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Ask Candidate Jeremy Hansen About Direct Democracy in Vermont

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the bat-signal-for-poll-bombing dept.

Communications 245

We mentioned yesterday Jeremy Hansen's run for the Vermont Senate. There are a lot of political races currently active in the U.S.; what makes Hansen's interesting (besides his background in computer science) is his pledge to use modern communication technology to provide a taste of direct representation within a representative democracy. He makes a claim not many candidates (and probably even fewer elected officials) ever will: "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." To that end, Hansen says that if he's elected, he'll employ "an accessible online voting platform to allow discussion and voting on bills" for his constituents. He's agreed to answer questions about how such a system could work, and the nature of democracy in today's ultra-connected world, in which distance and communication delays are much smaller than they were even 20 years ago, never mind 200. So ask Hansen whatever questions you'd like about his plans and philosophy; as always, ask as many questions as you please, but please separate them into separate posts, lest ye be modded down.

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Security? (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158595)

To that end, Hansen says that if he's elected, he'll employ "an accessible online voting platform to allow discussion and voting on bills" for his constituents.

How are you going to stop someone from hacking this system? How will accountability be implemented while protecting voter's anonymity (so that employers or other interested parties with leverage can't influence their vote)?

And also (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158785)

People are too stupid to govern themselves. The will of the majority can actually be quite harmful, unjust, or simply unmaintainable, which is why a representative democracy works better than a direct democracy.

Of course, the more power you give to one person, however competent he may be, the more evil he becomes. There really isn't a solution to that problem. But disempowering evil by empowering stupid is jumping from the frying pan into the eternal flaming abyss.

Re:And also (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158827)

Of course, the more power you give to one person, however competent he may be, the more evil he becomes. There really isn't a solution to that problem.

Sure there is. Vote him out.

Re:And also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158871)

"People are too stupid to govern themselves. The will of the majority can actually be quite harmful, unjust, or simply unmaintainable, which is why a representative democracy works better than a direct democracy."

Fully agreed. People vote themselves bread and circuses and no taxes.

Re:And also (1)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159279)

People vote themselves bread and circuses and no taxes.

No, people vote to collect and spend other people's taxes.

Re:And also (1)

torkus (1133985) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159269)

I will agree that there are a lot of stupid people out there. But our representative democracy is a big part of that reason. Despite what we're 'taught' about democracy you quickly learn that "normal people" have essentially no voice excluding exceptions like the Streisand effect and the lucky viral video.

Flip that around. Give people - individual people - the power and responsibility. They also get the consequences. At least when the town budget comes up they can decide to vote out the subsidy for the politicians cousin's business in favor of keeping the park open. Sure, he employs 5 people who will be fired...but boo hoo. He wouldn't have been in the first place if he wasn't getting unfair, free money. This is true transparency in government.

MY QUESTION - beyond hack-proofing the system, how will each individual be registered so they get one vote either online or in person? (assuming there's a non-computer version of this as well to be fair to the computer illiterate) Short of barcoding people or taking /. level techie and assigning people encryption keys they won't understand of course.

How will the Web-challenged be represented? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158959)

What will you do to hear the will of those who aren't on the Web? Many seniors aren't (e.g. my father): will their thoughts be selectively excluded from the voting?

Use the Solution to Decide! (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159449)

What will you do to hear the will of those who aren't on the Web? Many seniors aren't (e.g. my father): will their thoughts be selectively excluded from the voting?

It's simple, we solve that problem with the solution. Our first online vote will be on a bill that will solve this very problem. Interestingly enough, over 100% of the population turned out to vote on this particular issue with a surprisingly large number of referral clicks coming from 4chan. As it turns out, the resolution is to grind up individuals who do not have internet connections (like your father) and feed them to the web savvy users and their "lulled cats" in a nice pink slurry. I'm sorry for your loss but the populace has spoken in so strong a voice that it was statically impossible.

What Is Right but Unpopular (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158631)

So ask Hansen whatever questions you'd like about his plans and philosophy;

Throughout history many leaders -- Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman and even George W. Bush -- have made decisions that they felt were "right" but were definitely unpopular. Post hoc, we can see the effects and judge those actions. Now these were all high level actions but similar things do happen at the state and county level. Example: Your county's schools are failing horribly and need money but the only place you have money is vehicle tax that is supposed to go to your roads. You propose (if you are even going to take such actions) to move some money from the road fund to the schools -- sacrificing potential traffic problems in the name of education and staying above backwater Mississippi standards. Your populace (who have completed high school and already make long commutes) disagree with you when their vote fails to pass the proposition. What do you do? Maybe an example closer to home: With soaring copper prices, someone proposes to reopen The Elizabeth Mine [wikipedia.org] but the EPA warns you that clean up from 150 years of abuse hasn't even concluded yet. Unfortunately your populace votes for their jobs and temporary income over the environment, what do you do?

