Promoting electoral reform and sound government.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Here's a more permanent link for the cost of the presidential race:

http://www.opensecrets.org/pressreleases/2004/04spending.asp
Its official: the 2004 presidential race is the most expensive in history, costing well over a billion dollars.

And to think, a lot of other countries just let the legislature pick their chief executives, which probably costs a lot less.

I think that approach would work fine if the composition of the legislature actually reflected the political will of the people. But without proportional representation, this is not the case.

Also, in the American system, the balance of the three branches of government would probably change because the chief executive would be selected by the other branch instead of being elected by the electoral college.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Technology for Voting

Electronic voting machine used in Brazilian el...Image via Wikipedia

About electronic voting. It seems to me that technology should only be applied (at first, anyway) to the aspects of traditional voting that have proved problematic.

One area is in the balloting process, in which the voters record their wishes on paper or cardboard ballots.

A machine could present the options to the voter, allows the voter to specify his other choices and then records those choices on the ballot. All of the various rules could be enforced in the software. A ballot would not be released to the voter until it qualified to be counted. A unique ballot code based upon the name and social security number of the voter and the date could be encoded onto the ballot as well.

Once a ballot is released to the voter, along with a receipt bearing the unique ballot code, he or she should be able to take the paper ballot over to a completely different machine, perhaps even manufactured by a different company, and confirm what was encoded on the ballot. This is an unnecessary step, really, but would build confidence in the system.

Then the ballot could be given to the poll workers as is ordinarily the case or it could be placed by the voter into a machine that would transmit it to the central office. The paper ballot would be retained in case there is a need to recount the ballots.

Sampling could be done with these retained ballots to confirm the accuracy of the electronic transmission of each ballot.

Another area where technology might be useful is in allowing voters to verify that their ballots where counted and were not modified.

At any time, the voter should be able to check over the Internet that the ballot was counted using the unique ballot code. Not how the voter voted, but that the voter's vote was counted.

At any time, the voter should be able to go to the central office and view an electronic representation of the ballot by presenting the unique ballot code and identification. The name of the user and their social security number can be used to validate that individual is authorized to see the ballot.

Other than the date, no data should be stored with the ballot at the central office. A system at the office could use the voter information and the date to regenerate the code. If it matches the code recorded for the ballot, the voter would be allowed to view the ballot.

These mechanisms for confirming that one's vote was counted and for being able to view one's vote should go a long way towards increasing confidence in the system, while still protecting voter privacy.

I also think it would be useful if there were one publicly funded open source project for software AND hardware for such a system. This would keep things transparent and avoid duplication of efforts. Open source is working in the private sector; with some adaptation, it can work in the public sector as well.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

According to Fairvote.org, John McCain supports instant runoff voting. Or at least he did back in 2002.

I think I first liked the idea of IRV because it greatly increases the chances that someone like John McCain would get elected.

He is so much more rational than the other candidates, is very respected by people of both parties and frequently disagrees publicly with his party when he feels that the issue is important.

I think we'd all be a lot happier with the outcome of elections we could choose a candidate that was more in tune with the majority of the people. Systems like IRV and approval voting bring us closer to such outcomes than the existing system.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I have two questions for those that think changing to proportional representation would be a bad thing.

Would proportional representation be more democratic than the way the US system currently works?

Would proportional representation give people their fair share of influence on the issues?

Of course, the answer to both questions, I feel, is yes. I think where people disagree is with the notion that people SHOULD have an equal share of influence or that more democracy is better.

There are those that think that concentrating power is better than distributing it around. And one can point to scenarios where thats actually been the case.

But experience has also shown that those societies that have opened up their systems to participation by more and more of their citizens have had greater stability, faster technological advancement and greater influence in the world.

I think Great Britain is the chief example of that. Not to say that oppression hasn't occurred (hey, I'm of Irish descent), but you can't really argue that that society hasn't been an astounding success in many respects.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Drug companies funneling money to politicians on the sly,
to make sure that drug prices stay high.

http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/20007/

Another reason to go with proportional representation. If you can select who represents your interests out of ALL of the possible candidates, you can select someone that is commited to your agenda.

And if your elected representative understands that you'll switch your support to someone else if he or she fails to stick to that agenda, it becomes very difficult to sell his vote to the highest bidder.

And that candidate doesn't need as much campaign money to try to convince EVERYBODY to vote for him. He or she just needs to make plain his or her views and then convince those that share that agenda that he or she can move that agenda forward.

That doesn't mean that the drug companies won't have their interests represented. Their employees and shareholders can all vote too.

Saturday, October 02, 2004