Personal Democracy: Rebooting the System

Friday, June 20, 2008

For today's segment our ongoing series in conjunction with the the Personal Democracy Forum, we're joined by two participants who have thoughts on the future of voting technology: Andrew Rasiej, founder of PDF, and Allison Fine, Senior Fellow at Demos.


Allison Fine and Andrew Rasiej

Comments [38]

Barry from Ocean, NJ

People who don't vote aren't just ignorant and lazy. Most working stiffs, including single parents, are often too tired and have too many family obligations to get out and vote. The problemn is not with the people it is with a voting system that effectively disenfranchizes too many voters. Voting on any one day will disenfranchize a segment of voters, e.g., week day and workers, Saturdays and Jews and so forth.

Change the legislation to allow voting on more that one specific day; whats the big deal about Tuesdays? The best solution is to go with mail in ballots like Washington and Oregon. The system is both valid and reliable and even handles dozens of initiative and referendum questions. All that is needed is scanning equipment and State computer systems that can match State records such as driver, auto, realestate, and death to maintain a clean voter data base.

Jun. 20 2008 08:17 PM
ew from NYC

@23--I don't get it. You bust my chops yesterday about party unity, and today you talk about a 2-party dictatorship. Which way do you want it?

Jun. 20 2008 06:47 PM
James from New York

Were it not for the vote-suppression caucus method of delegate selection & the failure to either count the votes in Florida & Michigan - or if not count them, schedule re-votes so that the 9.3% of US Citizens residing in those two states could have their proportional say in the determination of the Democratic Party's Presidential nominee Barack Obama would most probably NOT be the Party's nominee. Despite his overwhelming money advantage & presumptive nominee status secured as a result of the February caucus-blitz he fared so poorly in the states which held their primaries in March through June - actually getting 625,000 fewer votes than did Hillary Clinton - that the legitimacy of his nomination is highly suspect. Made the more so now by his newly professed endorsement of public financing ONLY when Democrats raise less money than Republicans!! Progressives for People Power (when 'convenient' i.e. the people pick us)....
What about some simple old fashioned Democracy - polling stations in all 50 states open to ALL voters for a reasonable & convenient stretch of time, where secret ballots can be cast by all who choose to vote. And then (most radical idea of all) the candidate who gets the most votes gets the most delegates & so wins. STOP THE HYPOCRISY!!

Jun. 20 2008 03:12 PM
Daniel Smith from Vienna, Austria

Austria has the highest standards of water in Europe...Lake water is tap quality.
I would love them to do what they do here to the water in America. I've been drinking it for 6 years, but I am guessing Gary that you don't want pesky things like hard regulations on the environment. Perhaps I am wrong. As far as a mono culture goes...I have moved three times over here. You just go to your local township/district office show them your id and your lease and they print the all important meldzettel that shows you live at that location. There are lot of things I would love see in the States from over here and vice versa. All countries in Europe vote on Sunday which is another great idea we should adopt or at the very least make election day a holiday.

Jun. 20 2008 02:00 PM
Gary from Queens

Vienna enforces its immigration laws and residents must carry ID papers. It's also mono culture that doesn't move. By contrast, the US is a nation of illegal immigrants, with citizens always moving interstate, and no one at the polling station asking for ID.

They also do not fluoridate their water in Vienna. Would you like to imitate that too?

Jun. 20 2008 12:33 PM
Daniel Smith from Vienna, Austria

Living and working over here in Vienna, they still use a paper ballot...Sometimes I think we overthink this stuff.

Jun. 20 2008 12:11 PM
Daniel Smith from Vienna, Austria

Funny, I've been using ATM's for almost 20 years and I've never had a problem....

Jun. 20 2008 11:48 AM
Gary from Queens

I wrote a 6000-word article providing a comprehensive technological solution to our flawed ballot and election system. None of my far left and liberal friends liked my solutions, but were hard pressed to find faults with it. At least after I addressed their concerns on rebuttal.

Maybe some out there can?

An Electoral System You Can Count On
By Gary Krasner (01/12/06)

Jun. 20 2008 11:44 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Exactly, James. I'm assuming you are being sarcastic. I think caucuses are a perfect example of a situation where someone who may not want to follow the "in crowd" could be afraid to express his/her true leanings because of repercussions that may follow in the community.

Jun. 20 2008 11:26 AM
James from New York

Caucus anyone? How's about we hold ALL elections from now on as caucuses? Every state (except for Florida & Michigan which won't be allowed to vote at all) will hold a handful of caucuses.....People power....NOT

Jun. 20 2008 11:20 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I think technology is all well and good on its own but is only as effective as its users. I don't have a lot of faith in the "wisdom of crowds," I think that could lead us to the tyranny of the majority which the Constitution is supposed to protect us from. Majority rule is fine, but let's try to avoid the politics of the best brand name.

