Saturday, May 31, 2008

Delegated Democracy - Part 4

I've been discussing delegated democracy with Coriolinus and Yev here and at Coriolinus's blog, and think I've got a good next iteration of the idea. The entire system as I originally proposed it was extremely overcomplicated, and now have a three-part process that I think cuts to the core of the idea.

Part one: Registration
  • Citizen enters the party HQ, checked for bugs & weapons.
  • Citizen registers, gets a username and provides a passphrase, then leaves.
  • Passphrase -> cryptographic hash function -> key generation function -> decode key, stored at party HQ.
  • Voters would also have the option of providing their own decode key directly, in the event that they want a higher entropy or don't trust the polling authority with their encode key.
Part two: Email
  • Citizen composes vote, then runs encryption program, entering passphrase, stored briefly in memory.
  • Passphrase -> cryptographic hash function -> key generation function -> encode key, stored briefly in memory.
  • Vote is encrypted with encode key, saved, then passphrase and key are wiped from memory.
    • The voters mentioned above who opted to provide their keys will skip straight to the encryption step.
  • Encrypted vote is emailed to party HQ.
Part three: Votes counted
  • Party HQ receives citizen's email.
  • Email is decrypted with decode key. If successful, this verifies the citizen's identity and that (s)he was not coerced.
  • Vote is added to tally for given question.
In essence, it is just an implementation of electronic direct democracy, but reduces the problems of
  • scale,
  • voter fatigue,
  • complexity, and
  • manipulation by time framing.
It does not address the problems of
  • demagoguery, which I think exists now in any form of democracy (direct or otherwise), and
  • self-interest, of which I also think everyone, including present-day politicians, is guilty.
People who do not have regular internet access would have the option of using several third parties to cast their votes for them, only one of which has the correct passphrase. This would allow for a great deal of automation, thus opening the doors to voting by phone, fax, snail mail, or in person at a third party location. Eventually the party could also support these alternative methods itself, and I think this idea could work for the elderly, disabled, or technologically disinclined.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Delegated Democracy - Part 3

Coriolinus got me thinking about my delegated democracy proposal after my last post, with his security through obscurity point. Even though there would be no sure-fire way to prove which feed was yours, people could narrow them down based on opinions you've expressed in public and determine your entire voting record with near certainty. Not good.

So to give people the option of complete privacy in their votes, I think the party server should give the option of encrypting all communication with the "first delegate" servers. It unfortunately means three things:
  1. Participating voters would have to memorize at least one more password per entry,
  2. Increased complexity in the computer software, and
  3. It's another thing the party would have to agree on.
Not as perfect a solution as I had hoped, but I still like it, and think I'm going to explore it a little more.

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