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“A Horrifically Bad Idea”: Smartphone Voting Is Coming (vanityfair.com)
249 points by kushti 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 359 comments





If we think that not enough people are voting, the way to solve this is NOT through get-out-the-vote efforts, voter registration drives, and tools like this to make it easier to cast a vote. These are not the bottleneck.

Voting may be a duty, but it's one that carries a lot of responsibility. Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society. And I think that people realize this. So when they know they haven't invested enough in fully understanding the issues and the candidates, they spare us the chance of their error by not voting.

If you want to get more people actively participating in democracy, the right path is through transparency in government and other efforts to make it easier for people to understand what they're voting on. Today it's a big investment in time to get oneself up to speed, and so making that information more accessible and useful would lower the cost for a citizen to make an informed vote.


Moving voting day from a Tuesday to a Sunday would also make a big difference. There are many people who have have informed opinions but can't afford to take off work (write-up for being late to work/take off early, lost income, transport issues). Also that would avoid removing a school day since most public schools are used for polling.

Another option would be to switch to make mail-in ballots only.


I'm in favor of ditching Columbus day and replacing it with November 6th as a national holiday for that reason.

I've never once worked a job where we got Columbus day off.

Every company I've worked for in NY/NJ has had the day off... except my current gig for an Italian company. Go figure.

Markets are open on Columbus Day so most finance and fintech people don't get it off. I didn't.

Huh. The Merc used to have (still has?) a "bring your kid to work" type event on Columbus Day. They even brought us into one of the pits—back when they were still regularly open for business—to do a mock derivatives trading session. I guess it had never occurred to me before that those pits were being used for real trades on the same day—or maybe the brick and mortar exchanges were open, just "online-only", on Columbus Day.

NY/NJ has a heavy Italian influence, so the day acts as more of an "Italian Heritage Day" at this point.

Not just at this point. It's been seen as at least partially an Italian heritage day for longer than it's been an official holiday.

At my job, Columbus Day is officially observed on December 24.

why not rename Columbus day into something like "we seek forgiveness" day?

how does it make sense to have November 6th as a holiday in a country where more than 50% people don't/can't vote?


Some have already renamed Columbus Day, they call it "Indigenous Peoples Day"

> how does it make sense to have November 6th as a holiday in a country where more than 50% people don't/can't vote?

The point of making it a holiday is so that people wouldn't have to work that day, to increase the percentage of people who will/can vote. I agree that <50% is too low: let's get that number up, yeah?


I meant, more than 50% include those who are ineligible to vote due to being under age,imprisonment or being an immigrant (legal and illegal).

Giving a holiday is just an easy way for people to plan an extra long weekend.


Might as well go whole-hog and call it "Repent, Sinner. Repent!" day.

My $.10 proposal: change Veterans Day to be the 2nd Tuesday in November. Almost no cost, there's a strong “they served so you would have this right” angle, and it'd pair naturally with other civic events.

With all due respect, ideologically linking the military and democracy is a horrifically bad idea. The two systems embody completely opposite concepts.

Apparently, voting rights and military duty are intrinsically linked since ancient times.

Greek and Roman citizens had the right to vote linked to their duty of military service at times of war. E.g. Athens had lots of free non-citizens who did not have that privilege and that duty. (Also look up the etymology of the word "idiot".)

Democratic institutions in Europe started to crop up (sometimes as a result of revolutions) when subjects to a particular crown started to be drafted, and thus learned military skills. Nobility, who traditionally had some freedoms and could even be elected to various councils and parliaments under a monarch were also usually bound to military service.

People of the US in particular won their right to vote as free citizens (and not be subjects to British crown) in a literal war in 1775-83 (and then again in 1812).

That "price of freedom is eternal vigilance" idea also links these two ideas pretty tightly.


Your line of thinking is exemplary of what I was talking about: “violence first, democracy later”, “democracy comes from fighting”, and soon enough thousands of people are sent to die for nothing in a Middle-Eastern desert.

It just so happens that in the real world independence can only be defended by force.

In a civilized society, this force is normally only exerted by specially designated people, the police force, and, more rarely, by citizens defending themselves against assault.

But any society that wants to preserve itself has to have an army, or some other kind of a self-defense force, else the first invader to come by will overrun and subdue it. Delegating this to someone who are not the citizens possible to an only very limited extent.

Violence is not a great thing, sure, but sometimes it's the lesser evil, when the greater evils are serfdom or extermination. What a civilized society has to curb is aggression, which is the source of violence.


Even if you assume that violence is a necessary evil, there is no need to exhalt it or link it to the democratic expression of will. By doing so, you end up favouring a reverence to military structures, which are completely anti-democratic in nature and prone to be twisted towards external aggression. That is my point.

“If your role in life is that of peacemaker, you must resign yourself to the fact that sometimes, peace can only be made through force. Peace is a condition that exists only when those who hate to fight are better prepared to do so than those who love to. It is very simple and very easy to kill. If you would learn to neutralize an opponent while doing them the minimum possible amount of harm, you must master the art of attack; master it more thoroughly than any killer ever needs to"

> thousands of people are sent to die for nothing in a Middle-Eastern desert

This is sad. I don't like wars. A war is only worth it when all other means fail. I only see the point in defensive wars; the 1991 war in the Middle-Eastern desert was that, protecting Kuwait. Later, not so much, to say the least.

