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Estonian Internet Voting Called a Success

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the rights-and-privileges dept.

The Internet 291

composer314 writes "The Associated Press is reporting that the small European nation of Estonia has conducted large-scale voting over the Internet. From the article: "Last week, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold an election allowing voters nationwide to cast ballots over the internet. Fewer than 10,000 people, or 1 percent of registered voters, participated online in elections for mayors and city councils across the country, but officials hailed the experiment as a success." The system is built on Linux." I guess it works well when the Internet is considered a human right.

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291 comments

Death To women's Rights (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13822554)

Death To women's Rights.
Death To women's Liberties.
Death To women's Freedoms.

Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13822563)

Call me a geographically challenged USA-ian, but I think this must be a hoax.
If you read the Dilbert cartoon, Estonia is the fake country with the bearded people

And if it were real, I'm sure I would have heard of it buy now since all the real countries have obvious names like England, Mexico, Canada, France, etc. etc.
I actually wonder about some of those -stan prefixed former Russian countries...do they exist?

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (3, Interesting)

Daedalus-Ubergeek (600951) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822603)

No, that country is called Elbonia. Scott Adams created it to avoid making fun of any particular country.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (4, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822614)

No, that's Elbonia- Estonia is about 50 miles north of where Elbonia is supposed to be. They're full of forests and songs instead of mud. (no, really- their revolution was called the "singing revolution" because as the soviet tanks were leaving, they were followed by crowds of people singing songs. Velio Tormis was their "Conductor General", and they've only been free since 1992).

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (1)

composer314 (923915) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822773)

Btw, it's spelled Veljo Tormis and he's one of my favorite choral composers.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822834)

You know, so far as revolutions go that ain't a bad way to do it. Better than the bloody ones with thousands of dead.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (2, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823435)

"and they've only been free since 1992)."

Estonia was an independent country between the 2 world wars, as were the other baltic states (Latvia and Lithuania)

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13822625)


Geographically challenged indeed.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13822627)

You scare me.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (1)

The Shrewd Dude (880136) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822684)

I actually wonder about some of those -stan prefixed former Russian countries...do they exist?
Afghani-stan, anyone?
Oh, and it's suffixed, not prefixed.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (4, Funny)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822700)

Estonia is the fake country with the bearded people.

No thats Elbonia, and I deeply resent your ignorance we are not a fake country [uncyclopedia.org].

I actually wonder about some of those -stan prefixed former Russian countries...do they exist?

Well, the thing is those *stan countries were blasted into in orbit around Pluto by the Soviet space agency during the cold war since they proved to be a general nuisance. The only exception is Afghanistan which had to be brought down to earth a few years ago for a major overhaul due to a massive rodent infestation.

Re:Isn't Estonia that "fake country" in Dilbert? (5, Funny)

pharwell (854602) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822754)

I actually wonder about some of those -stan prefixed former Russian countries...do they exist?

Like -stanUkraine? Or -stanGeorgia? Hmm. Not sure, but I think they're fake.

It's ELBONIA (1)

Nirvelli (851945) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822784)

You're thinking of "Elbonia," and that would be "-stan suffixed former Russian countries."

Re:It's ELBONIA (3, Informative)

composer314 (923915) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822879)

The following are actual countries ending in -stan Former members of the USSR: - Kazakhstan - Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan Not members of the USSR: - Afghanistan (but almost!) - Pakistan "-stan" is a suffix in Farsi and Sanskrit meaning "home" or "place of". For a full list of national, regional, and ficticious -stans, see -stan article on wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

Estonia a little reality check (4, Informative)

voss (52565) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823090)

Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918, it was independent from 1918 to 1940 when it was forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union, all along it has been an ethnically distinct region. Estonia had only been part of Russia for 200 years prior to 1710 it had been part of either Denmark, Poland or Sweden.

It was never an ethnically Russian area.

Re:Estonia a little reality check (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823211)

You must be new here.

A success? With a 1% turnout? (4, Funny)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822570)

I wonder what would have had to happen for it to be considered a failure.

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (2, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822590)

Perhaps it displayed a snappy song-and-dance number.

"Hey, we're Estonia,
We like macaronia,
And it's time to voooote!"

