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open voting by smartphone
open voting by smartphone

American Voting is broken. Depending upon who you talk to, it’s been broken for a long time. Here’s how I would fix it.

My first practical experience with applying consensus was as a Facilitator at The Celebration, an inclusive worship community in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. This process, often led by my friend Ken Shaw often involved a longish process of everyone feeling like they had been heard, which often also meant that they repeated the things that had already been said by others, but in the end everyone agreed on the decision. Again, much time has flown by.

Transparent Democracy with Smartphone voting is a process authored by Randy West to build on Liquid Democracy. The process involves allowing smartphones to vote randomly, which encourages universal human participation through crowd sourcing. This process has nine steps and many advantages.

Some time ago, I must have read this article on Liquid Democracy. I can’t say I did or didn’t read it before, but when I read it today, much of this felt familiar. Apparently other people have been thinking about this, too, given the current state of democracy in the world.

I have been chewing on this in the back of my mind, as I do many things. In fact, I am much less social than other people because I do way more thinking than other people. Perhaps, too much. That’s another blog post. For now, let’s stick to democracy.

Other people have been thinking about these things, too. This is an app that takes this concept a step further. Even Google has experimented with Liquid Democracy in the company process and shared their experience here. And, there is this post.

I like this very much, as far as it goes, but to my mind more work is needed. Here is what I would contribute. I don’t know if anyone else has thought this, but I want to get it out of my head and into the world. Hopefully, someone will have the programming expertise and real-world experience to apply some of this to make a better world. Here goes:

Briefly, we all have smartphones. We can define where those phones are. We could have a digital system that worked.

Example of voting for one individual

Every smartphone owner within the district has a vote

This has the advantage of providing for universal participation through crowd sourcing. This removes all of the difficulties of voter registration, removal, barriers to voting like race, religion, age, felonies, etc. All groups like children are statistically insignificant when the entire population will vote. This has the advantage of educating children. This also has the advantage of marginalized populations feeling included in the process.

Every smartphone owner will be eligible to be elected

This has the advantage of running the most qualified candidates. This removes the problems with the most highly qualified people not willing to run for office because of the expense, difficulties, efforts, compromises, etc. While the case can be made for manipulation, I would suggest that this is minimal because it would require individual smartphones in huge numbers which would need to be manually changed. A block of smartphones voting for the same candidate from the same micro-location would be highly suspicious, and could be investigated and/or prevented.

Every smartphone will initially vote randomly

This has the advantage of giving all candidates equal advantage. This removes the problem of low voter turnout due to apathy, disqualified candidates, etc. This also inspires smartphone owners to participate. Smartphone owners will be able to see the candidate their smartphone voted for and change it. Delegation is prohibited because they lead to non-thinking decisions and abuse of the system. If the smartphone owner wants to vote the same an another participant, they can ask and vote.

Every smartphone owner’s vote will be displayed anonymously

This gives the advantage of both transparency and freedom of choice. Every smartphone owner can check their anonymous code against the display to verify that their vote was counted. It would also be possible for one individual to share their code to show how they voted, optionally how their vote has trended over time based on new information, and that their vote was recorded. And every smartphone owner can verify that all votes are indeed counted. This removes the problems with votes not being counted or disqualified. The smartphone owner can verify their own vote, and that their vote has been changed.

Every smartphone will display voting as a graph

This has the advantage of clear and open transparency of the larger trends. This display shows the total votes cast. The smartphone owner can see trends.

Every person will be able to change their vote

This has the advantage of hindsight. Many voters have returned home to discuss their vote only to learn new information. This also reduces the problem of information being withheld prior to an election or of new information being presented after the results are known. Every smartphone owner will see the leaders in this election, and research and/or discuss these candidates with others. Vote early and vote often is necessary to a free and open discussion to elect the most qualified candidate. Changing one’s mind based on new information is healthy.

Votes will be updated regularly as smartphone owners change their votes

This has the advantage of showing clear leaders that were hitherto unknown to the voter. Seeing trends will allow new issues to be presented, researched and discussed. This will lead to a full and frank discussion of the real issues, and the candidates that are best qualified to resolve them.

Much discussion will occur as smartphone owners discuss the leaders

Prior voting by the smartphone will require a minimal level of discussion prior to changing the vote. This will have the advantage of a minimal level of research or discussion. The smartphone owners will be able to participated in forums and discussions to learn more.

The smartphone owner with a consensus (or near consensus) wins the vote

Voter A
Voter B
Voter C
Voter D
Voter E
Voter F
Voter G
Voter H
Voter I
Simple Table showing Open Voting

This has the advantage of actually reaching consensus without the need for runoff elections, recounts, challenges, etc. Consensus of 100%, or virtually 100%, is the goal. While this actual number may not always be possible with larger groups, near-consensus is always possible with time. A predetermined number or percentage (e.g. 90%) can be set for the system to automatically declare a winner of the election. Optionally, this system could continue and trigger another election if the approval rating drops below a predetermined level (e.g. 40%).

The beginning voting process in this example might look like this

This is what a beginning stage of voting might look like. Many voters’ smartphones have chosen randomly, candidates are voting for who they know or like, but little discussion has occurred. As the process progresses, there will naturally be a sorting process where two or more candidates emerge as potential leaders.

While there are security issues associated with any digital process, as there should be, there are some easy or straightforward approaches that can eliminate many concerns. First, everyone can see and verify their vote, verify the candidates and the total votes cast. Second, the system is Open Source. There are many benefits to Open Source, including community participation, transparency, and inexpensive. This means everyone can look at the code and report problems, which are then fixed.

The progressive voting process in this example might look like this

This chart above shows the voting process in progress. Two candidates have emerged as strong potential leaders, while one of those candidates is not voting for him/himself. It is quite normal for the best candidates not want the job because they know that it will require an extraordinary effort to give the job the energy it requires.

Clearly, there are lots of ideas on this subject and much discussion must happen before we can arrive at any conclusions. This is my small contribution. I hope there is something here that contributes to the whole.

The mature voting process in this example might look something like this

The mature voting process has reached a conclusion. Total consensus is not always possible, but ninety percent and higher should be enough to reach a conclusion. The chosen candidate has decided not to vote for him/herself, which is normal, but it should not become an obstacle to a decision.

This website is a place where people can bring their ideas, get some help with them, and find a way to amplify their business with the digital foundation to find their market, expand their reach, scale their projects and get the machine to do some of the automatic work, so they can be more creative, enjoy life and have more fun.