> violence first, democracy later

Rather, "independence first, democracy based on that". I don't see how this Middle-Eastern warfare ever helped US independence, or e.g. Iraqi independence. Except maybe it helped a bit Afghani independence, because Taliban long-term would likely be even worse that the total disarray they're having now.


“There’s a reason you separate the military and the police. One fights the enemy of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”

Seems fitting for the US, as sad as it is... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationale_for_the_Iraq_War#Bri...

I would like to know more.

If this was a subtle starship trooper reference, bravo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdrjzE1SE58 (depictions of violence, satire)

For those that don't know, Starship troopers is a scathing satire about how "war makes fascist of us all".


Starship Tropers the movie is a brilliant "anti-anti-utopian" story.

To my puzzlement, some people don't notice how ironic it is, throughout.


The movie has its ups and downs, but the propaganda interludes were absolutely brilliant. I believe in the context of this discussion, the most relevant one is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_5UZfwX0ss.


I haven't found anything ironic about that movie up until now - last time I watched them was when I were about 11. Thanks.

I thought it was pretty blatant TBH.

Lummox thought so too. Now I must get back to raising John Thomases.

When you vote, you are exercising political authority, you're using force. And force, my friends, is violence. The supreme authority from which all other authorities are derived.

(Other than being an authority, presumably. Notwithstanding authorities on violence, such as Heinlein)


How is democracy the opposite concept to the military? Or was that just poorly phrased?

Try voting out your sergeant.

Try having a political leader jailing people who don’t do what he tells them to do.


Ah, so you're comparing them on basis of formation of will.

That's not the point that was made, however. The post you replied to connected the military to democracies as protectors of their physical integrity.


The distinction is subtle and lost on most people. By liniking the military to elections, you can bet good money that every politician in the country would jump on acritical "support the troops" propaganda lines that result in de-facto fascism, like the US experienced under G.W. Bush.

The first thing any State does is place the military under civilian government control. This is actually a huge part of the Constitution (the Founding Fathers were very clever and they all read Ceasar's biography).

Well if it wasn't linked US soldiers would still be denied of voting despite being drafted at 18 in WWII.

This suggestion is not likely to go very far. The reason Nov. 11 is Veteran's Day is that it is in honor of the armistice with Germany that formally ended World War I:

"major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Day

So any attempt to 'move' Veteran's Day will likely meet resistance due to this connection. This is also why this day is a fixed calendar day (at least in the US) rather than a "first/second/third Monday of the month" type holiday like most of the other official federal holidays. It shares the same connection with specific exact calendar dates as does the 4th of July, Christmas, and New Year's day.


I would argue that the number of people who know this is a tiny fraction of the population and, unsettling as it is to contemplate, in the subsequent century we’ve had major wars which are equally important to commemorate so it’s not like a single date can cover all of them.

I doubt America WANTS to remember every war. Only the popular ones that it won. WW1 they were on the winning side and WW2 they were the good guys.

The Korean war is more murky. Almost nobody knows it now but South Korea was a military dictatorship, not a paragon of democracy and freedom.


The First World War was the second most recent major war in American history, and I think the statute of limitations has passed on making V-J Day a national holiday.

Veterans Day/Armistice Day is also one of the few secular national holidays that we share with most Western countries.


Strange you don't consider Vietnam a major war. I won't blame you for forgetting Korea though as even contemporaries did so.

For me the definition of "major war" is were civilians forcibly conscripted.


Total deaths of the Vietnam War, on all sides, were around 1.5 million. Korea was around 1.2 million.

WWII was 50-90 million and WWI was 40 million. Vietnam and Korea (two conflicts that my father actually fought in) were wars, for sure, but not major wars compared to the World Wars.


US had 418,500 WWII deaths, and Korea had 128,650. Both within the same order of magnitude of each other. Vietnam surprisingly had only 60,000 US deaths - it is more notable for the resistance at home it spawned.

There's no reasonable way to conclude these were not "major" wars in the context of US history.


In the context of US history, the World Wars transformed the United States from a parochial, isolationist regional power into a powerful superpower.

The Korean War transformed the United States from a country that occupied half of Korea with the permission of a local, democratically elected government to a country that occupies half of Korea with the permission of a local, democratically elected government. Vietnam transformed the United States into a slightly less interventionist country for 20-30 years and reduced the scope of Johnson's social welfare reforms.

The World Wars also saw the wide-scale mobilization of the entire nation, including rationing, large-scale transformation of American industry to war production, coastal blackouts at night to protect shipping traffic, ubiquitous propaganda, and other measures. World War II was more disruptive to the life of the typical American at home than any other war that didn't physically take place on American soil. (In fact, parts of World War II did take place on American soil.) Korea and Vietnam--"major" wars maybe in isolation, but not at all compared to WWII.


I never argued about the relative importance of the wars, just that your bar for "major" is extremely high.

You also forget about Korea as the start of the communist domino theory that directly led to the Vietnam intervention. And vastly understate the cultural changes that happened as a result of the Vietnam war protests.


Korea and Vietnam simply weren’t as significant as the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the First World War, or the Second World War. They weren’t completely insignificant historical events, but they also just aren’t comparable to the half dozen biggest wars in US history, and that’s what I call “major wars” because the marginal difference between WWII and Korea is so much bigger than the marginal difference between Korea and, say, Grenada.