That would be a success of a kind.

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822623)

I wonder what would have had to happen for it to be considered a failure.

More people voting then are actually elligble would have been considered a failure. By the losing opponent(s) anyway.

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (1)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822822)

[Less than] 1 percent of registered voters ... participated ..., but officials hailed the experiment as a success.

Is Estonia an oligarchy? Maybe the "but" should've be a "therefore"...

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (5, Insightful)

bypedd (922626) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823004)

Although they don't suggest it, perhaps that 1% have mobility impairments and have never voted before, but now they get a chance. Obviously that's the best case scenario, but it seems a little ridiculous that there haven't been more efforts to expand the possibilities of voting. And scoffing at 1%? How many people do absentee votes in the U.S. (or any democratic country)? I would guess it's not more than 10%. And yet, for many, it's the only way they can vote. And absentee voting has been around for years, so I think 1% is not fantastic, but it's a good start.

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823117)

How many people do absentee votes in the U.S. (or any democratic country)? I would guess it's not more than 10%.

Poor guess. 58% in the largest county in Washington. A lot more people vote absentee these days than you'd think. Makes it easier for the democrats to engage in voter fraud here.
http://www.metrokc.gov/elections/news/2004_10_13.h tm [metrokc.gov]

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (2, Interesting)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823029)

Here in America, that'd be a significan percentage of the people who bother to vote at all.

Actually, it'd probably be pretty neat if people could access a website with their cell phones to vote. Send a huge SMS message wave, and see all those kids actually bother to vote.

Re:A success? With a 1% turnout? (3, Informative)

Aranth Brainfire (905606) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823031)

From the article, and the summary... "Fewer than 10,000 people, or 1 percent of registered voters, participated *online* in elections for mayors and city councils across the country" (stars added by me)

The vote wasn't exclusively online. Everyone else who voted did it the normal way- this just expands the options for casting your vote.

And in other news (3, Funny)

kiore (734594) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822581)

An unprecedented write-in vote by internet users sends Kevin Mitnick to the Whitehouse.

hacker voters.. (4, Funny)

easterlingman (889205) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822586)

Were that to happen in the United States we'd get 500 million votes for Senator Linus Torvalds..

Good news (1)

hysma (546540) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822588)

It's great that they've been able to use our up and coming Universal Communication Medium to form the government. One step forward... now for other countries to follow their lead.

Privacy? (4, Interesting)

zoloto (586738) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822594)

To cast an online ballot, voters need a special ID card, a $24 device that reads the card and a computer with Internet access. About 80 percent of Estonian voters have the ID cards, which have been used since 2002 for online access to bank accounts and tax records.

Election committee officials said the ID card system had proved effective and reliable and dismissed any security concerns with using it for the online ballot.


Information is sparse, but does anyone know if votes were linked to who voted for what? And what kind of proof can we find that voting a particular way won't involve retaliation...? I'd like this in the USA, but I'm unsure /adjusts tin-foil hat

Re:Privacy? (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822703)

Information is sparse, but does anyone know if votes were linked to who voted for what?

Do you mean are they supposed to be, or if they can be? I'm assuming they aren't supposed to be, but without a doubt they can be. The cards are used "for online access to bank accounts and tax record", so they clearly identify the user, which would be required to prevent duplicate voting, and thus they know who you are when you access the system. I'm sure they claim that they don't associate the user with the subsequent vote, but it would be simple as pie to store that information.

This is exactly why I don't want a system like this in the U.S., for exactly the reason you state: coercion and retaliation.

Re:Privacy? (1, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823481)

There are cryptographic solutions to this problem. Off the top of my head I can't think of a system that would work, but you can be sure there are many possibilities. All you have to do is seperate identity from authorization and then provide your vote. i.e., you need authorization to vote, and you need to identify yourself to get authorization, but it can be cryptographically shown that you can't tie the authorization token to the identity.

Re:Privacy? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823591)

You also need a system that will allow invalidation of votes, and an inability to prove how you voted after the election.

This way when your boss asks you to vote a certain way on the job you can go ahead and do so, knowing you can change your vote later. And the next day you can't prove you voted one way or another so the boss is none the wiser.

