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

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Sat Mar 2 03:05:09 PST 2013


Edwin and Ruben,

Edwin points to the problem of social limits on freedom of expression.
He sees forms of voting not as the causes of this problem, but as
possible solutions in situations such as electoral decision making,
and the executive primary (mock poll).

Edwin said:
> The aim of secret ballot is to avoid influence of others and allow
> one to express their true views. ...

Ruben said:
> 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 process.
>
> ... Furthermore, voter secrecy is also intended to prevent harm from
> non-state actors (businesses, activists, individuals etc etc) ...

Leaving aside the real historical motivations, I agree that today we
think of the secret ballot as a shield to protect electoral decisions
from coercion, including the unorganized social pressures mentioned by
Edwin.  I accept this protection in that context under item (c) in my
previous post.

Edwin also wishes to apply this protection in the context of the mock
poll, so it becomes the true expression of people's private opinions,
regardless of what others might think.  I see nothing wrong with this,
as far as it goes, except that it's difficult to implement (as Edwin
relates).

However, Ruben is concerned that harm might come to people if, in
addition, or instead, we enabled people to express their *public*
opinions in such a mock poll, or primary:

> 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.

Why?  What harm will come of people expressing themselves in public,
saying yea or nay, should they wish to?

I see only benefits.  Having a means of public expression enables
people to form a public opinion in the first place, and to learn what
that opinion is.  It can then have an influence on private opinion.
The benefit here is that our thoughts become more informed and mature
when we share them, ask questions of each other, and generally open
ourselves to reasoned critique.  This kind of influence is usually
thought to be beneficial to a free society, even indispensible, and
not harmful at all.  Isn't that true?

One's private opinion (thus matured) is then imprinted on the secret
ballot come election day.  The benefits of public expression now flow
to the electoral decision, and to its consequences, where otherwise
they would not.  Likewise they flow to Edwin's private poll should he
implement that, and to all the other decisions we make in connection
with the issue on which we enabled the public to express themselves.
Here again, I see only benefits, and no harmful consequences at all.
Or am I missing something?

Mike


Edwin Chu said:
> > 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.
> 
> My concern on full disclosure voting is mainly about pressure on
> minorities and the fear of isolation.
> 
> The aim of secret ballot is to avoid influence of others and allow one
> to express their true views. Influence is sometimes explicit incentive
> or pressure, like the vote buying and institutional pressure in your
> examples. These can be seen and easily corrected. However, influence
> can also come from no person - from our own fear of isolation.
> 
> Consider some very controversial topics like same-sex marriage, one
> may avoid speaking up if he think his opinion is the minority. It is
> not necessary that there is real threat or it may be not even a
> minority. It is about perception, or the quasi-statistical sense.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence.
> 
> I afraid that this kind of harmony and conformity can be a resistance
> to social change.


Ruben Bloemgarten said:
> On 03/01/2013 03:41 AM, Michael Allan wrote:
> > 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
> process.
> > 
> > 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
> >     http://zelea.com/project/votorola/d/theory.xht#fn-2
> > 
> > Mike



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