A voting advice system lets you vote with confidence on every choice, and gives you advice you can trust.
We Need It
It’s clear that money is a problem in our system of government. Corporations spend $90b a year on lobbyists — that’s 90 billion dollars. Every year. They do it because it pays 0ff — for them. In fact, 90% of the legislation that Congress votes on is written by lobbyists — and many times, the Congressperson who sponsors the legislation hasn’t even read it! So corporations do well, under our system. Average Americans are doing less well, and the pace of societal devolution is increasing.
The solution is basically a matter of creating a Voting Advice network — letting people and organizations make recommendations, and then making it easy for someone to get all the advice they need to vote, all from people they trust, all in one place—but filtered, so stuff they don’t care about doesn’t show up.
But for most, it is difficult to connect those dots. Most people would like money to be taken out of the election equation, but they have no real confidence that it can be done — or that a voting advice system is the solution that will do it.
But the good news is that the average voter doesn’t need to understand that money can be made completely irrelevant to the election process, or how it will happen. Because the motivation for adopting the system is not a matter of knowing that it will solve society’s problem. It’s a matter of knowing that it will solve the voter’s problem.
People Will Use It
As a voter, you will use the system because it solves the fundamental problems of gathering information, and knowing who to trust. So instead of going to the polls only knowing for sure how you want to vote on one or two things, you will be confident that you know how you want to vote on every single issue, large and small — and you’ll have all of that information gathered together in one place.The Voting Advice System will be rapidly adopted. It solves the voter's biggest problems... Click To Tweet
Politically active organizations and individuals will also use it, because it gives them an easy way to reach everyone who trusts their advice. They’ll use it because it’s easy and because it costs virtually nothing.
For those reasons, voters and advisors will use it. And because they use it, society’s problem gets solved.
In mathematical terms, the induction hypothesis works like this:
- If everyone one used the system, it would solve society’s biggest problem. (hypothesis)
- The system solves important problems for me (whether as voter or adviser, or both), so *I* would use it. (seed)
- Therefore the system will be used, and it will solve society’s biggest problem. (proof)
In California, the League of Women Voters already has a database of address and ballots, so you can enter your zip code and address to get a copy of your upcoming ballot. They’ll then list the endorsements given by 5 or 6 major organizations, at Smart Voter.
That system is a valuable proof-of-principle. (I, for one, reference that site in every election.) But we can democratize that system, and expand it, so that anyone (or any organization) can make endorsements. The resulting network effect is so efficient that advertising becomes irrelevant. As a result, money becomes virtually irrelevant. A few campaign speeches, interviews, and reputation will be sufficient to get a good candidate elected, and a good ballot measure passed.
The really good news is that independents are the 5-10% of the electorate who decide elections. And as a raving “independent” myself, I know that we wake up at the last minute and wish we had information we could trust! So it doesn’t take anything like 80% or 90% penetration to make a difference.As little as 5% to 10% penetration into the voting population would be sufficient to make money all but irrelevant to the process.
The ideal system would use filtered RSS feeds (like Tweets), so everyone simply set up an “advice” feed that people can access. That system avoids having a central server that could be compromised, and it avoids the identity issues that would go along with a central server — not the least of which would be the need to manage official spokesfolks for corporate identities. (Just made up that word. Pretty cool!)
But doing it requires a lot of collaboration:
- The League of Women Voters needs to make their database available in some way, or the pages they generate need to be micro-tagged so that results can be scraped.
- An “advice feed” program is needed to create the RSS feed.The advisor needs to filter the entire list of all ballot choices, (or browse everything), make recommendations, and link to a page that gives reasons. (Those pages become the deciding factor, whenever trusted advice is in conflict.)
- The feed itself should respond to requests for information of the form “everything for a given date”. (Joomla might be a decent platform for that kind of thing, come to think of it, since advisories need to be stored at least until the election has passed.)
- An advice-gathering program is needed to poll advice feeds that have been added to it (i.e. designated as “trusted”).
- A concerted effort is needed to make potential advisors aware of the technology, and to make voters aware of it as well.
Once awareness snowballs, it’s “game over” for the billionaires and mega corporations who currently own American government. The system has a several additional advantages, as well. In particular:
- Trusted advisors and advisory organizations could effectively control the outcome of very small local elections—the “feeder” slots that create the next crop of politicians.
- If user addresses are harvested (and kept anonymous), then the number of listeners for a given feed could be tracked. (With the consent of those users, of course.) Putting that information into a graph-oriented database like Neo4J makes it possible to answer questions like, “How many people are influenced by a particular feed?” (Since some people both get and give advice, the total sphere of influence is the number of nodes in the subtree rooted at that node–minus circular references, of course.)
- Even better, it becomes possible to answer questions like, “how many people do a combination of feeds influence — without duplicates, so you get a true number. That is information that some politically-oriented organizations would pay for. (Which supports the information gathering service.)
- Those organizations could then discover opportunities for effective collaboration. They could find areas of the country in which a particular combination of feeds would effectively control the outcome of an election. In those areas (very small, at first), they could agree on a single candidate, instead of endorsing different candidates (or none at all), and get that candidate elected.
- In other words, the system would enable multiparty politics in cyberspace,and it would allow viable 3rd parties to emerge (and 4th, and 5th…)
- It can be used to independently verify the tally of recorded votes.
Here is a list of just some of the people and organizations who could be giving thoughtful advice to their subscribers. How many of them do you hear from at election time, with advice that is relevant to you? How many of them do you wish you were hearing from, when it counts?
- California Clean Money Campaign
- Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org)
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Citizens Against Public Waste
- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
- Congressional Report Cards
- Credo Mobile (progressive phone company)
- Common Cause
- Daughters of the American Revolution & other sisterhood organizations
- Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC)
- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) — or the Republican equivalent
- Emily’s List
- KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center
- League of Conservation Voters
- League of Women Voters
- Masons & other brotherhood organizations
(They should be particularly interested in the prospect, given that they worked so hard to create an egalitarian society in the U.S.)
- No Agenda with Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak
- NPR’s Intelligence Squared (one of 19 major political podcasts)
- Our Revolution
- Political Parties (Green Party, Libertarian Party, Democratic Socialists, other…)
- Public Citizen
- Sierra Club
- Sunlight Foundation
- Whole Foods
- Your Church
- Your Union
- Bernie Sanders (democratic socialist)
- David Brooks, David Leonhardt, Mark Shields
- Elizabeth Warren
- Paul Krugman
- Richard Wolfe (Democracy at Work)
- Robert Reich
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