You think big corporations control congress now? Wait until they literally hold tens of thousands of actual votes, and the ability to pay people for their votes (come into this booth with an unused voting card and we'll give you $10!).

Wont work in US (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822597)

Because you still have to validate in PERSON that you are who you say you are. Simply put, our country must make sure no one else votes are your behalf.

Re:Wont work in US (2, Insightful)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822702)

Ever heard of the absentee ballot?

Re:Wont work in US (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822817)

requires your signature and someone elses signature declaring that the person in question filled out the ballot.

Re:Wont work in US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823193)

requires your signature and someone elses signature declaring that the person in question filled out the ballot.

In theory yes, but you must not have seen what went on in King County Washington during the 2004 election. More than a few dead people voted, people voted multiple times, election workers "enhanced" ballots, it was a general major foul up.

Well... (1)

max99ted (192208) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822604)

The system is built on Linux

...hopefully that blunt statement will minimize the "yeah but does it run..." comments - time will tell.

Re:Well... (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822645)

>...hopefully that blunt statement will minimize the "yeah but does it run..." comments - time will tell.

I imagine they needed a beowulf cluster of linux machines for the election. Of course, it it was still Soviet Estonia, linux would have run on the election!

Re:Well... (1)

NetRAVEN5000 (905777) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822657)

"...hopefully that blunt statement will minimize the "yeah but does it run..." comments - time will tell."

Imagine a whole Beowulf cluster of voting machines! :)

WTF Does Estonia Have to do with Slashdot Politics (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13822609)

If you look at the FAQ for sections, [slashdot.org]this politics sections is supposed to be about "US government politics". Why on God's Green Earth should anybody care about Estonians voting besides Estonians?

This politics section sucks, it's nothing but a US-bashfast site. Remember when it was supposed to be temporary? Slashdot should stick to what it does best tech news a week late. The political coverage is so clumsy and amateurish.

Re:WTF Does Estonia Have to do with Slashdot Polit (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822640)

Why on God's Green Earth should anybody care about Estonians voting besides Estonians?

Because voting via the internet is something many Americans are interested in, so they're interested in attempts at making it work.

Slashdot should stick to what it does best tech news a week late.

You mean like they did with this article? Or is internet voting not considered tech news?

Re:WTF Does Estonia Have to do with Slashdot Polit (0, Troll)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822669)

I thought most Americans were interested in bashing homosexuals, pretending to be outraged by Janet Jackson's nipple and make-believing that Dubya has anything but a rudimentary notochord.

Re:WTF Does Estonia Have to do with Slashdot Polit (-1, Flamebait)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822650)

This politics section sucks, it's nothing but a US-bashfast site. Remember when it was supposed to be temporary? Slashdot should stick to what it does best tech news a week late. The political coverage is so clumsy and amateurish.

I tell you what. When the US stops behaving like some pants-shitting infant who drools a lot and actually thinks very visibly mentally challenged rich-men's sons like Dubya, Prince of Fucktards, then the bashing will stop. First the US must do something sensible, like take your Evangelicals and force them to recite "evolution is not my enemy, and my holy book reads like it was written by a mentally retarded earthworm if read literally", and then something like "my country is not really God's tool on Earth", then we'll talk.

Oh yeah, and yay for Estonia.

Ah, truly you are an enlightened soul... (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822692)

Are you, brother, an enlightened European or Canadian? Would that I could join you in the home of the free indeed, where people are reasonable. Unfortunately I am stuck here in the US of A, drooling and pants-shitting and fucktarding.

Oh, by the way, I think you missed something in this sentence, unless you intended it to be meaningless: When the US stops behaving like some pants-shitting infant who drools a lot and actually thinks very visibly mentally challenged rich-men's sons like Dubya, Prince of Fucktards, then the bashing will stop.

What say you, oh enlightened brother?

Very cool! (1)

Zenmonkeycat (749580) | more than 7 years ago | (#13822667)

I actually wasn't /that/ surprised that Estonia has such an internet-savvy political system. Estonia was one of the first countries to break away from the USSR (along with Latvia and Lithuania) as a result of the "Singing Revolution."

i disagree.. (0)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822668)

It sounds like a good idea, and seems to have worked decently.
However in my opinion it was a failure because only 49% of Estonians have access to the Internet. That, combined with the miserable turnout rate, does not constitute a legitamite election.