Re:What Is Right but Unpopular (1)

dBLiSS (513375) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158703)

Sure these particular examples could lead to short to gain over long term gain, but how is this different then when leaders make discussion that ARE popular for the same reasons. Like, getting re-elected. I fail to see how giving the people the power to make bad discussion is any worse then letting leaders do it.

Re:What Is Right but Unpopular (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158845)

Do you mean "decisions"? To answer your question, it's because in the USA we have checks and balances to avoid a tyranny of the majority. It's funny how people who say they are so much in favor of human rights want a direct democracy. We have a Senate composed of 2 representatives from each state regardless of population and a nine member Supreme Court in part to protect the rights of the minority. We also have a chief executive who is expected to make informed, moral decisions and if he doesn't, has to answer to the other two branches.

Re:What Is Right but Unpopular (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159199)

You are correct, but recent history shows us that the design of our system was based on the assumption of people doing the 'right' thing and not playing to the crowd.

It doesn't work so well when you have people in all 3 branches doing exactly that for their respective 'crowds'.

Re:What Is Right but Unpopular (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158945)

Or you do the right and unpopular options (rather than the left and unpopular option): Close down all the schools and tell parents they need to educate their own children rather than leech off the state.

Re:What Is Right but Unpopular (2)

Tailhook (98486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159023)

your populace votes for their jobs and temporary income over the environment, what do you do?

Have pressure groups file suit and direct the case to a friendly judge who issues an indefinite injunction. No stink on you. Then, call your broker and put your money in foreign manufacturing where your wealth grows unimpeded by such problems. Then, have the 'community' where your mcmansion is being built zoned for a nice high brick wall all the way around so working class riff raff the use to do stuff like mine copper don't bother you or yours. Finally, attend lots of "non-profit" dinner parties and bask in the environmental kudos of your fellow wealthy politicos.

Re:What Is Right but Unpopular (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159095)

The thing is, the people of the county have a right to decide whether their education or their roads are more important. The purpose of indirect democracy is not to protect the people from bad decisions, but to ensure that no group of people can unjustly oppress another merely because of their quantity. In order for such an unpopular decision to be appropriate, you would have to show that there was a group of people who were going to be severely harmed by the continued operation of the schools in such a manner who did not agree with the decision, and that those people had no other options (private schools, homeschooling, etc.). That's actually a pretty high bar because it only takes one stay-at-home parent out of said group of households to provide an alternative for the kids whose parents want them to learn.

Regarding the mine, operating under modern regulations, I wouldn't expect the mine to pose substantially greater threat to the environment while operating than it does just sitting there idle. The burden of proof should be on the environmentalists that this is not the case. This is a relatively high bar, because if reopening the mine were not relatively harmless, the environmentalists would have pushed for (and gotten) more regulations over the proper operation of mines years ago.

In other words, both of those are poor examples of why we should not have direct democracy. Good (recent) examples include California's prop 8, where the majority clearly denied the rights of significant minority groups.

Finally, although I agree in principle that tyranny of the majority is not that much better than our current plutocracy, in the absence of limits on paid political speech, it will inevitably devolve back into a plutocracy eventually anyway. The problem is not the form of government, but rather the fact that campaign finance laws have not been enhanced to mitigate the power imbalance caused by the growing disparity in wealth between big corporations/unions/PACs/political parties and the average member of the general public.

i'm canadian (1)

fluffythedestroyer (2586259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158635)

Too bad I'm not an american because with that thought he would certainly get my vote. i would need more information from him of course but he's ahead of all the others simply by thinking like that.

Don't you risk vote buying? (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158669)

In effect, isn't there a risk that following your idea will simply mean that you will vote according to who buys the most online votes, whether by advertising or direct corruption? In this country (the UK) there is a long history of people voting for extreme parties or positions in elections that do not seem to matter. We believe that our representatives have not only the right, but the duty, to identify what is best for their constituents rather than simply to follow whoever shouts loudest.

Re:Don't you risk vote buying? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159309)

This isn't a vote. Its a suggestion to a Representative on how he should vote.

Some states vote entirely by mail. (Washington). Vote buying has not been proven or even alleged over the years,
yet its easy to do.

Why would anyone pay someone to cast their opinion a certain way when they know the voter could log back in and change their vote as soon as the $20 bill is in the wallet and the payer is out the door?

There is no reason to limit the number of times a voter could change their vote right up to the time the floor vote was cast.

Hi, I hear your name is Jeremy Hansen.... (1)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158675)

...why don't you take a seat?

(Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Campaign Confusion (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158689)

Why would someone who feels that their important issue views are a minority ever vote for you? Clearly an opponent of yours could approach the LBGT community and say "Hey, Hansen's going to ask the population if you guys can get married and you're the minority so don't plan on that ever passing." Or the Atheists, the rich businessmen, the greens, the unions, any very specific religious group, etc (the list goes on). And by the time they're done pointing out how the majority are going to "oppress" the minority for all these interest groups, they've covered a large part of the population. How are you going campaign against something like this? Surely you can't even run on a position in response to any of these questions? Your answer will always be "Whatever the most people want." So how will you combat such a strategy?

Re:Campaign Confusion (1)

billlava (1270394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159311)

That's a good point. I think the best tactic to combat this would just be to play up the 'tyrannical majority' argument in its most generic sense. Everyone (religious people, atheists, gays, heterosexuals, traditional minorities, and increasingly middle class white people) likes to think that everyone else is out to get them and would gang up against them if given the chance. You don't even have to suggest it to each group, just put it out there in a general way and everyone will think you're talking about them.

Re:Campaign Confusion (1)

lpp (115405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159329)

Isn't that already ostensibly an issue? If a candidate states that he will vote according to such-and-such values, including supporting or opposing same-gender marriage, then voters will turn out in support of or opposition to that candidates election, according to their motivation on the subject.

Those with a minority view that have a favorite candidate rarely ever get them elected. Certainly not without gaining support from outside their base in some way.

How is this different?

Re:Campaign Confusion (1)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159427)

The optimist in me hopes it might be possible to educate people on the idea of tyranny of the majority [wikipedia.org] .

The pessimist in me knows people are ignorant, have no desire to learn, and even understanding the concept they will still vote for what serves their own interests best.

Civil Rights (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158709)

How will you vote if "the will of [your] constituents" is to pass a law making homosexuality or teaching evolution a capital offense? How about implementing a Shirley Jackson-style "lottery?" I.e., should basic civil/human rights be subject to mob rule?

Re:Civil Rights (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158941)

The Bill of Rights.

Re:Civil Rights (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159171)

The bill of rights is a poor example - it does not prohibit slavery, give blacks rights, or allow them to vote. The US Constitution (with all amendments) would be a better reason, but unfortunately even it does not guarantee equality under the law - ask any gay couple.

I think the question for Mr. Hansen is a good one. If "the will of the constituents" was the law of the land, slavery would never have been abolished, and being a Muslim would have been outlawed on 9/12/2001.

Re:Civil Rights (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159565)

So you believe that a representative democracy where the people often don't get what they want because they voted for a person instead of a specific issue is better than a pure democracy precisely because the representative democracy is less democratic? Then perhaps you would prefer a monarchy. The king would not have to listen to any special interest groups. He could just do whatever he wanted, perhaps only (theoretically) limited by a constitution in violating human rights.

I personally think either a constitutional monarchy or a pure constitutional democracy would both be better than the current system.

Think of some of the human rights violations that might be abolished if we could vote for individual laws instead of just for a person. You could say goodbye to the TSA and maybe the entire DHS. Laws like the DMCA and the Patriot Act and all of the various government spying on its own citizen programs might have a harder time. It's true that some poor laws might be passed which would have to be invalidated by the supreme court for human rights violations, but that happens even in the current system. Corporations would also have a much harder time buying laws. It's a lot more difficult to bribe 51% of the population than a single congressman.

Re:Civil Rights (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159323)

The Bill of Rights doesn't prohibit (for example) slavery, disenfranchisement of women, or the outlawing of homosexuality. Later Amendments (e.g. 13th, 14th, 19th) corrected some of the oversights we now consider "basic civil/human rights", but not all of them.

I grew up in Vermont (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158719)

and fondly recall going to town meeting and hearing the adults calmly and respectfully discuss various issues with their neighbors. Does this happen any longer?

Re:I grew up in Vermont (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158793)

Nope. Next question please.

Re:I grew up in Vermont (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158903)

"and fondly recall going to town meeting and hearing the adults calmly and respectfully discuss various issues with their neighbors. Does this happen any longer?"

No, there now people of all colors there, not to mention gays, lesbians and atheists.
The horror!

Do You Experience Any Apprehension? (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158739)

At the prospect of going from a professor of deterministic systems to someone who will be a part of and responding to an inherently chaotic and non-deterministic system?

Security (5, Interesting)

macaran (766186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158757)

How will you ensure that only your constituents vote on the topic, and that they vote only once?

Constitution? (4, Interesting)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158759)

What will you do when your constituents want you to violate the Constitution?

Re:Constitution? (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158897)

He's a Democrat. Democrats view the Constitution as an outmoded, unjust document anyway.