That's a pretty good idea! Would have the positive effect on voter turnout without negative economic effect of an extra holiday.

how do you validate mail in ballots? I am more worried about votes where we have to verify an absent voter simply because the chance of fraud increases. Fraud not only in not knowing if it is the actual voter but also because we cannot insure their vote was not forced.

my state had early voting for weeks so there really isn't a "voting day" issue here. (Georgia). Now I have not looked but how many other states offer early voting?

We need multiple issues fixed in US voting. (just a random list)

1) spreading the number of days to vote across a week or more 2) providing an easy method to confirm a person is eligible to vote and vote on the candidates they want to vote on.

3) providing a means to vote from outside your district for your own district, this is mostly solved by expanding the voting period.

4) providing in clear language what non candidate reforms are being voted on

5) randomizing how candidates appear on a ballot

6) removing one party votes. people need to choose, we don't need drones

7) removing the primary system which exists to stymie third party options


Oregon's had voting by mail exclusively, and, it _automatically_ registers voters in a number of places, so unless you are fully off the grid, you're pretty much gonna get a ballot. Consequently, Oregon has had consistently higher turnouts in most elections.

Each vote gets the signature reviewed by a person, one at a time. I actually had my ballot put on hold this year because the signature wasn't quite close enough - likely, since I probably just flippantly scribbled something on the package. They quickly mailed out another registration form where I basically re-signed the ballot for additional information.

Ballots can be dropped off into several boxes, that don't even go through the postal service.

Additionally, most counties have phone and email notifications for you to track your vote. That's how I got my notification, 2 days after mailing it in, that my ballot was under review.


No two signatures I've ever written actually look the same. I do wonder how this might affect people like me!

Gotta agree. My signature is chicken-scratch. Much like my handwriting in general. Yes, it's a personal failing. But, if it disenfranchises me, I'll be pretty upset.

Ditto.

I was stopped temporarily last night at the polls after the poll worker scanned my ID and had me sign. She said they're not the same signature, and I'm like, "lmao, yeah, no, no they're not. I gave up on my signature a long time ago."


A signature does not have to look similar to previous signatures to be legally effective.

You could start signing with an "X" and that first X would have legal force. Might confuse or annoy some bureaucrats though.


Oregon already has vote by mail exclusively, and absentee voting has been around for years.

As for verifying an absent voter, back about 1980 when I voted absentee, I had to have the form notarized.


How do they measure fraud rates? Is it even possible to determine if it is occurring, and if so to what degree?

Saying "rates are low" without any actual metric is never convincing.


> removing one party votes. people need to choose, we don't need drones

The first time I voted, I remember being shocked at the premise that you could tick a box and vote for one party across the board.


Oregon has had mail-in ballots only for decades and voter fraud is as close to a non-issue as statistically possible, easily on par with in-person voter fraud -- which is also extremely rare.

It also boosts turnout and saves money, and it's great to sit there and look over your ballot at your leisure.

We used to have voting parties where we'd all sit around and actually talk about the ballot issues and candidates one by one. Nothing's ever felt so much like democracy in action as that.

tl;dr vote-by-mail is great and fraud is virtually non-existent, e.g. Oregon's two decades of vote-by-mail.


Upvoted. I live in Oregon, and VBM is excellent.

> my state had early voting for weeks so there really isn't a "voting day" issue here. (Georgia).

Except for the massive campaigns to disenfranchise voters.

Which you didn't bother to mention as a problem. You did mention the boogeyman of voter fraud though, good job.


> I am more worried about votes where we have to verify an absent voter simply because the chance of fraud increases How high are the chances really? The work required to fraudulently submit even a single absentee ballot would just not be worth it. It reads as tone-deaf to place concerns of voter fraud above voter engagement when voter turn out is consistently so low.

I'm not sure - CA has permanent vote by mail available to all eligible voters, and saw about a 38% voter turnout yesterday. Texas does not, and saw about a 40% voter turnout. If getting to the polling place is the bottleneck, I would expect CAs vote by mail option would increase voter turnout relative to somewhere without it.

(Cue someone saying I can't compare TX to CA - it seems like if I can't that demonstrates that there are other factors that matter just as much or more)


I don't know much about TX, but in CA I think some voter apathy comes from the consistent results over many consecutive elections. I think you would need to look at local turnout to see how it varies when there are hotly contested decisions, i.e. districts where a seat might flip from one party to the other.

In yesterday's election, we had two Democrat candidates vying for a US Senate seat, rather than a bipartisan contest. The candidates from other parties were already squeezed out during our new open-primary election process.

Practically speaking, we don't have direct, proportional representation in most decisions. As a result, people sometimes fall into a trap where they think their personal vote will not really matter. It feels lost in the margin. The same discrete result happens whether they vote or not. This is equally true whether their views align with or against the expected outcome.


One thing in Texas’s favor is its early voting setup. Early voting was available from October 20th to last Friday, including weekends, typically from 7am to 7pm.

Early voting in TX is indeed great. Now if we could get rid of the 30day waiting period for voter registration...

That might be difficult as many churches are polling stations and they'd have services on that day. They could effectively be closed for 4-7 hrs that day. For many, their service would trump any political duties you might feel they are owed.

move the polling station then?