Out of a population of 1,344,840, there are approximately 670,000 Estonians with access to internet. That's a paltry 49.8%. Any system where less than a majority is allowed to vote is not a success, compared to a much higher number. Clearly, it needs work.

Statistics Here [internetworldstats.com]

Re:i disagree.. (3, Informative)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822694)

Are you saying that only 49% of the population COULD have voted at all in the election? If so you're severly misinformed. 1% isn't the total number of people who voted, but the total number of people who voted online.

Re:i disagree.. (1)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822799)

Well, I don't know if the ELECTION was a failure. If you RTFA (/. here, I know), internet voting was ALLOWED, not REQUIRED. It doesn't say what the turnout was for the election as a whole. Anybody know?

Re:i disagree.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13822821)

Clearly they are offering other voting options besides online voting...

WWBX (1)

C4BL3 (698553) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822711)

That is just great!, Now instead of regular Black voting boxes we are going to have wold wide black boxes! Seems like something Florida State might wanna upgrade to!

Re:WWBX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823320)

Screw Florida State. Go Gators!!!

Diebold's officials . . . (4, Funny)

ln -sf head ass (585724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822715)

. . . downplayed reports of a test round of balloting in which tabulations resulted in George W. Bush as the winner of the election for Prime Minister of Estonia.

This should not exist (3, Insightful)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822722)

Voting over the internet, or any kind of distance voting for that matter, violates a very basic premise of the democratic process : that each vote is guaranteed to belong to the one in the name of whom it is cast. There is no guarantee with remote voting that the voter has not sold her vote, or that no pressure has been exercised on her.

Voting should consist in having people go completely alone in isolated booths. A vote on a country's government is not an internet poll.

Re:This should not exist (1)

jumpingfred (244629) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822803)

I don't know where you vote. But where I vote the identification process is: I say my name and I sign the voter roll and get a ballot. There is no checking of ID. There is no verifing the signature.

Re:This should not exist (1)

xerid (235598) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822865)

so.... where _exactly_ do you live? Fred, right? I knew someone named Fred. What's your last name again, Fred?

Re:This should not exist (2, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823083)

So you're against absentee ballots? That excludes many elderly, and a huge portion of the armed services. Oh, and anyone who's scheduled to work for the duration that the polls are open. Like me, this past presidential election. I made my voice heard through an absentee ballot provided by my township.

And how can you verify that an absentee ballot was made without undue influence?

Re:This should not exist (1)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823476)

Proxies can be used for absentee ballots, with a limited number of proxy votes per person (one or two). And polls are held on Sundays in most countries, and the law can guarantee for those who work to have the opportunity to take time off.

Re:This should not exist (3, Informative)

raikje (806968) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823262)

there is no guarantee with any kind of voting that the vote has not been bought - the only difference with distance voting is that people can look over your shoulder to check you vote the way you're paid to.

however, the estonian system has several interesting measures to combat this. you can vote online as many times as you like - only your last vote will count. so once the mobster has left, you just vote again. also a paper ballot takes supremacy over an internet ballot, so voting in person in a secret booth is still entirely possible even after voting online (a good fallback for people concerned about the security of their online vote too)

all in all, it seems like a very well thought-out online voting system, designed to complement rather than replace the paper ballot system. a shame that it requires a national ID card.

Breaking news (2, Funny)

No2Gates (239823) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822738)

Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, on hearing of the news about Estonia's good fortune utilizing Linux for their successful voting, purchased the country. The voting is now nullified with the purchase, however all citizens who voted will be given discount coupons on purchases of any Microsoft product.

Direct Democracy (5, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822743)

I see this and future use of internet voting as steps toward direct democracy. I predict that within this century, some countries will use direct democracy [wikipedia.org] as the legislative body on the local and regional level. Direct Democracy is where citizens can directly propose and vote on legislation, making representatives redundant.

When democracy was first proposed, it was long argued by the elite that peasants were not smart enough to rule themselves; they needed kings to keep society from collapsing. Even the first democracies were collections of wealthy land-owning males -- almost 90% of the population, including women, slaves, and peasants, were not enfranchised into the government. Well, those naysayers were wrong, and commoners are perfectly capable of running representational democracies.