Jun. 20 2008 11:18 AM
Parris from Brooklyn

Yes, technology is advancing and progression is good. Unless it is done without responsibility.

People are fearful of voting online for good reason. Including votes being counted inaccurately, or changed, or lower income voters not having the ability to cast a vote or privacy issues and many, many more reasons. Your guests had a chance to put some fears to rest and they didn't. Why? Maybe they don't have the answers and that's okay. But what are they doing to assure voters their voting rights are protected? Just saying, "we understand these fears" does nothing.

I'm fine with using a pencil and handing my ballot to the volunteers that are working the voting centers. And at this point I'd rather pay for elections then an embassy in Iraq.

I welcome change but will PDF take responsibility for assuring elections will be fair?

Jun. 20 2008 11:06 AM
hjs from 11211

change like that will never happen under the 2 party dictatorship.

Jun. 20 2008 11:01 AM
Andy from Manhattan

I think that secure electronic voting is a valid goal. It does need non-partisan regulation though. It's troublesome that we send representatives to monitor election fairness in other countries but don't allow or see the need for such similar representatives in our own voting process.

Jun. 20 2008 10:57 AM
Mel from Savannah GA

I listen to the show practically every morning and this new topic about how we vote today is really interesting. The simple fact that traditional voting systems have worked... I hate to say it, but why change it and make it complicated? Computer voting, no matter how convenient, scares me. We are so advanced in technology today, but it will still take a lot of time to get all the bugs out of a computerized voting system.

Jun. 20 2008 10:57 AM
Your People from NYC

Unbelievable. The best thing the Internet has done to politics is to let us access information that the MSM would never give us. Yes, that means you too, Brian Lehrer!

You let Rasiej's "People Finance" comment slide by after you toss him softballs. Garbage.

Obama benefits from more dirty 529 money than anyone. {Soros, anyone?} He gets more BIG DONORS than any other candidate in the race. {Especially East Coast investment banker democrats...the same people that give us Senator Dodd and the Countrywide kickback scam.}

If your idea of democracy is Internet-literate, wealthy, white, college-educated people AND blacks electing the next POTUS, then you and I don't define democracy the same.

Obama loses EVERY other demographic to Hillary, McCain...

Jun. 20 2008 10:57 AM
sarah from manhattan

I thing there is a central problem with the premise of this discussion. Personal democracy is an oxymoron. Democracy is collective, not personal.

Jun. 20 2008 10:56 AM
Jade from NJ

Andrew Rasiej is scary, no matter what form he takes. Now he's promoting gov't by "the rabble" (to use one of the terms used in the days of the 'ol forefathers...)

Just because technology allows us to query the public on every last decision the public makes doesn't mean that we should.

It's ironic to me that these folks are likely the same folks who decry politicians reliance on polls to craft policies.

"Using the internet to amend the Constitution"???? My mind is overwhelmed by how offensive this is.

Viva la representative government!

Jun. 20 2008 10:55 AM
Katie from Forest Hills


Why do we want to have the Internet rewrite the Constitution? Why are they saying that?

I'm scared now.

Jun. 20 2008 10:55 AM
Michal from brooklyn

really big problem with whole personal reporting thing: people on the street can't tell each other everything.

we don't have the people in baghdad or north korea blogging about their lives to us ( or at least not as much as people in nyc)

so we can't get 100% of the information out there ourselves.

Jun. 20 2008 10:55 AM
Tony Bruguier from San Jose, CA

Thanks Brian for reading the email. Acutually, there are techniques to make it impossible to connect to the original voter, while at the same time making sure that nobody votes twice, and that every vote is counted. It is quite amazing (but complicated). See reference above. But once again, this is tough to understand.

Jun. 20 2008 10:55 AM
Dana from Brooklyn

I trust technology almost as little as I trust politicians. The system in my opinion is beyond being reformed. I like hearing criticisms of top down structure but the best solution I think isn't bottom up but horizontal structures. I would like to see direct democracy or an even more radical anarchist way or reorganizing our society.

Jun. 20 2008 10:54 AM
Gabriel from NYC

In an adequately educated society broader access to democracy would be great. The education of people in this country however has been systematically crippled. With all the access to information these days people seem less well informed. Whats the matter with Kansas? With peoples susceptibility to marketing it just means more people would be voting against their own interests.

Jun. 20 2008 10:54 AM
Rod from Manhattan - UWS

Mick - paper trails are not necessary.

Millions of people do Internet banking and other large financial transactions without the exchange of paper.

All of government needs to look at becoming more efficient. If you were to to a redesign of America in the way that corporations do, we would do away with three or four levels of government and all the inefficiency that creates in the ultimate delivery of valuable services that government provides.