It's already a struggle to find enough polling stations that are large enough in some places.

Sunday does free up another set of large buildings that are often even government owned - schools.

A lot of polling stations in Europe are schools for that reason.


I don't think so. In Maryland anyone can vote early at their convenience. That rules out work since you can just fill out the ballot at your leisure.

I attempted to vote in the wrong county. My buddy attempted to vote in the wrong district within his county. Luckily I am a telecommute worker with relaxed hours. He on the other hand was debating whether he should return to work or risk being late.

The reasoning for such extremely strict geographic restrictions, I am unsure of, but surely it would also argue against mail-in ballots (and I would assume smartphone voting).

Side question: How are people temporarily living in distant areas from their registered county (working, attending school, etc) able to vote? I'm sure there's a large handful of people in this situation unable to cast their vote.


> The reasoning for such extremely strict geographic restrictions, I am unsure of, but surely it would also argue against mail-in ballots (and I would assume smartphone voting).

One reason is a holdover from the days when the eligible voter roles were physically printed on reams of paper to be lined through in pen as each eligible voter 'checked in' to be given a ballot.

If your system for preventing double voting is by a line drawn in pen across a voters entry in a paper printout, then you have to allocate voters to one, and only one, voting location (because you can't 'line through' in pen multiple geographically disperse paper printouts containing the same name quickly enough to avoid double voting risks).

> Side question: How are people temporarily living in distant areas from their registered county (working, attending school, etc) able to vote?

This is the purpose of the absentee ballot system. If you know you are "away" on election day, you apply for an absentee ballot and vote that way. Most of the recent "early vote" system has simply been an expansion of allowing voters to vote "absentee" by having them show up at the city/county offices before election day, fill out an "absentee" form (with less stringent requirements for proof of being "away"), get a ballot, vote, and drop it in the count box.


> One reason is a holdover from the days when the eligible voter roles were physically printed on reams of paper to be lined through in pen as each eligible voter 'checked in' to be given a ballot.

Way back when, meaning yesterday? My polling place had two different people with voter lists in front of them. One was a big book I had to sign under my name (once the lady finally paged, one page at a time, through to my name), the other was a huge sheet organized by address where my name was crossed off after I voted.


In my area, "way back when" means about 10 or so years ago. The local county switched to small touch screen computers containing the voting lists upon which they 'check off' that you have voted.

But, the "splitting" of the lists into one per polling place likely still occurs, because it avoids a need to build a centralized database connected to all polling places to provide the "locking" necessary to allow John Smith III to vote only once. And this central system, were it to be used, also becomes a single point of failure that could halt voting at all polling places at once.

Now, granted, there is still the issue of the fact that a computerized "check off" system can have records be "reset" to allow John Smith III to vote more than once in the same polling place. Paper with an ink pen line (assuming a non-erasable ink) is by far more difficult to "reset" to "not yet voted" status for John Smith III.


(Germany) That would be like, last vote here. Thanks CCC for keeping the voting machines away.

> If your system for preventing double voting is by a line drawn in pen across a voters entry in a paper printout, then you have to allocate voters to one, and only one, voting location (because you can't 'line through' in pen multiple geographically disperse paper printouts containing the same name quickly enough to avoid double voting risks).

In Australia we still use printed rolls, but we can vote at any polling place in our home state.

For some details on how we manage the risk, see 'What is a Declaration Vote at a polling place?' on this page: https://www.aec.gov.au/Voting/polling.htm


Thank you for this! I was not aware of the absentee ballot system.

> The reasoning for such extremely strict geographic restrictions, I am unsure of

I think it's twofold:

1. There are some hyperlocal elections, such as for school districts. Only your local polling station will have the correct ballots for those elections, and if you vote at the wrong polling location you could vote in an election you shouldn't.

2. Minimization of voter fraud using analog technology: if you're assigned a particular polling station, that station and no other will be given your name on a list to check off. You can't go to two polling locations and vote twice, because no other station will have your name. Human error makes it impractical to give each station a complete list and then cross-check to find people who voted twice: too many false positives.


The reason to vote within your registered precinct is partly because ballots may differ with local issues and partly just historical structure of how votes are tallied and reported hierarchically. The local officials are responsible for maintaining voter rolls just as they maintain other vital statistics.

You can vote by mail even as an expat living overseas. You register via the last address you had in the US and end up getting a more limited overseas ballot that only covers federal elections (and possibly state-wide elections if registered in some states?).


Weekend voting can be a part of early voting; But mail-in or smart phone solves the availability problem much better than a holiday (where the very people who don't have the flexibility to take off work now would likely still not be able to take off work (like thanksgiving, memorial day, and labor day)

Well, for one, employers are legally REQUIRED to allow their employees time off to vote.

At least I thought that was the case. Please correct me if I am wrong.


Some bad actor employers or supervisors may exert pressure upon the employee to not leave that day. There's a great many methods to force people to do something yet still stay within the word of a given law. Especially in those states that have the "at will" employment law, because you could be fired for sneezing incorrectly and have no legal recourse.

That, of course, is another subject for another day.


State by state. Many do not. In most where it is offered the time is limited (2 hours typically), which with long lines and travel time may not be enough. It is also unpaid time.

I live in a tiny precinct and thus lack perspective, but the wait time is pretty solvable by spending money.

