Monday, April 21, 2008

Delegated Democracy - Part 2

Ok, I've come up with a few ideas that might reduce the problems I highlighted in my previous post, starting from a simple party-run computer system.
  • Authentication: When you first register your identity with the party, you use a computer at the local party headquarters. While using this confidential voting station, you can input a list of URLs, with one "used" entry, and an unlimited number of "dummy" entries.
    • No one will have to be a registered member of the party in order to input their list and participate in this system. The ultimate goal is to have elected officials who best represent the desires of the entire voting public, not just their own party.
    • You will be able to update your list at any time should you be in some way coerced (see below) or decide to use a different first layer of delegation.
    • (Update) Each URL would need the option of a password for encryption later in the process.
  • Delegation: Those URLs point to vote "feeds", which can be run by anyone in any way. For instance, you could simply delegate your vote to a feed controlled by one of your friends.
    • Another example for the more particular: you could delegate a private service anywhere on the internet that categorizes bills, which then accordingly delegates your favorite experts for each issue.
    • This means there are no limits as to how you determine your vote; any crazy method of your own devising is fine.
    • You could even publish your own opinions and convince people to delegate your feed. Keep in mind how you actually vote is still private, you just cannot hide what you openly endorse.
    • (Update) The feeds with passwords would encrypt all communication with the first proxy. From there, the voter could have any sort of privacy settings up to and including completely secret votes.
  • Resolution: When it's almost time for the party's elected official to vote, the party server queries all listed URLs, including the "dummy" entries. The final results (except of course for voter identities) are then made public.
    • This is to prevent intimidation and bribery - even if someone forces you to list a computer they control that logs hits, they have no way of knowing if theirs was your "used" entry or not.
  • Votes cast: The elected party representatives check to see what the winners were for each bill, and vote accordingly. Like in Senator On-Line, representatives will have to commit in writing that they will vote in accordance with the party view.
There's a good chance I'm missing something critical, so if there's something I haven't addressed or problems with my idea, go ahead and comment away.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Delegated Democracy - Part 1

So lately I've been reading a lot about voting and election systems. One that's caught my interest as of late is a form of proxy voting called "delegated voting" - in short, a voter is allowed to designate a proxy to vote on his/her behalf, and that proxy can also designate someone else, and so on. The reason I like this is because I think it has the potential to be used on a much wider scale, even at a national level as a method of implementing a working direct democracy.

However, I have serious doubts about the existing delegated voting experiments.
  • One issue is anonymity in voting, which projects like World Parliament Experiment do not have and I think is critical in order to prevent coercion through vote buying and threats of violence. The basic problem is that you either have the right to see where your vote goes (which exposes your delegate's choice) or your delegate has the right to anonymity, which means you can't even see your own vote!
  • The second problem is that of security. With any internet voting system (like the WPE or Demoex), there is a vulnerability to man-in-the-middle attacks, hacking people's home computers, and to a lesser extent the voting server.
  • Even a delegated voting system can be restrictive. By being forced to select a single delegate, you cannot instead delegate the average of your three most political friends, the result of your own crazy formula, or any other automated method.
  • Delegated voting systems can also cause recursion problems. If you select a friend as your delegate who selects you, or there is any other chain that ultimately goes full circle, there is no clear way to determine the vote.
  • Complexity can also be an issue - in addition to the security implications of rising complexity, the more complex the software the harder it will be to get people to agree on it.
The concept is still a damn good idea, though. I've got a couple ideas as to how this can be improved, so I'll post more on that later. For now I just want to get back in the habit of writing here...

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