Re:Constitution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159021)

That's not a problem. The problem is dodging around it instead of amending it.

Re:Constitution? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159035)

The laws that are the most unconstitutional are the drug seizure laws from Reagan.

What laws did Democrats pass that you think are unconstitutional?

Re:Constitution? (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159133)

Ronald Reagan was the President, and as such was only granted semi-veto powers over Congress. It was the Democratic controlled Congress that wrote and passed those drug laws.

Re:Constitution? (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159271)

Well there is the Healthcare Mandate. I'm a flaming liberal and I say it's unconstitutional.

I don't want the gov't granted the ability to make me buy services. Tax me and provide the services, i.e. single payer, is absolutely constitutional and that would be the right choice.

But yes, the GOP has a nice long track record of unconstitutional laws...like the 'Mandate' for instance ;-)

Re:Constitution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159561)

Dear kind sir, there is no constitutional authority for the federal government to provide health care services.

Re:Constitution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159525)

laws from Reagan

No such thing.

Re:Constitution? (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159119)

[citation fucking needed]

Re:Constitution? (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159253)

[citation fucking needed]

http://greenmountainscribes.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/scotus-justice-ginsburg-calls-u-s-constitution-a-bad-example/ [wordpress.com]

“I would not look to the US Constitution if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012.” Instead, Justice Ginsburg referred to the constitutions of more supposedly progressive countries, like South Africa, Canada, and the European Convention on Human Rights. She stated, “I can’t speak about what the Egyptian experience should be, because I’m operating under a rather old constitution.”

Re:Constitution? (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159299)

Yes, because Justice Ginsburg makes a stupid comment, now all Democrats are defined by it.

If that's the game we're playing, the Republican Party is fucking screwed: George W. Bush. 'Nuff said.

Re:Constitution? (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159407)

How is it stupid? I think it sums up the Democrat platform quite nicely. They believe in a proactive approach to social justice with weights and balances to favor minority groups deeply entrenched in government. Are you telling me you disagree with this? Because if you do, I'd think long and hard about the party you're supporting.

Re:Constitution? (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159539)

I don't support the Democrats, I just oppose ridiculously broad generalizations, especially as concerns political ideology. If you don't want to be defined by the worst of your own political persuasion, than I would refrain from doing so as concerns the political persuasions of others.

Re:Constitution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159339)

Which Fox News commentator told you that?

question (1, Interesting)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158761)

How are you going to ensure that the people using your system are:

1. Legally allowed to vote in the U.S.

2. Are who they say they are.

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159059)

How are you going to ensure that the people using your system are:

1. Legally allowed to vote in the U.S.

2. Are who they say they are.

Racist. How dare you.

Spelling bee (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158773)

Can you please check the box with the correct spelling?

|_| Amercia
|_| America

Self Selecting Constituents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158783)

How will you get traditional political non-participants involved? What will you do if the majority wants protectionist measures which hurt a minority of citizens (eg expensive safety regulations for small toymakers)?

Minorities (1)

macaran (766186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158799)

How will you weight minority voting? Say Mexican farmers want rights, and the majority of their neighbors want them deported. Would you vote to have them deported, or would you weight minority votes on topics concerning minorities?

Undermines the idea of representative govt. (0)

windcask (1795642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158807)

The idea of representative democracy is that you will elect someone whom you trust to represent your interests, not simply a middle-man between you and your government. How popular was TARP in terms of raw polling numbers? The idea was hated roundly by both sides, but it passed and worked because we had a lot of people in Congress with greater foresight than the average Joe. I know I wouldn't want the Republic subjected to the whims of the mob, whose opinions change as often as the weather.

Re:Undermines the idea of representative govt. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159011)

>>> TARP was hated roundly by both sides, but it passed and worked

It hardly worked. All it did was steal money from the poor (us human beings) to the rich (banking corporations). And contrary to belief it has not been paid back, nor did it solve the key problem (banks leveraged 50-to-1). It would have been better to let the House of Representatives follow the desires of the people, 75% of whom opposed TARP, and voted it down.

And as we later discovered the 700 billion TARP was just the tip of the iceberg. The private central bank in collusion with the Treasury Department (aka corporatism,fascism) handed-out 16,000 billion dollars in loans and direct gifts.

Malware / bots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158817)

Given how difficult it is to prevent computer infection, how can you hope to avoid having malware or bots subvert the process?

Will all data collected be public? (1)

billlava (1270394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158853)

And if so, how soon? Will you allow participants to view results of a survey/poll immediately after they vote, or before? Or never? What about all the demographic data you will likely tie to each vote? Will that be available (in an anonymized form) for public inspection? That could be just as interesting as the prospect of a poll-informed internet representative.