Forcing people ot wait hours for voting is a tactic used to discourage voters and more effectively disenfranchise groups you don't want voting. White majority area has 15 minute lines, black majority has 2 hours.

Yeah, I get that.

But wealthy New York City, where Democrats run the election commission, was a notable shit show in the recent election.

Dealing with the unequal provision of resources is a big deal, I don't mean to dismiss it, it just isn't the only issue.


New York is also really bad about registering people.

It's absolutely about a failure to install proper checks on entrenched power.


If we had fair elections, yes. When the republicans control the majority of local government they have no desire to make voting easier for the working class, or students.

I hate going anywhere, and I am so happy to have mail-in ballots. I can't recommend them enough, it's insanely low effort.

> There are many people who have have informed opinions but can't afford to take off work (write-up for being late to work/take off early, lost income, transport issues).

They don't need to take off work. Every state in the US lets people mail-in votes or vote early in person.


Other options include making it a national holiday, or making it easy to vote close to home or work, and keep voting stations open for a very generous period.

Basically, you should be able to vote quickly before or after work without it cost more than 15 minutes.


Fuck that, emulate the Australians and move it to a Saturday. Go one step further and make it a national holiday. Need to work? Mail-in your ballot before-hand and work if you must.

In America; a lot of people work on Saturdays; and less, but still many people work on national holidays.

Early voting also helps, many states let people vote through the weekend before Nov. 6. Or mail in ballots, but yes, making it officially on a weekend would simplify quite a bit.

I second mail-in ballots. Everyone automatically gets them in Colorado, you essentially have 2 weeks to fill them out and drop them off.

a Saturday or Sunday would have a much higher turnout. However, you would still be excluding a large number of lower income service workers that work on the weekend.

Has it been tested, I'm not convinced.

One group effected negatively could be parents. They may find it more difficult to vote if their kids aren't in school. Particularly single parents. (I vote after the kids go to bed - but have taken a child to the polls a couple of times - but I have a partner to stay home and make that possible).


I took my daughter to the polls this year. She had a ton of fun feeding the ballot to the optical scanner and getting a sticker

Presumably, they also work on Tuesdays, right?

I live in Oregon, and we do have mail-in ballots. Can confirm that it's great.

They won't do that. The people a certain party doesn't want voting will get bussed to voting stations by local churches, etc.

Tuesday is a day that certain people have to be at work, working. And politicians like that.


Note which party has more voters who work, and which party have more voters who do not. The motivation would be opposite to what you suggest.

Why do I even need to elect a Congressman/woman to make decisions for me? Just let me do it directly now that the technology is here. We should vote on issues in real time, or within a week or month-long window.

It would incentivize people with time and interest to be more involved, and get rid of that pesky agency problem.

At the very least we can marginalize the role of politicians and perhaps be less disappointed in them.


Jesus no. Even full time politicians don't have the time to read all the bills they vote on. You really don't want to reduce complex legislation to single sentence statements that casuals can vote on in between checking their Facebook feeds. See Brexit for an example how that would turn out.

Imagine the vast quantities of money that would be spent on advertising, on both sides of every single bill.

In the UK many "full time politicians" have 2 or 3 other jobs (that would be full-time for other people). Things like working on the board of large companies, being a columnist.

I guess if you're being told by lobbyists what to vote you don't need to take time ...


You don't need to read the bills, you just need somebody to check if there are any mines in them. You can find some who share your political views.

You could call those people your "representatives" and even defer your vote to them!

I don't want to defer my votes to them, I want to be able to, at all times, change my decision.

See Brexit for an example how that would turn out.

And see the UK support for the Iraq War for an example of the reverse.

What's the death toll of Brexit?


Have you seen California's ballot (they have a lot of referendums)? It's like half an inch thick. Almost no one has time for direct democracy, and even if you do have time to go through the ballot carefully, you're still underinformed on basically all the issues unless you spend days researching. And this is for relatively wealthy, educated people -- imagine all the (majority of) Americans making < $50k a year, many with multiple jobs, many with children or elderly relatives, many with health issues, having to stay informed on the finer points of ethanol refining or what have you. Direct democracy is a super bad idea.

The so-called fluid democracy. I very like the idea, as it sounds ideal on first glance - especially that with the Internet, we can actually implement direct voting on small issues without too much hassle. But I expect there are some holes in this idea; is there a list of main issues someone could reproduce here or link to?

A big part of the problem I feel is choice fatigue. Its by design that when you go to vote in a US election you are often voting for sometimes 20 or more different positions, and because of the sheer quantity of people you are supposed to audit this way it becomes impossible to thoroughly investigate all your choices if each one takes an hour of research.

You can't ask your average citizen to spend 20+ hours in advance of an election thoroughly researching candidates, and you can't trust a third party to "condense" information on them without an agenda.

A republic is supposed to be a society where people elect representatives to make most of these decisions for them. I should not be directly electing judges, police chiefs, school officials, attorney generals, or cabinet positions of the state government. The only reason TPTB made these elections direct was to incentivize people to vote by party color rather than by person to smuggle in bad actors into government.

I'm a firm believer that instead of having at least 5+ different elections each cycle we should be electing a ranked choice set of 3+ representatives per district who then can, as their job, and by legislature appoint the rest of the offices of government.

