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[liberationtech] Looking for collaborators for free-range voting project

Ruben Bloemgarten ruben at
Fri Mar 1 09:29:39 PST 2013

On 03/01/2013 03:41 AM, Michael Allan wrote:
> Ruben and Rich,
> Ruben Bloemgarten said:
>> It seems I might have jumped the gun, assuming the discussion was
>> about voting systems for use in political elections. Disclosing all
>> voter data, including voter identity would solve much if not all
>> issues regarding verifiability, however would that not also restrict
>> the use of such a system to topics that have no political or social
>> consequences ?  Otherwise it seems that the removal of
>> secrecy/anonymity would be extremely problematic if not out-right
>> dangerous.
> Rich Kulawiec said:
>> I'm with Ruben on this one.  There are serious problems (in many
>> cases) with disclosure of how someone voted; there are even problems
>> disclosing *if* they voted or possibly if they were *eligible* to
>> vote, even if that disclosure only (putatively) is done to the
>> voter.
> I guess the main concern is coercion and vote buying.  I've discussed
> this with others and we foresee some important mitigations.  (These
> aren't obvious BAM, and it took us some time to see them.)  *
>   (a) Continuous primary voting: Vote sellers can shift their votes
>       after taking the money, perhaps re-selling them to other buyers.
>       This makes vote buying a poor investment.
>   (b) Full disclosure: Buyers, sellers and systematic pressure by
>       others (employers, unions, churches, and so forth) are
>       detectable by statistical pattern analysis of vote shifts and
>       dispositions in correlation with facts (known buyers and
>       sellers, workforce structure and dynamics, and so forth).
>   (c) Separation of primary from decision systems: Public and private
>       voting may be interrelated through separate electoral systems: a
>       public vote in the run-up (primary system) culminates in a
>       private vote on election day (decision system).  The final
>       private vote (secret ballot) filters out instances of individual
>       vote buying and coercion.
With this approach you might as well forgo the secret ballot altogether
as the voter´s preferences are already public by the time the secret
ballot is run.

>       A similar strategy may be applied to normative decisions.  Here
>       the decisive vote is often not private, but instead restricted
>       to a small number of people, such as elected assembly members.
>       Concerns of coercion and vote buying are thus *also* restricted
>       to that smaller group of people, who may therefore be closely
>       monitored and scrutinized.
> These should at least prevent skewing of decisions and other serious
> harm.  Or have we overlooked something?
I think you have overlooked something. Your points address the validity
of a result, but I don´t see how these are addressing harm prevention at
all, let alone serious harm.
The concerns Edwin Chu expresses in regards to coercion and threats to
minorities are one of the main reasons to have secrecy in the electoral
> I used to point to the harm caused by our faith in the secret ballot,
> but now I feel it's the wrong approach.  Whatever we suffer on account
> of our political arrangements (we in the West, who have so much else
> to be thankful for) is our own fault.  We have the wherewithal to fix
> things, and could even proceed a little faster if we wished.
You´re distrust of government seems slightly at odds with itself as it
expresses complete lack of trust in its decision making process, both in
intent and transparency, while expressing complete trust that such a
government will not harm the citizens it disagrees with or feels
threatened by. Furthermore, voter secrecy is also intended to prevent
harm from non-state actors (businesses, activists, individuals etc etc),
not even going into the effects on social cohesion complete voter
transparency would have.
Transparency is great when obligatory for those wielding the monopoly on
violence, but terrible and terrifying when foisted, either legally or
socially, upon those that do not.

>   * From this footnote, which also links to discussions
> Mike
> --
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