Value (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158857)

If you are a mere puppet of the polls, and never use your own judgement or have the courage to take an unpopular position, what value are you providing to your constituents?

Mob Rule (1, Interesting)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158867)

Do you worry that rule by direct election would lead to a "Mob Rule" mentality? Too often the public gets very angry over an issue and makes an emotional decision instead of an informed decision. And then, one must worry about the public basing their decisions on propaganda instead of information.

This can result in very poor policy - what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.

What about Voters wanting to dumb laws? (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158879)

What if the voters ask for a dumb law, such as "Every Vermonter will pay zero income tax," thereby bankrupting the Vermont government? I would assume you would reject that law and vote no on it, even if the majority of your home district's constituents desired it.

Populism (0)

SJrX (703334) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158881)

While I can see the allure of being very responsive to voters, this seems to be a potentially dangerous idea. By being very receptive to voters immediate desires, voters who by and large are not informed enough to make good decisions, it seems like we could very easily be stuck in both political standstill or trap where required actions could not be taken. If the logic end of your idea is that more candidates should be doing this, it seems we could very quickly become paralyzed.

How do you plan on handling the political "game" (4, Interesting)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158883)

I like the concept of taking direction directly from the will of your constituents, but how do you plan on handling...politics? More specifically, when the party needs votes and deals have been made, how will you stand up to the leadership and refuse to take part? Will that not render you an outsider and remove valuable (perhaps necessary) political clout? It seems like the Washington political machine is incompatible with direct democracy.

Bravo ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158885)

I've been dreaming of big changes to our representative democracy for a long time.

How will you propagate this winning idea through our system ?

What can we do to encourage candidates that believe that their election
does not give them a blanket mandate for their own agendas ?

jr

Tyranny of the Majority (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158909)

is why we have a representative democracy. This guy must have missed those classes in school.

What if the people don't want this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40158919)

What if the people vote to outlaw polling of the constituents, and want to require their representatives to act, as representatives, on their behalf? Will this paradox create a fissure in the space-time continuum? I mean, will you resign, will you ignore the new directive or will you act as a representative? Some other action?

How do you ensure the poll is representative? (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158929)

How do you ensure the poll is representative?

If you let everyone vote on a web page, you're self selecting for technology literate, able to afford an internet connection, and politically engaged enough to care to vote.

If the same 10% or so vote on every issue, you might end up with skewed results.

And, as has been pointed out, you'd need to be sure the system was secure and had some validation in it -- otherwise you have no idea if you can trust the votes. Then of course, all of your voters are essentially on record for having voted for/against something.

It sounds like a good idea in theory, but the devil is always in the details.

Re:How do you ensure the poll is representative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159029)

Most people don't vote in the first place, aren't elections not truly representative? Is this just another way to nullify that fact that most people will not have voted for you in the first place?

Access (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158961)

In addition to the questions about authentication and authorization, how do you intend on dealing with the following critical issue:

1. Access to "voting" by people who aren't online. How do you keep from disenfranchising those who are not electronically capable, either because of cost or because of ability?

Do you think direct democracy is the answer? (5, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158981)

California has been running an ongoing experiment with direct democracy for many years, and here IMHO it's mostly been an abysmal failure.

What happens is that all kinds of budget earmarks get put on the ballot. Well-meaning voters think, "Well gosh, of course we should have funding for after school sports programs!" Next thing you know, there's a law on the books that earmarks X percent of the school budget for after-school sports programs -- whether or not the students have textbooks.

Or just as often, the bills are put on the ballots by special interests with hidden agendas. Here in San Francisco, a group operating out of San Diego -- some 450 miles away, in Southern California -- seemed close to getting a bill on the local city ballot that would have banned the practice of male circumcision in the City. You can debate whether circumcision is "torture" all you want (for both my father and I it was a medical necessity, due to a congenital defect). But the bill's supporters' real agenda became painfully apparent when they advertised the bill using a comic book featuring "Foreskin Man," a blonde, blue-eyed superhero who saved blonde, blue-eyed boys from forced circumcision by leering, demonic Jews with glowing eyes, pointed teeth, and Hassidic dress.

Of course, the classic example of direct democracy gone wrong in California is Proposition 13, which put strict limits on property taxes, and as a result, impoverished school districts, libraries, fire departments, and other community services in many areas. Debate over the bill was so contentious at the time, and continues to be to this day, that to even approach the idea of repealing it is considered a political death sentence, so no representative has the will to do it.

So to repeat my question: Are you really sure this is a good idea?