The thing is, representatives are a compromise anyways. In days when farmers worked 14 hour days 6 days a week, no one had the time to travel meet up with everyone else to discuss politics. The American legal system is based on how long it takes a person travelling on horseback to transmit information.

Now with the advent of the internet and other communication technologies, representatives are redundant. We could propose and vote on laws ourselves, over the internet. Problems such as authentication and verification have been solved in various communication systems. As soon as the general public gets the hang of internet discussions, people will see direct democracy as a reasonable alternative to representational democracy. This could happen within a generation or two.

Of course, current politicians will resist direct democracy, because it puts them out of their incredibly powerful positions.

Re:Direct Democracy (5, Insightful)

bigg_nate (769185) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822848)

The California proposition system is essentially direct democracy, and IMO it's a disaster. People aren't lawyers, and they aren't economists -- they simply don't have the skills to determine if a given law is good or not. This means we end up with ridiculous laws that sound good in a 4-word summary, like three strikes (tough on crime -- must be good!) and frozen property taxes (lower taxes -- must be good!). Additionally, as the battle over Native American casinos has shown, the public isn't any harder to buy than a politician.

Direct democracy might work at an extremely local level, but the general public simply does not have the necessary knowledge to participate in large-scale direct democracy.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

jacksonyee (590218) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822932)

Please mod the parent comment up.

People who have studied the American Constitution and the ideas upon which it was founded would recognize this debate as "Tyranny of the Majority." In essence, the founding fathers knew that the vast majority of the population would not have the necessary knowledge and skill to successfully judge laws. That is why they purposely instituted a series of checks and balances within a representative democracy.

Direct democracy seems like a wonderful idea in theory, but as with communism, human nature interferes in its actual, practical, operation. There's no doubt in my mind that the current American system is in a state of downfall and decay, but after witnessing other instances of direct democracy, I think that I would still prefer our system.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823398)

"People who have studied the American Constitution and the ideas upon which it was founded would recognize this debate as "Tyranny of the Majority." In essence, the founding fathers knew that the vast majority of the population would not have the necessary knowledge and skill to successfully judge laws. That is why they purposely instituted a series of checks and balances within a representative democracy."

You obviously have not studied the American Constitution, or you have not understood what you read. This debate is not the tyranny of the majority. Tyranny of the Majority is the problem of a popular legislature based strictly on population -- thus, large states like New York and Virginia would always win out over small states like Rhode Island and Vermont. The solution -- or compromise -- was a bicameral legistature, with the number of representatives in the house being based solely on population, and the number of senators always being two -- so that the states all had an equal number of votes in the senate. Recently the EU went through some political gyrations over the same issue, but I don't know enough about it to summarize or comment.

Anyway, how can a debate about a king or representational legislature be called a Tyranny of the Majority? By definition, a king, ruling family, or legislature is a very small part of the population. By definition, such a debate would be called the Tyranny of the Minority.

Re:Direct Democracy (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822986)

As in my comment above, people said commoners weren't smart enough to rule themselves through representational democracy, thus they needed kings and royalty to rule them. It's a tired argument.

However, you are right. People aren't lawyers, but nonetheless they are expected to follow the law to the letter. Try using this as an excuse in court: "But Your Honor! I'm not a lawyer! How could I be expected to follow the law when I can't even understand it? Why, I haven't even read it!" If people are smart enough to be expected to follow the law, they are smart enough to propose and vote on law. People are smart enough to do all of the above.

If direct democracy is implemented in any serious manner, people will become familiar enough with the law to do it well. You would study it in civics class in high school. You would talk about it over dinner just like you do other subjects. People are smart enough to finance their homes, vehicles, and education; they are smart enough to run their own businesses, and they are smart enough to follow the law in everyday life. They are smart enough to recognize right and wrong and are fully capable of proposing and arguing rules over the internet.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

monkeydo (173558) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823076)

People are smart enough to finance their homes, vehicles, and education; they are smart enough to run their own businesses, and they are smart enough to follow the law in everyday life.