Jun. 20 2008 10:53 AM
Jesse Califano from NYC/ TPA/

So the Internet's fundraising ability allows Mr. O-Ba-Ma to be unethical...

Read David Brooks' column in today's NYT

Enough said- and said well by Mr. Brooks. . .

'New Politics'... a Democrat's joke. . . on America!

Jun. 20 2008 10:52 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

What's really sad is that myself and many people my age don't remember Civics from high school and don't know the difference between state level Senators in the Assembly and the ones who go to Washington.

That's sad.

Jun. 20 2008 10:51 AM
joyfactor from Flushing

I'm an 81 year old gramma and me and my other 80+ gramma friends understand advanced internet engineering just fine. Why do people always assume we don't?

Jun. 20 2008 10:51 AM
chris o from New York City

The United States in not a democracy. It is an polyarchy, as postulated by Robert Dahl.

This is a system in which a small group rules and mass participation in decision-making is confined to leadership choice in elections carefully managed by competing elites. Can anyone deny this?

Jun. 20 2008 10:50 AM
Eric from Manhattan

The personal democracy forum is actually going to be at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. Many people mix up Lincoln Center's main campus and this location, so if you could reiterate the correct location, it would be helpful.

Jun. 20 2008 10:50 AM
Derek from New York

Ther real issue is that we need more representation in Congress espically the House of Representatives. The number 435 representatives set in 1911 by Public Law 62-5 is thre real problem with America. in 1911 we had about 200,000 citizens per representatives, today we have about 650,000 per representatives. Americans are not representated in our current system. Congress has limited the house size to consolidate power into a few hands. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787 it was expected the House of Representatives would grow to over 400 Representative with in 50 years. this was seen to prevent an oligarchy. 435 is America's oligarchy.

Jun. 20 2008 10:50 AM

any thoughts on media echo chamber effects?

does new media tend to amplify them?

how would this tend to influence a more directly democratic governance structure?

Jun. 20 2008 10:49 AM
Jonathan from Williamsburg

One of the nice facets of the current system, is that it that those who vote actually take the time to invest in the activity, thus bringing a level of responsibility. What is your guest proposing to help ensure responsibility when someone can just log on and click through voting without learning about the candidates and issues? The current system is not perfect, but adding 10, 20, 30% to voter turnout is only positive if they are educated.

Jun. 20 2008 10:49 AM
Nick from Wisdom (?) of crowds

1. PDA voting - fine if everyone has one and is technologically literate, and there are paper trails

2. Wisdom of crowds - this is an overhyped and not yet proven concept that needs to be tempered by contemplating the other phrase, the "extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds" (MacKay)


Jun. 20 2008 10:46 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

Look what happened in Alabama with that poor governor Don Siegalman.

Too much corruption.

Jun. 20 2008 10:45 AM
Tony Bruguier from San Jose, CA

The problem with internet voting (or electronic voting) is not technical. There are methods that can guarantee accurate, secret, and fair voting (see Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier). All the problems with current voting machines comes from knuckle heads designing the systems

However, the problem is verification by outside sources. You want your 80 years old grandma to be able to verify that the system is fair. One has to know quite advanced mathematics to understand how these voting systems work.

With pencil and paper, almost anyone can verify that the count is accurate.

Jun. 20 2008 10:42 AM
Jesse Califano from NYC/ TPA/

So the Internet's fundraising ability allows Mr. O-Ba-Ma to be unethical...

Read David Brooks' column in today's NYT

Enough said- and said well by Mr. Brooks. . .

'New Politics'... a Democrat's joke. . . on America!

Jun. 20 2008 10:08 AM
Jesse Califano from NYC/ TPA/

So the Internet's fundraising ability allows Mr. O-Ba-Ma to be unethical...

Read David Brooks' column in today's NYT

Enough said- and said well by Mr. Brooks. .

'New Politics'- a Democrat's joke... on America!

Jun. 20 2008 09:48 AM
Daniel Smith from Vienna, Austria

The internet with all of its flaws and it's frontier like breadth has done something for politics that MSM outlets have failed to do; It has given us more democracy and more choice rather than less. For the first 30 years of my life, I peered through the narrow window of what MSM outlets allowed me to see. For all the negative or adverse issues raised in the online world, it has given us a freedom that our founding fathers would be mighty proud of and a more direct connection with our political process. I think fireside chats will take on a whole new meaning in this new world. The way that the Obama campaign has used this "series of tubes" has been nothing short of breathtaking. Brian Eno said that he would have never been a musician if recording equipment hadn't been invented, I think you could use this analogy with Sen. Obama. It is part and parcel of his movement built from the ground up.

Jun. 20 2008 01:56 AM

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