Re:Do you think direct democracy is the answer? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159127)

>>>California is Proposition 13, which put strict limits on property taxes, and as a result, impoverished school districts, libraries, fire departments, and other community services
>>>
My state has a separate school tax. Couldn't California politicians enact a similar tax in order to avoid the Prop13 property tax restriction?

Re:Do you think direct democracy is the answer? (1)

nhavar (115351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159359)

Property tax or school tax or sales tax, it all has to go on the ballot just the same.

Re:Do you think direct democracy is the answer? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159447)

My state has a separate school tax. Couldn't California politicians enact a similar tax in order to avoid the Prop13 property tax restriction?

They kind of did that, only it was with another direct-democracy measure, Proposition 98, which mandates that a certain amount of the state budget be spent on education. The downside of that is that, once again, it ties the representatives' hands a little more when it comes to allocating the budget. Instead of taking personal responsibility for the budget, all the representatives can do is follow the rules. "Not my fault!" It's all a big mess.

How will you frame choices? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159433)

PCM2 has a point - but his question is non starter - so let me try to ask 2 questions.

First, how will you frame questions? Decsion Theroy, a branch of Psychology and used by Economist, has shown that we can manipulate results by how you frame questions. i.e. "Do you want to increase taxes for spending on roads" gets a lower result then "How much do you think we should spend on roads"

Second, how will you balance you a passionate minority vs. a passive majority? I will use building a new road as an example (a poor example because this is beyond the preveiw of congress - maybe somebody could come up with a better example?). Most people want to see the road built. A small minority want accommodations (move the road a couple of hundard feet to perserve a cherish historical or natural spot, better barriers for road noise, etc.). Special intrest groups are not automaticly evil after all.

As an aside, how much have you read on Public Choice? A subbranch of Economics on how different voting methods can generate different results.

Finally (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158997)

At long last, we have a candidate that isn't a doctor, lawyer, MBA, or poly sci major. It is amazingly refreshing to have someone with a computer science background running. Perhaps technology will leapfrog in Vermont because technology decisions could be made by someone that - perish the thought - actually knows what they are talking about.

What about people who aren't online? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159003)

How do you intend to ensure that you still properly represent those who don't have internet access or, perhaps, aren't technologically literate? People who are poor, disabled, impaired, or otherwise vulnerable in such a way that could prevent them from taking part in this process: how do you intend to represent them fairly?

Conflicts (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159013)

What do you plan to do when your voters want something impossible or utterly disastrous for the state, such as lowering taxes and raising spending at the same time?

Informed electorate (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159043)

How do you ensure that the voters are educated on the issues and not just voting because it's 'leet and kewl" and they can 'vote no on everything just because they can'? I.e., you have money to hire a staff, and have access to background information that most people do not, and are expected to "do your homework" and cast informed votes because that is what you are elected to do in the current system. How do you make sure your proxy votes are cast with the same care and attention?

This is related to the question about keeping advertising from swaying the votes, but different. How do you get people who may be busy trying to make enough money to get by to spend the time doing the research that you were elected to do? And in that latter vein, does this change to the process not violate the "equal protection" clause of the Constitution? You are, after all, giving your constituents a much bigger voice in the vote of your elected body than those in other districts. Don't those other people deserve the kind of government that they are voting for, and which you are seeking to change?

Re:Informed electorate (1)

JJJJust (908929) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159389)

And in that latter vein, does this change to the process not violate the "equal protection" clause of the Constitution? You are, after all, giving your constituents a much bigger voice in the vote of your elected body than those in other districts. Don't those other people deserve the kind of government that they are voting for, and which you are seeking to change?

There is no equal protection clause violation here. The proportionality of votes to districts to people doesn't change because he's subcontracting the decision. In the end, he's still one representative with one vote. In a way, he's just allowing everybody to be a lobbyist.

Remember when Obama spun the same BS? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159049)

Remember when Obama made similar promises about having open government and shining all sorts of sunshine on government matters, then behaved more like GW II in office? Fool me once...

Proving Who You Are and Are Elegible (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159071)

Voter ID laws, despite the hyper-partisan rhetoric about disenfranchisement, are all about the voter proving they are who they say they are.

If advocating for Voter ID laws are portrayed now as tantamount to KKK level Racism, how will internet participation be policed so that only those who should be voting (as in a legal resident of the jurisdiction) actually vote?

  If anything, the complaints about electronic voting system now will only be upped by an order of magnitude if elections and plebiscites are moved onto the web.

Tail end handled; what about head end (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159073)

OK so you've got the tail end of democracy or whatever it is handled, that being the online voting on bills thing.
Whats your plan on the head end of the legislative process, that being writing and submitting bills? Thats a bit more complicated.