That's a good one. In reality, huge numbers of people aren't smart enough to do any of the things you mention, and a tiny fraction are smart enough to do all of them. If "people" were as smart as you suppose, we would live in a utopia filled with well educated, wealthy, upstanding entrepeneurs. But we don't do we?

The fact of the matter is that if people were that smart, and actually gave a damn about the laws, we wouldn't need direct democracy. What you propose is an attempt to break people out of the apathy that they live in now, but what you miss is that most people are quite content to live in apathy (is that redundant?). Your suggestion that if we deployed direct democracy, the "people" would grow into it and flourish with new found power is reminiscent of the father who thinks he can teach his badu to swim by dumping him in the deep end. The people don't want to govern themselves, they can't even be bothered to spend an hour a week figuring out what's going on and communicating with their representatives about it.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823281)

"If "people" were as smart as you suppose, we would live in a utopia filled with well educated, wealthy, upstanding entrepeneurs. But we don't do we?"

I didn't say they were geniuses, I just said they were smart enough. Big difference.

"Your suggestion that if we deployed direct democracy, the "people" would grow into it and flourish with new found power is reminiscent of the father who thinks he can teach his badu to swim by dumping him in the deep end. The people don't want to govern themselves, they can't even be bothered to spend an hour a week figuring out what's going on and communicating with their representatives about it."

You have laid out a perfect argument for divine kingship. We should abandon this representational democracy, since people can't even bother to contact their representative every week. Leave it up to the experts, royal families.

"Your suggestion that if we deployed direct democracy, the "people" would grow into it and flourish with new found power is reminiscent of the father who thinks he can teach his badu to swim by dumping him in the deep end. The people don't want to govern themselves, they can't even be bothered to spend an hour a week figuring out what's going on and communicating with their representatives about it."

Have you ever thought that people don't care about politics because they can't contact their representative, and they really don't influence legislation? We are in a state of affairs where now corporations are literally writing law and using lobbyists to pass it through congress (See the recent bankrupcy bill. It was literally written by the finance industry, not lawmakers). Representatives really aren't listening to their constiuencies. The real motor of legislation is now corporations. Constituents are just a 'brake' on really extreme legislation, if the opposition is organized enough to get thousands of letters, faxes, calls, and emails to the rep. Law is not originating with the people who are allegedly being represented.

The real point of direct democracy is taking power out of the hands of politicians, whose only qualification is able to make rousing speeches. Power corrupts, and we see this regularly as congresspeople are thrown in jail for bribery. The fact is, in this day and age, politicians, even elected politicians, wield too much power. They cannot simply represent their constituents; instead they represent the special interests and lobbyists who got them where they are.

Like James Madison said:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Direct Democracy is just another control, to keep the ruling class from getting too powerful. Representatives are not angels.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

bigg_nate (769185) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823200)

If people are smart enough to be expected to follow the law, they are smart enough to propose and vote on law.
First, this isn't about intelligence, it's about knowledge. Second, most of us are reasonably good at obeying the law, but that's only because the law was written by educated people so that its letter matched our normal moral behavior. If we had no moral sense, I'm sure we'd be breaking laws left and right. Third, there are many, many laws out there that don't directly apply to me, including the three strikes, frozen property taxes, and Native American casinos initiatives I previously mentioned. And laws have complicated consequences that go beyond their direct effects. It's simply ridiculous to say that the knowledge necessary to write good laws is equal to the knowledge necessary to follow them.
If direct democracy is implemented in any serious manner, people will become familiar enough with the law to do it well. You would study it in civics class in high school. You would talk about it over dinner just like you do other subjects.
It takes a lawyer 3 years of intense study to become familiar with the law. And people who go to law school are typically more interested, intelligent, and hard-working than average. I highly doubt that a semester in high school and a few dinner conversations are going to give the average person an equivalent education.

Re:Direct Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13822907)

Sounds great, let's make a deal:

I agree to be ruled by direct democracy, if and only if the majority vote is required to be 99.999% minimum.

(And no, this isn't an endorsement of representative democracy.)

Re:Direct Democracy (2, Insightful)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822919)

. Direct Democracy is where citizens can directly propose and vote on legislation, making representatives redundant.

If they do that, I'll up and move to a republic.