That would mean I would ranked choice vote for ~3 representatives that then convene in my state legislature. That legislature sends some number of its own delegates to Washington to act as federal representatives. The 3 representatives in my district would, for my district, select its judges, police chiefs, etc.

That would hugely dissociate the machine that overwhelms people with choice and results in aligning with factions and talking points instead of actual people.


When I first moved to the USA, I was astounded at how many different positions people were voting for!

My experience in the UK was a small 3x5 notecard sized piece of paper with my choices for local member of parliament. I marked the box by the person I wanted to elect, and submitted the vote.

I still joke that the USA has "too much" democracy ;)

But, like other things the USA does differently to the rest of the world, a great many of its people just haven't experienced anything different to compare their experience.


A "local government dictator" could smuggle in bad actors just as easily as a party ticket. Either way, you're outsourcing the decision to someone other than yourself, and hoping that the checks on them (you could oust the local dictator, and the republicans want to keep you happy enough to not vote for the democrats) will be enough to keep them honest.

There is no dictator, you are electing a plurality of representatives by rank choice. Even if one bad actor gets in they are still a minority of authority on appointments from your delegation. And if a party were consistently putting in three reps that consistently make bad decisions a fundamental hope for democracy is that when your representatives are acting against your interests you don't vote for them again.

The point is that there is no executive, no dictator, appointed by the people. It all goes to either a council or legislature appointment. And as long as you do such elections locally enough that those representatives aren't just ivory tower detached from those they govern their failures will be reflected throughout the community.

A large part of why it is so easy to mislead voters today with ads and propaganda is that you aren't voting for people you know, you are voting for strangers from a distant land, and to them you are just a statistic.


> The only reason TPTB made these elections direct was to incentivize people to vote by party color rather than by person to smuggle in bad actors into government.

No, the reason reformers made these changes was to break up rampant corruption and back-room dealing in State government and the allocation of appointed positions.


What you're describing is somewhat similar to pre-17th Amendment Senate elections.

Alternatively, make each elected office require a man and a woman to be independently elected to that office. Have the decision making power split equally between the two 50-50 so that both must agree before taking action (e.g., signing or vetoing bills, or casting votes for bills). Each political party would provide both a male candidate and a female candidate for each office.

Why a man and a woman? How about a tall person and a short person, or a religious person and an atheist, or a white person and a black person (but what about other races?), and so forth? What is sacred about men versus women, especially since we're told that there's no actual difference between men and women?

Gender provides close to a 50-50 split, which is not provided by all demographics. But if you want to use height or any other demographic to analyze the proposal of two seats per political office, then please go ahead and analyze it that way instead of getting stuck on gender politics.

So why not just say "two seats per office", and let the chips fall where they will?

> especially since we're told that there's no actual difference between men and women?

Who is telling you this? This runs contrary to decades of research findings (however distasteful some might find that).


> Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society.

EDIT: "Wow" Retracted and language changes - agree that ignorance is something to be fought, but it's a tough determination when it comes to voting.

How are you determining a voter is ignorant? What if someone is informed but disagrees with you?

Like so many things, we need both, and I don't think it is an either/or.

It should be easier to vote (Maryland just passed same-day registration 67% to 33%.), and people need time to vote which can be hard to come by if you work multiple jobs.

We also need transparency on the issues and good explainers. Civic groups have been doing a good job on the latter, and this works well on the local level depending on your jurisdiction.

Transparency may help you understand incumbents, but will not help with new candidates, or with ballot questions. That also won't scale to local politics. Donate to civic groups that are trying to make it easier to understand what is on the ballot. Push for better explanations on the ballot itself. Fund local newspapers and buy a subscription.

Also, in general, if you think higher participation is better you kinda have to rely on the voter - even the "ignorant, poorly-informed" ones.


> Wow. What if someone is informed but disagrees with you?

OP didn't say anything about agreeing with their positions. I honestly don't see what your "wow" is about - do you believe that it would be helpful to society to have poorly-informed people casting votes?


No - I believe everyone should try to educate themselves as much as possible about what they are voting on.

What I "heard" in the original statement is something implied - something deeper (my hearing may be wrong) To say "we don't need more ignorant uninformed votes" when the only thing you know about a voter is who / what they voted for (not the _why_), while also saying there is a way to vote that will "help our society", then you are implicitly judging the voter as ignorant based on your thought of the "informed" vote. If they vote because they like their hair and that is what matters to the voter, that's the voter's choice.

The comment in my opinion went deeper than "we should better inform voters" and into judgment territory based on my reading. If that was a bad read, then I've wasted my characters and your time and for that I apologize!


No need to apologize, but I do think you are reading a bit too much into it.

He really isn't

OP here. You won't find a word in my comment suggesting that ANYONE should be barred from voting, that there should be any kind of test or filter. What I said was that it's legitimate for someone to arrive at their own decision that they are unable to make an informed choice, and that they'd rather abstain rather than make a choice.

TLDR: don't stop anyone from voting, but also don't pressure them into voting.


>Wow. What if someone is informed but disagrees with you?

ig·no·rant /ˈiɡnərənt/

adjective

lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.


I would say a voter isn't ignorant if he can tell me why I believe what I believe in such a way that I can say that is correct.

You need to understand the positions, then you can disagree with them.