One example of a failure mode is to never submit legislation, which doesn't scale too well.
Another failure mode is 1000 people vote for or demand or whatever 100 bills each bill requiring say 1/10th your term to ram thru whoops thats 10 times more work than you can theoretically accomplish.
Another interesting head end failure mode is the stoners submit 50 different weed legalization bills all of which split the vote. Or culture jam where one group doesn't like a LGBT hate bill, so they submit 49 similar bills to split the vote of the haters.
Another failure mode could be "just let the lobbyists write all bills" which I'm told is what unofficially happens anyway.

I guess the TLDR version of my question is "everyone's focused on how you'll vote... how will you propose new bills?"

Conflict with Oath (1)

JJJJust (908929) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159111)

The Permanent Rules of the Vermont Senate provide for the following Oath (www.leg.state.vt.us/misc/Senate%20Rules.pdf):

"I, __, Senator from __ County (or Counties), in the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, do solemnly swear, that as a Member of this Assembly, I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, nor do or consent to any act or thing whatever that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State; but will in all things conduct myself as a faithful, honest representative and guardian of the people, according to the best of my judgment and ability. So help me God. I do solemnly swear that I will be true and faithful to the State of Vermont, and that I will not, directly or indirectly, do any act or thing injurious to the Constitution or Government thereof. So help me God. I do solemnly swear that I did not at the time of my election to this body, and that I do not now hold any office of profit or trust under the authority of Congress. So help me God. I do further solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the State of Vermont and the Constitution of the United States. So help me God."

Winston Churchill allegedly once said something along the lines of, "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."

- If your constituents would like a law implemented that runs afoul of the oath how would you react?
- How can you execute the will of the people without question while still being in compliance with your oath when the will of the people is often what is in their own best interest at the present moment and not in the future?
- How does your idea not directly conflict with "but will in all things conduct myself as a faithful, honest representative and guardian of the people, according to the best of my judgment and ability". It seems that prohibits substituting the desires of the voters for your own without question.
- How will you represent the views of residents of your district who choose not to participate? You still owe them representation.
- As a legislative official, you would have a duty to more than your district; you would also have one to the state as a whole. How will you balance that given the constraints listed?

Non voting tasks? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159125)

I don't know about your state, but the fed congressmen get to select two young people for the military service academies.
All congresspeople at the fed level get more requests than they can possibly handle.
Are you planning on votes for non-legislative "tasks" in your position?

Pitiful example: City A in your district wants you to attend their county fair and its at the same exact moment as City B wants you to attend their fire station grand opening. Do you put this up to a vote or ?

Will you open your source and platform? (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159129)

I've been hoping your breed of politician would arrive for a few years now. I hope that more like you come. One representative directly speaking with the voice of the people will have little power, but many would be a true force to be reckoned with. Will you let others use your source code and your infrastructure?

Citizen vs. Professional Legislature (1)

mysqlrocks (783488) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159153)

I am a Vermont resident (although not in your district). Vermont is a state with a citizen legislature, meaning that it is comprised primarily of citizens who have jobs outside of being a legislator. From a citizen legislature, direct democracy a logical next step on the continuum of representational democracy. However, is direct democracy too much of a leap for legislative bodies that are currently made up of professional legislators? Aren't there some benefits to having a professional legislature? For example, professional legislators can spend more time understanding the domains behind individual issues. Do you agree with this assessment?

What about Mrs Grenier in Waterbury Center? (1)

jackjumper (307961) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159175)

I live next door in Bolton, so this is particularly interesting. One thing I know about the area is that at Town meeting much of the most interesting and cogent points are made by older folks that are the least likely to have an internet connection. How are you going to represent people that do not have an internet connection?

How about the rest of the job? (1)

trcooper (18794) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159223)

Being an effective representative isn't simply about yes or no votes. He or she also needs to effectively argue and influence his fellow representatives. Simply being a pass-thru for online polls when the rest of the districts do not operate that way does not seem to work. If all districts worked this way and the job of the representative was solely to push a button when a vote comes up, sure, but why elect someone at that point, just let the online polls do all the work.

I wouldn't vote for this person. While I think he's got good intentions, I don't think he understands what the job entails. I don't have all the information. I don't have time to listen to debate. Neither does 99% of the population. I think I would be better off looking at a candidate who has similar views to me, and hope that they represent me well, if they don't I'll vote for someone else next time.

I want a representative who does listen to his constituents. I don't want one that isn't able to speak his mind on an issue or is not willing to make a stand based on their own opinions which should in most cases be more informed than the general public. I'd much rather have someone who is intelligent, passionate and open minded as my representative than someone who says of the 10 people who went and voted on this online poll 6 said yes, so that is how I will vote. Isn't the point of debating an issue to convince others? How do you accomplish that if you're parroting the results of an online poll?