Living in California, known for its frequent use of direct democracy via ballot initiatives, it's obvious to me that more direct democracy would not improve things. There are a whole host of reasons, but let's pick two:

First, modern issues are complex, and most voters aren't willing to put in the time to study things. I'm on the high end of the bell curve when it comes to time put in prepping for a vote, and I still feel unprepared to judge some of the issues that get handed over to me. TV advertising often wins the day.

Second, direct democracy often produces relatively fragmented, incoherent results. California's tax collection and state budget process is royally screwed up, in large part due to direct democracy The people vote to limit taxes in various ways. Then they vote to set aside specific chunks of revenue for certain high-profile things. Low-profile but important things get short shrift, and rigid ballot-imposed rules limit flexibility in the face of emergencies and changed circumstances.

Thanks, I'm happy to delegate most of this work to smart people and let 'em get on with it. There are ways to improve our democracy, but more direct democracy doesn't help.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823067)

I think most of your criticisms are due to the fact that direct democracy is rather new. People made the same arguments about democracy in the 1700s and they were right -- democracy was messy, people didn't understand it, and it didn't work. It took the United States 20 years to go from the Articles of Confederacy to the Constitution. Talk about not having your act together!

So you're not smart enough to understand current legislation in order to vote on it. Well, after it is passed by your representative, you are expected to follow it. How can you be smart enough to follow it, but yet not be smart enough to create or vote on it?

Re:Direct Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13822978)

When democracy was first proposed, it was long argued by the elite that peasants were not smart enough to rule themselves

Ummm ... dude, the elite are right, peasants aren't smart enough to rule themselves. They're peasants. Have you met a peasant? You think Bush is dumb, wait 'til you meet a peasant. Whoa nelly.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

digid (259751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823130)

That's completely ridiculous. Representative democracy was not invented because we didn't have the technology to do widescale voting. Its a safeguard because most of the population is naive on most issues that representatives have to vote on. Now we could do a direct democracy but in order to be a responsible citizen you would almost be required to make it a full time job to make sure you know the facts before you cast your vote. And from what I've observed in most democracies especially in the USA more than half the population can't even get off their butt once every four years to vote for a president. People would end up voting just to vote. It would be a disaster.

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823520)

I think that people don't bother to vote in America because, with the two party system, their vote really doesn't count and their representatives really aren't responsive to their contituents. You either vote for the party in power, or against it.

Contrast that to a parliamentary system, where seats in the congress a apportioned according to the percentage of votes one. Parliamentary democracies usually have about 5-6 parties that actually wield power.

I think if people could vote, and more importanly, propose and debate law, knowing that there would be a chance other people listened to them, then they would be interested in voting, and people would participate more.

Re:Direct Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823461)

I may be wrong, but isn't Switzerland already a direct democracy?

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

Now.Imperfect (917684) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823467)

Horrible, horrible idea

Republics are in place to equal out the election process.

Second, no direct democracy can ever stand for long because people are granted too much power. I mean really "I vote no one has to work and that we should all get a paycheck of N dollars a week!".

Can you say hello communism?

Re:Direct Democracy (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823570)

Why would *you* vote for this law? Wouldn't you bring up your valid points on the discussion before the vote?

I think the more that power is spread out over the people, the better. I don't like power collected in the hands of a few powerful elite, elected as they may be. Direct Democracy wouldn't be perfect, but I think it would be the least worst system.

Proof? (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823519)

Well, those naysayers were wrong, and commoners are perfectly capable of running representational democracies.

I'm not sure how much, if at all, I'm joking when I ask you "And your proof of this is what?"

Re:Proof? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823619)

Europe, North America, and Australia have been populated with democratic republics for about the past century, and they are most stable and wealthy countries in the world. There are very few monarchies these days, and those that are really are in name only -- the royal families are just figureheads. The facist and communist states of the 20th century have imploded -- no more exist. at this point, I would say that representational democracy has either won out, or shown itself to be vastly superior to the alternatives.

Estonian e-voting a glowing success (3, Funny)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822768)

Estonian authorities have confirmed that the e-voting was a complete success and their faith in this 21st century solution was completely justified.