I agree, but it's important to note that many people don't vote in the US because they simply don't have the time to leave work/school and go to a polling place, or won't get paid for it if they do [1]. More mail-in ballots could potentially alleviate this, but a lot of people prefer to vote in person. Also due to our two-party system, gerrymandering, and the way congress works, many people don't vote because they feel it doesn't make a difference, not because they are poorly informed.

A broad approach of better voter education, a national holiday on election day, and replacing FPTP with something else that actually favors more than two parties (I like STAR myself) is needed in the US.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/06/us/politics/election-day-...


many people don't vote because they feel it doesn't make a difference

This is actually the case in many areas. For example, casting a vote for a Republican Presidential candidate in California is a pointless endeavor. This sentiment doesn’t arise from lack of voter education, but rather from voter education - people understand the political makeup of the areas in which they live, and in those that are overwhelmingly partisan, can correctly conclude that their vote won’t make a difference.


That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kinda like millenials complaining about boomers voting for things they don't like, while simultaneously not turning out to vote even though as a group they outnumber the boomers and could actually effect change if they bothered to show up.

This effect could easily be counteracted by paying attention to polls and voter registration numbers. If you're in a competitive area, sure, go ahead and vote. But if the numbers are clearly lopsided, as they are in places like California and New York, Republicans are free to vote, their vote just won't do anything except waste their time.

The reverse is true in places like Texas, but Beto came respectably close to winning.

I agree that changing the voting system would help a lot in shaking up the stratified two-party dynamic we have in the USA.

STAR seems like an interesting method, but one potential issue with it is that it's more complicated than methods like approval voting (more bubbles on the ballot, harder to explain to people). Approval voting seems like the simplest fix to our existing voting system. It would encourage third parties and more diversity of positions, while also reducing the extreme polarization that we see between the Republicans and Democrats.


Yeah complexity may have been a problem for it. About 70,000 people voted for it in Lane County, OR, with 78,000 against it.

> they simply don't have the time to leave work/school and go to a polling place, or won't get paid for it if they do [1]. More mail-in ballots could potentially alleviate this, but a lot of people prefer to vote in person.

That's already solved. People can vote early in-person or mail-in ballots.


Many places have limited early voting and do not offer no-excuse mail voting.

You've got it backwards: people don't vote for a number of reasons. Many don't because elitists in politics constantly tell them they're too stupid or ignorant to know what's good for them, lecture about civic duty, and ignore the very real problems they have in their lives. Ignoring the real problems that exist in registering or getting to the polls doesn't help.

There are also concerted voter suppression campaigns against certain groups who may be unlikely to vote for a particular candidate.

> Many don't because elitists in politics constantly tell them they're too stupid or ignorant to know what's good for them

If the cause of someone not voting is politicians saying they are too stupid to vote, maybe they really shouldn't vote.


>Voting may be a duty, but it's one that carries a lot of responsibility. Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society.

I think this understanding is common, but it's totally incorrect and is part of the larger project to get fewer people to vote.

Voting does represent, in some sense, a decision of import for how society functions. A vote for a tyrant, for example, would be bad for everyone. But is voting more important or influential than the many, many other ways in which people support or oppose bad things in our society?

In the same domain - political donations support or oppose the same politicians (and the relative impact of a donation and a vote is debatable - at the very least people can donate many times!), but the discourse around them has none of the concern around "poorly informed" donators. In a different domain - working for a company can have an enormous good or bad impact on the world, but we don't caution people against "ignorantly" accepting a position (there is lots of discussion around the morality of companies - but people are not called "irresponsible" or "ignorant" simply for working for bad companies).

I would ask you to consider how big an impact a vote has and compare that any other decision we make that impacts the world. The narrative you're advancing holds voting to a much higher standard than other ways in which people affect the world. I personally think this is because the originators of this argument (but not necessarily you) want people to question if they should vote. However, they would never suggest that a person their suitability to select who to buy services from, or work for, or donate money to - because those are all actions taken by higher-income people and voting is (or attempts to be) universal.


> I think this understanding is common, but it's totally incorrect and is part of the larger project to get fewer people to vote.

Which is what the Founding Fathers intended. The word “democracy” does not exist anywhere in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence. As Ben Franklin put it, we have a republic, if we can keep it. We have done a terrible job at that.


> Which is what the Founding Fathers intended.

Even if that was true (and most generalizations about the Founding Father's aren't because they were a diverse group with often diametrically opposed intentions), “what the Founding Father's intended” (other than some role in the legal interpretation of text of laws written by them, including the Constitution) ought not have any special weight.


Fair enough. But you need only look to history for examples to see the ultimate outcome of populism or democracy. It leads either to tyranny or total societal collapse. So I don’t agree with the notion that everyone should vote.

It's at least equally, if not more, accurate to say “you need only look to history for examples to see the ultimate outcome of limiting franchise, whether de jure or de facto, to a group that views themselves as the right kind of people to rule over everyone else. It leads either to tyranny or total societal collapse, and usually both in one order or the other.” So, I don't agree with the notion that only the “right people” should participate in their government.

Except the US was founded on the idea of a limited franchise.

But you should right?

I do think that the constitution is a fundamentally undemocratic document!

But I disagree that this particular discourse is in the tradition of the founding fathers' concerns about popular opinion.

