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[liberationtech] Looking for collaborators for free-range voting project at Knight News Challenge:

Yosem Companys companys at
Mon Feb 25 22:42:17 PST 2013

From: Michael Allan <mike at>

I'm seeking collaborators for a Knight News Challenge proposal. As
Steven mentions, this year's challenge is, "How might we improve the
way citizens and governments interact?"

Below is a rough draft of the proposal. My own contribution to this
would be to bring in Votorola as a technical provider for the
mirroring network. We'd need at least one other such provider, plus
some organizational support (in part because there's financing if we
win). The submission deadline is March 18. Please let me know if you
can help. My contact details are at:


   Free-range voting



   This is a proposal to apply the technology of vote mirroring in
   order to forestall a monopoly in the provision of online voting
   services. Online voting and its innovations are important to the
   field of participatory democracy. You might think that opening up
   the source code of a voting facility would be sufficient to ensure
   that the facility itself stays free and open, but that is not true.
   Voting is prone to network effects. It's like a telephone service
   in this regard. If I plug my telephone into a different network
   than everyone else is using, then it isn't going to work. Having a
   copy of the source code won't help. Unless something is done to
   tame the broader network effects, then online voters (like
   telephone customers before them) will become locked into the
   services of a dominant provider.

   The solution proposed here is vote mirroring. Votes cast at
   facility A are mirrored at facilities B, C, and so forth. This
   involves copying each vote and translating it from the format of
   the source facility (A) to that of the mirroring facility (B, C,
   etc.). Voting methods may differ hugely and the translation may
   therefore entail a degree of information loss, making for an
   imperfect image. Such imperfections cannot invalidate the overall
   technique, however, because a best effort at an image is always a
   better reflection of reality than no image at all. The upshot is
   that each facility now gets all the votes and can show the truest
   possible picture of the overall results. It no longer matters where
   I cast my own vote, because it shows up everywhere regardless. So I
   can range freely across all the available facilities and settle on
   whichever best suits my personal needs and preferences. Never again
   can I be trapped by a particular provider.

   We are [names of signatory providers and other supporting
   organizations]. Together we plan to build a lightweight mirroring
   network to loosely interconnect our various voting facilities.
   We'll begin with voting forms that are fully public; those are the
   simplest to handle and they allow for unrestricted technical
   freedom among providers. We'll work out the problems and gain
   experience with the technology. An immediate benefit will be to
   reduce the expectation of network effects that has long poisoned
   relations among technical providers and hampered their development
   work. Small projects will no longer be forced to devote scarce
   resources to attempts at tipping an unstable balance in their own
   favour. Instead, we may expect an improvement in the professional
   climate of the field and an increase in its attractiveness to
   talent, and other resources.

WHAT IS YOUR PROJECT?  (1 sentence max)

   To apply the technology of vote mirroring in order to forestall the
   formation of a monopoly in the provision of online voting services,
   improve the professional climate in the field of participatory
   democracy, and heighten its appeal as a career prospect for
   talented people.



   Vote mirroring is the invention of Thomas von der Elbe. See:

The latest copy of this draft is at:

Michael Allan

Toronto, +1 416-699-9528
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