"It was flawless", the Chief Election Commissioner said, and in apparent attempt to gloat over his critics, who were loudly warning of problems, he added: "And it proves that contrary to what those feeble Doomsayers were saying, we should not fear new technology, we should embrace it because it is new, shiny and made in America!".

In related news, some confusion persists of the proper procedure of swearing the new Estonian President, Barney "The Pink" Dinosaur, and his vice-president Wet Noodle, both of the party "All Your Base Belong To Us". Additional complications for the traditionalists is the suprising new discoverery at the polls that apparently most Estonians turned out to be of the Jedi religion.

Some of the best things come from Estonia (1, Interesting)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822774)

Estonia is the country that gave us KaZaa (or at least the programmers who wrote the code).

As for security of on-line elections vs. paper elections--bah!! I've never had to show any form of identification when I've voted (here in the U.S.). Identity verification is done via signature (and how closely do you think each signature is examined?). Besides there's all sorts of monkey business that could go on behind the scenes (just how many elections monitors are there?). What *really* scares me is proprietary electronic voting machines from companies owned by high-profile Republicans.

Re:Some of the best things come from Estonia (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823180)

What *really* scares me is proprietary electronic voting machines from companies owned by high-profile Republicans.

What scares me is 'proprietary electronic voting machines', period. Whether the companies be owned by Republicans or Demoracts.

Re:Some of the best things come from Estonia (1)

Mattwolf7 (633112) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823428)

My High School German teacher was from Estonia, she was pretty damn sweet. Well not really cool, but she was actually a really good German teacher. And she worked for the CIA doing "translations" since she knew English, Russian, Estonian, and German.

I misread the post (1)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 8 years ago | (#13822859)

At first I thought it said Elbonia successfully had internet voting. I was actually amazed that the pointy-haired boss didn't manage to screw it all up and I eagerly awaited the cartoon panels that detailed Dilbert's success in deploying the systems...

Then I re-read the /. post...

Oh, Estonia, you mean it happened in the real world? Bah, no big deal.

This is a 1984ish nigtmare in a fascist state (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823169)

To begin with, in this Estonian "democratic" e-voting the voter's identity is linked to the vote. How else could you cancel a previous vote by voting on paper?
Secondly, Estonia is a fascist regime akin to the former Apartheid in SA that legally discriminates on ethnic basis. A large chunk of the population, who were born and raised in Estonia are deprived of their citizenship on ethnic basis. A lagnauge spoken by approx. 80% of the population and exclusively spoken by some 15% (Russian) is not an official language. Compare that with the official status of Swedish in Finland.
Estonia and Latvia are the shame of the EU and this e-voting of theirs is a disgrace to democracy in every possible way.

Paperless voting (2, Insightful)

sicking (589500) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823321)

How can this be any better then a paperless voting mashine that has gotten a lot of bad press in here lately? The fact that it is based on linux doesn't help one bit unless people can actually verify what code are running on the servers during the election. Blackbox voting is blackbox voting, no matter what anyone claims is in the box.

Eventually voting will be done online... (1)

mcguyver (589810) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823334)

Complications like fraud will be worked out in time. Instead of downplaying internet voting as something that is not possible we should be looking at what's needs to be done to make it happen...pointing out the obvious here on an internet discussion but oh well.

Judging E-Voting (1)

EMIce (30092) | more than 8 years ago | (#13823371)

The success of an e-vote is hard to verify, and a poorly designed system - like many of those used in the US - makes it fairly trivial to alter even a presidential election through tampering. With no far reaching conspiracies required either, just a few key municipalities in Ohio would need to manipulated. This would be ridiculously easy for a few corrupt local election officials, who through diebold's interface can alter tallies without an audit log. This is a built in feature for making "corrections" and incorporating things like absentee votes of course. There is so much reward involved that the potential abuse here is astronomical.

Sound ridiculous?

Yeah, I know. So while your at it, please check out this bill [govtrack.us] and write your representatives about it. Some republicans are already poo-pooing these much needed reforms and they need more momentum.

Re:Judging E-Voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13823524)

You obviously haven't read http://www.voterverifiable.com/article.pdf [voterverifiable.com]
It's easily doable, and since it's personaly verifiable by *anyone* it means that it's very, very hard to commit fraud, the chance of one techy uncovering the fraud is simply too great.
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