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25 May 2006

Double Majority

On the way to work this morning, I was listening to the Thom Hartmann show on AM620.  I listed to him argue with this guy for 15 minutes (where he kept saying things like "Why don't you like Democracy" and "Why do you want to screw over the children") until such point that I actually called in (until my cell phone died).

Basically, the whole debate came up because there was a 32% voter turnout in the most recent vote, and a majority of those that voted said they wanted to increase property tax to pay for the schools.  The bill failed to pass because it required a majority of people to vote.

Thom Hartmann contended that it failing was anti-democratic because the majority of those who did vote wanted it and it failed.  I disagree. I don't think 32% of the population can be relied on to accurately represent the will of the public ON ANY ISSUE.

They spend all this time arguing (and Thom Hartmann talking shit to this guy) because the bill required that a majority of the public wanted it -- yet the real problem is that the voter turnout was too low.  A few years ago, it was only 5% voter turnout. At that level, I don't think anyone could accurately claim that 5% of the population speaks for everyone. At 32%, it isn't even a 1/3rd of the population.

The real problem is lack of voter turnout.  Hell, I didn't even know there was a vote until the day of (since we check our mail about once a month -- our bills don't go to the home, only spam). Obviously, mail-in-voting isn't enough to get the majority of voters to actually vote.

Tony and I have argued in the past about how best to approach the problem.  I feel that what we need is an online voting mechanism IN ADDITION TO everything we have now.  While I agree that it is likely to increase the number of upper-middle class voters, I feel that it is just as likely to increase the number of voters without computers who can vote at public schools and libraries.  The real issue here is to raise the number of voters - to at least 60% - so that every vote passes or fails with a majority of the voters having some input.

I know that I have not had much time to work on EOTI with all the contract work -- but -- once I can, I think EOTI should sponsor getting an open source voting system built and put into place.  Let me go to some website from home or work and cast my ballot.  Provide me links to the websites of the groups on both sides of the issues.  Give me the resources I need to make voting less of a burden so that it is something I can easily do in the amount of free time I don't really have.

Some of the groups who want open source voting don't want paper receipts because they are worried that you might sell your vote.  You can do that now (someone watching you fill in your mail-in ballot, or you faxing a copy, whatever). I think it is more important to provide a receipt of your vote so that if there is any discrepencies, you can prove fraud quickly and easily.

And it should be open source so that there is a higher chance that someone would catch any fraudulent changes.. no more Mr. Diebold throwing the election on purpose, you have the entire nation's geek squad watching out for any corruption in the code.  And a log showing who made any questionable changes...

And, if at some point it replaced the Diebold machines (even if it just had a scanner attached), it would be much lower cost to purchase and maintain any average computer with internet access than to pay Diebold's extortion fees.

And if I remember right, there was something a few months back about EOTI being able to get a tax break if we pay our employees to write open source software -- so it wouldn't technically be a complete loss financially.


the only way to get the mass public to vote is to appeal to the individuals nature.
we need to allow polling places for voters who don't use computers.
online voting for the couch republic
And mail-in voting for those people who don't have the time to go to the polling places or trust on line voting.
Next is awareness, once a year voting on a specific day, (like maybe November 4th?)
is going to be a huge step because you always know when it's going to happen. Maybe a votor registration with email address for notifications.(NO RELEASING THE INFORMATION TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC)

Posted by Silver on Thu May 25 01:13:00 PDT 2006
I think the only way to get the mass public to vote is to make them feel like their vote will actually make a difference. It doesn't matter what we do, if they think their vote is tossed in a wastebasket.

the once a year thing is difficult, because waiting a year to get something on the ballot could take too long for certain things (like dealing with something happening in 1 month)...

the email address thing is interesting... on one hand, you want to get the notifications to your normal inbox. on the other, you want to ensure that no one else ever sees that email address...  maybe we could do it in such a way that the system doesn't KNOW your address, but manages to get things to you anyways... somehow... like... well, anonymous redirectors don't work, because they still have to maintain your email address...  what if your entire user account is encrypted such that they can't access any of your information without you providing the decryption key -- but then, how does it send a notification...  OH! I got it!  What if the voting thing has an online calendar (ical, xml, whatever) and you could just choose to import it into Outlook, Google Calendar, whatever? Then, your own application is the one emailing you -- not the voting place...?

Posted by Malachi on Thu May 25 01:26:00 PDT 2006
I got to say that I agree with you.  I didn't know there was even going to be a vote until the day it happened! Honestly, I couldn't say that I knew what half of the issues were anyway!

Posted by Sarah on Thu May 25 01:53:00 PDT 2006

I agree and will take it a step further. We should have a "Voting Day" as a federal holiday once a year and give everyone the day off to vote. And for those issues that can't wait we could have a voting snow day.

Posted by Sylkwyrm on Thu May 25 03:06:00 PDT 2006
Having a federal holiday to vote is a good idea... that would help with the constant rush hour traffic / get to ballot before it closes / read what the hell it is about before you have to vote - type of issues.

Posted by Malachi on Thu May 25 03:38:00 PDT 2006