What about new work? How do you go about getting initiatives started? Do you just not do that? Do you poll your constituents on what they want? How do you come up with those options? What if an item is one you aren't familiar or excited about?

How are you effective as a representative of your constituents in the government structure we have today if you aren't truly a representative, but a mouthpiece?

Ugh.. (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159231)

I am not sure this is a great thing. Maybe it is. I am conflicted, I admit. I am not sure that direct democracy is not subject to intemperate and ignorant decision making on the part of , say, scientific illiterates.

OTOH clearly our current system is pathetically broken with WORSE than "average" decisions being made by venal, near idiots.

I admit I am stumped and seek the wise consul of people who are actual learned specialist - academics who study this or whose work in, say psychology , especially the psychology of crowds or extremely relevant specialty subjects like terror management theory:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory [wikipedia.org]

I want to know what they think the hidden ramifications inherent in this type of political organization of society.

Procedural (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159233)

OK so you've answered the voting, I've asked about submitting new legislation, and I've asked about your time off / non-legislative tasks.
That leaves one remaining area.. procedural.
For example, you get 10 minutes to speak. Do you put that time up for vote, or just recite vote totals, or try an honest attempt at a debate following the will of the majority, or try to influence people to vote for you as per your personal beliefs.
Or are you assuming you'll be frozen out of the debate process and not allowed to ever address the floor, or whatever your state calls it?

What is your policy on tie votes among electorate? (1)

Aristos Mazer (181252) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159235)

Suppose a bill comes up and you poll the electorate and the result comes back 50/50 split. How do you break the tie? More importantly, votes rarely come in exactly 50/50. How do you propose to handle the margin of error? If the vote comes in 51/49 but the margin of error is 3%, would you feel ok voting your conscience and going with the 49%? Would you abstain because your electorate is undecided?

Closed door / classified stuff (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159245)

What if you're involved in closed door sessions / classified stuff? A really vague vote? Or in your position is that simply not relevant?

Ubiquitous access to broadband required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159261)

To create a level playing field for such a platform, all voters need to have access to broadband Internet to quickly download prospective bills and have access to all types of media to perform research. This is far from the case in Vermont. Please start by strongly supporting and doing whatever possible to drive ubiquitous broadband access to all Vermonters, including supporting community-driven efforts such as ECFiber!

Are you willing to go against your own morals? (1)

Sir Realist (1391555) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159281)

I know nothing about your personal beliefs, but are you willing to go against them if your constituents tell you to? To pick a ludicrous example; if the web voting tells you they want to legalise baby eating, will you vote for it?

How would more citizen involvement help? (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159321)

Traditionally, the average citizen looks at the possible candidates and chooses one whose beliefs and policy preferences line up with their own. The system you suggest would require instead that a citizen become well-informed not only on a wide range of issues, but also on legislative procedure and language, competing amendments, legislative strategy (horse-trading, or voting against one version of a bill with language one favors in order to allow another, better version to pass in its place) &c.

As someone who thinks we already vote too much (county and state judges, county board of supervisors, city council, mayor, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state house and senate, federal house and senate and president, not to mention county, city and state referenda) for the average person to remain well-educated, can you tell me why you think direct citizen involvement in the legislative process itself might produce better outcomes?

Voting system (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159333)

Will the voting system be plurality or a preferential system like Instant Runoff or Condorcet?

Classified Information (1)

billius (1188143) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159365)

It seems like in a lot of national security matters, citizens would not have access to the same information that members of Congress would due to some or all of it being classified. However, this lack of access would not stop some citizens from forming a strong opinion. A perfect example of this is the 2003 invasion of Iraq. There were people who were vehemently for and against it, but neither group had access to the same information that the members of Congress had. How would you weigh popular support against your own assessment of information that you *knew* your constituents did not have access to?

Constitutionality (1)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159429)

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.

Where does the Vermont Constitution and the U.S. Constitution enter into this? Are you saying you'll support blatantly unconstitutional laws if that be the will of your constituents?

Voting vs Crafting (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40159439)

An automaton voter is not that interesting to me. It may shift things slightly from a democratic republic to a more pure democracy, but not that much. The vote aggregator still acts as a barrier to the pure democracy.

More interesting to me is the real job of a legislator--to craft legislation. What innovative ideas do you bring to the table for crowdsourcing this task? How will you choose your target issues and how will you moderate the formation of the proposed legislation? This requires a lot more sophistication than simply putting out polls.

Who gets a vote? (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40159557)

Should people who work in Washington County but do not reside there (e.g. somebody who works at Ben and Jerry's but lives near Burlington) get an online vote to determine how you vote? What about seasonal residents and workers?

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