of the other ones in the list of active [metagovernment.org] or related [metagovernment.org] projects listed at metagovernment.org [metagovernment.org]

Democracy reduced to data (2)

anyaristow (1448609) | about 2 years ago | (#40147925)

I don't just want an elected official to do what I say. If I'm honest I'll admit that I don't give things that aren't my full-time job enough consideration to make decisions I want acted on. I want my elected official to spend more time considering it that I did. I want him to take into account my wishes, and the wishes of everyone else he represents, but also do some research that I didn't do, surround himself with experts that I don't have access to, and talk to people that aren't in my social circles, and make a better decision than I can. I vote for people I hope can do these things with diligence and integrity, not people who will vote the will of a million uninformed people.

A better version is already working - with Pirates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147943)

The idea sounds cool, but there is a much more developed version already in place with the Pirate Party in Germany. They want the member to be able to debate and vote on all issues, so the representatives represent the "voice of the people", not their own interests. They already made it into 4 state parliments in the last year, so this is not just some theoretical construct. Here are two articles about the system, which they call "Liquid Feedback". It's democracy for the 21st century. Made by hackers (the white hat kind).

http://gigaom.com/europe/germany-pirate-party/
http://techpresident.com/news/wegov/22154/how-german-pirate-partys-liquid-democracy-works

Majority rule does not garner the best results... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40147963)

If we governed by majority rule, we'd still be owning slaves and women would not be voting.

What would you say you do here? (1)

somarilnos (2532726) | about 2 years ago | (#40148077)

It sounds way too much like this guy is trying to make a living off of being Tom Smykowski from Office Space. Let everyone else do your job for you, and make money off of it. Quite a dream, eh?

At the end of the day, there's a hell of a lot more to being a legislator than taking the votes from the people and giving them to the senate. It's about taking complex problems, and coming up with complex solutions, combined with the sales component of convincing people that that's how they would have wanted it to be solved.

This is not why we elect people (2)

vinn (4370) | about 2 years ago | (#40148175)

First off, I'm an elected official and sit on a town council, so I have some insight in this. This sounds crass, but people are too dumb to understand every issue and special interests will get constituents to manipulate polls.

The reason we have elected officials is quite simply because the process of governing in a democracy is time consuming and requires people who can devote time to actually studying issues and making decisions. The average person may have time to study an issue here or an issue there, but no one has time to study every proposed bill and dig through the gory details of all state statutes. That's not to say you need to be a lawyer to understand this stuff, because most of the time you don't, but you need time. It's also not to say most people can't understand a particular topic, because 90% of the time most people can, it's understanding how they relate that gets difficult. For example, there could be a proposed bill for something like "Allow counties to assess 100% of voted mills for rural fire department special districts that choose not to collect their entire levied mills." Well, it may not make any sense and may need to die in committee if a bill was passed last year that says, "Rural fire department special districts crossing county lines must follow the same boundaries as school districts unless a park district exists along the same boundaries with a corresponding mill levy." Really exciting stuff that most people just aren't going to care about.

Even assuming people can intimately spend time to understand issues, it's astonishing how much people want to just jump on special interest bandwagons. When it comes to state issues, all it takes is some large outfit to take notice and rile up it's base. If you're going to poll people, you're simply going to get a skewed poll on any subject and moderates are going to get drowned out. That's the last thing we need. Take the example above - one group can easily skew it to say, "The county governments want to raise your taxes and take more money from you!" Another group could easily say, "We absolutely better fire protection and here's a way to do it without raising taxes." Both groups could be right, both could be wrong, or the answer is something more gray and in the middle. Most likely it's gray and in the middle and most likely mindboggingly boring and most likely only brought up because Rep. Joe Smith in West County ran into the issue, needed clarification in the state statutes about it, and it's going to be another 50 years before someone else cares about it.

Now, having said that, I think anything that gets people to get involved with their government is a good thing. Most people simply like to bitch about it without understanding it or participating in it. (Hey you - if you've never gone to your local town council meeting, you should do it sometime just to see how it works. You'll learn something about the people you vote for.)

It's called "representative democracy" (1)

Tim Ward (514198) | about 2 years ago | (#40148199)

My constituents vote me into office to do the work for them.

This evening after a four hour formal public committee meeting I made decisions on two related items, for which I'd had to read and understand a 1,500 page agenda pack, most of which I'd seen (and contributed to) several times before in the various drafting stages over the past few months.

Now, who do you suppose is in a better position to make a good decision:

(a) the elected politician, who has done all the above work (plus many hours of informal private meetings to get to that point)

(b) some random constituent clicking on a couple of buttons on an online poll they don't know, and don't care, anything about?

Not not a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40148223)

"Who words the questions" is pretty much the only valid criticism I've seen in the comments so far, but even that seems to have a relatively good and easy solution of basically making that the "representative's" new job, i.e. you vote for who gets to word the question (which is better than voting for someone to make the decisions for you).

The rest of the problems raised are already problems with our current systems and no one has made any arguments as to why they would be worse with something like what this professor is trying. It should be at least as good as what we have now(the bar is pretty low!) and would be way more resistant to corruption.

Terrible idea! (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#40148319)

Pure democracies do no work; that's there hasn't been one in in 2000 years (if even that counts). The average person simply isn't informed enough about every issue to make valid decisions. Plus, you have to guarantee near total participation for even the theory to work. In our society of imbalanced access to resources, you're invariably going to end up with a daily voting class (probably wildly slanted to retirees) disenfranchising the working/busy/disconnected members of society who won't be able to log in every day to pick which street gets new curbs. Yes, representative democracies are flawed, but do you really want every schmoe in the country voting up or down on minutia?

Ron Bhalla (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40148359)

Beat you to it.

Direct Democracy (1)

coastin (780654) | about 2 years ago | (#40148433)

This Swiss have just about got this figured out. It is called Direct Democracy: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/specials/switzerland_for_the_record/world_records/The_Swiss_vote_more_than_any_other_country.html?cid=8483932 [swissinfo.ch] Several years ago I was visiting a friend in Sion Switzerland, when he excused himself for a few minutes saying that he had to vote on an important issue. He then turned on the TV where the representative for that district was speaking, picked up his home land-line phone, dialed several numbers and after just a couple of minutes he hung up. He explained that big insurance companies wanted to pass a law mandating that all vehicles be outfitted with a monitoring device that would record the drivers driving habits. As we watched the vote total shown on the TV, the representative explained that although there were vastly more cars on the roads than in the 1950s the safety of drivers had increased greatly and that the mandate was not justified. The public vote overwhelmingly defeated the new law and the representative cast his vote in favor of his constitutes. From what I witnessed that day, it seems like a Direct Democracy works very well in most cases.

Doris Day all over again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40148469)

Even as a politician [wikipedia.org] , you have to be careful what you wish for [www.cbc.ca] . There's a reason why direct democracy and the "tyranny of the majority" is balanced in most modern democracies with a fairly thorough statement of individual rights.

On the technical side, it's going to be tricky to implement anything that doesn't require people revealing who they are at the same time as their opinions, in order to verify that they aren't gaming the system. That verification will discourage many people from participating. I suggest the "in person" approach is better, or at least use a system that offers the chance for written feedback, because you're still going to need to know *why* people have a particular opinion. A "yes" or "no" majority on a poll doesn't help much with coming up with a compromise that might be satisfactory for most people. I know "compromise" has been turned into a bad word in American politics, but this is quite wrong. The reality is, in a democracy people with differing views have to get along with a third solution: our side, their side, and a third one that is acceptable to both. It's a politicians job to try to find that third one, difficult though it may be.

It's crazy to suggest this, but the slashdot polls are actually useful in this respect. The poll options and the numbers are highly untrustworthy and almost useless (exactly as the disclaimer says). The value is in the comments associated with the poll. Okay, once you get past the missing options complaints, jokes, etc. :-) Anyway, buried in those comments you will sometimes find some real gems. The difficult part in any political version would be getting past the inevitable angry rants and the shills, but the slashdot moderation system helps to some extent.

The majority ain't always right (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#40148483)

So what if you e-polled your constituents about, say, reinstating slavery, public segregation, revocation of black voting rights, or renewed forced sterilization of mentally ill people, and a majority responded in favor of it? Would you slavishly honor the will of that misguided majority, or would you try to inject a little meta-parental oversight into it?

Democracy ain't perfect. I hope this dude recognizes that, aside from his little publicity stunt.

There is already something like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40148503)

It is called liquidfeed, based on an idea from some guys at the mit and developed by some guys in germany. I actually need it, but the code sucks, so move your fucking nerdy buttom up and go write some decent code. Thank you.

More information is better than less (1)

clovis (4684) | about 2 years ago | (#40148521)

You may have already realized from the comments that many of the respondents took what you said:
"I wondered why an elected representative couldn't use online and in-person polling of constituents to decide the way he or she votes."
and interpreted it as:
"I wondered why we couldn't use online and in-person polling of constituents to decide the whether or not a bill is passed."
I think that is a reasonable interpretation, but I doubt that's what you meant.

I'm going with the belief that you meant to say something more like :
"I wondered why an elected representative couldn't use online and in-person polling of constituents to assist with deciding the way he or she votes."
If you did mean "to decide the whether or not a bill is passed.", I have a bowl of hot grits ready for your pants.

However, I'm of the belief that more information better than less even if some (or much) of the information you get is nonsense, what I think you're proposing is a good idea. If you're thinking of simply having online polling, I would rather you did something else.

Find someone who can setup a slashdot server for your constituents.
I suggest that you control it so that you initiate the topics, decide how you want moderation done, and let us have at it.
You will learn more than you had hoped, and some of it will be useful.

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