Their project to prevent "the unwashed masses" from expressing themselves came in the form of limiting enfranchisement to white man with property. They would have vehemently disagreed with the idea that those propertied white men should worry a lot about being ignorant and only vote if they were sure they had properly prepared!


A republic which partially uses representative democracy, but mostly exists to ensure power to the landowning minority. Nowadays it's not about land of course, but it still exists to serve the wants of the powerful and only the powerful.

Even the one part that was supposed to be actually representative isn't.

Start over. No more senate. Elected president. Representative parliament.


> If we think that not enough people are voting, the way to solve this is NOT through get-out-the-vote efforts, voter registration drives, and tools like this to make it easier to cast a vote. These are not the bottleneck.

Are you saying that voters talking directly to candidates and the volunteers who work on their behalf and know their platforms is NOT a way to educate potential voters and get them to the polls? To me that seems like one of the most effective ways of telling people how to vote, why to vote, when to vote, and where to vote. Well, perhaps second to actually becoming a volunteer oneself.

> Today it's a big investment in time to get oneself up to speed, and so making that information more accessible and useful would lower the cost for a citizen to make an informed vote.

The generous interpretation here is that you're a software person and are just focusing on what you know, which is the potential for software to improve access to information for voters.

Even so, why are you claiming that your solution is an alternative and not a supplement to the current ways? Especially given that the current ways had an enormous measurable increase in voter turnout yesterday?

I get the urge to code something to help people, but not the urge to wholesale ignore the history of politicking in America.


>And I think that people realize this. So when they know they haven't invested enough in fully understanding the issues and the candidates, they spare us the chance of their error by not voting.

Sadly these people are often less ignorant that the ones who haven't invested enough in fully understanding the issues and the candidates, and yet still vote. But I agree with the larger point completely, and have been called an anti-democratic fascist to my face for making it before.


Case in point. All but one Florida Amendments passed. I mean seriously!? A lot of those don't belong in the state constitution!

I understand where you're coming from. You can always skip voting on certain issues or candidates if you're unsure.

At the same time, we elect candidates based on how well we feel they are up for the job. Understanding the issues is very, very hard; even for the candidates & their teams! We're not expected to understand all the issues, especially at a federal level. That's why we have representatives & why they hire staff.


That's really not how the bias shakes out. The bias ends up being that older people who are retired vote more than working people, because it's a hassle to get to the polls.

There are all sorts of weird biases that occur due to the way voting is conducted now. Smartphone voting would be great IMO, assuming it is implemented using a secure cryptographicly verifiable protocol.


> Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society.

I'm not usually one to say this, but this is a very high-and-mighty way of looking at your society. In Australia, voting is mandatory for every citizen. We have just as many misinformed people, but voting is seen as a civic duty in the same way that jury duty is. If you don't show up, you get fined (though skipping jury duty has a much higher fine).

I think the jury duty comparison is quite apt, actually -- in the case of voting (depending on your voting system), most individuals have very little individual power over which way an election will go. But as a member of a jury, you have a very large amount of power over how someone else's life will go. My point is that if you believe in mandatory jury duty (which I do) then you should also view mandatory voting as being no more insane than mandatory jury duty.

I agree with the rest of what you said, but I disagree that only well-informed people should be pushed to go and vote. It should be the duty of everyone to vote, because if you don't uniformly push even misinformed or disinterested people to vote then you are providing a gap for particular parties to push their supporters to out-vote you -- which is a ridiculous problem to have in my view.

> These are not the bottleneck.

As an outsider, it seems to me that the bottleneck in the US is laws being passed to explicitly make it more onerous to vote and other various organisational aspects (difficult to do early or postal voting, election day is on a Tuesday, bosses are allowed to fire employees for going to vote, really long lines at polling places, etc).

I'll never understand why so many politicians and citizens in the US view making voting more difficult as being anything other than a move away from a democratically elected representative government.

(As an aside, in Australia we don't have any form of voter ID. You just say your name and address and whether you've voted before and then you get a ballot.)


  voting is mandatory for every citizen
Is voting mandatory, or is simply showing up at the polls mandatory?

If the former, are you required to vote on every issue and office?


We have a secret ballot[+], so there is no requirement to actually write anything on the paper. Spoiling your ballot is not illegal (otherwise you couldn't have a secret ballot). But it is mandatory for you to show up, receive a ballot, and put it in the provided ballot boxes.

In Australian elections there are no votes on issues, it's purely deciding your representative in the Senate or House of Representatives (which are voted on separate pieces of paper so you can spoil one and not the other if you wish). Votes on issues aren't really a thing we do outside of referendums (and there hasn't been one of those for a while).

[+] Interestingly the American secret ballot system is called the "Australian ballot".


There are at least three groups of people who don't vote. One group is the lazy.

The second group is those for whom things are going reasonably well - the lights work, the roads get repaired, crime isn't too bad, their economic circumstances aren't terrible, and so why worry? No matter who gets elected, the lights are going to continue to work, and so on - it won't be a radical change either way. (This group may overlap with the first one.)

The third group is those in despair. They see the problems in society, and they see fifty years' worth of politicians who have promised to fix them, and the problems are still here. They've given up on politics as an answer to the problems of society.


>The third group is those in despair. They see the problems in society, and they see fifty years' worth of politicians who have promised to fix them, and the problems are still here. They've given up on politics as an answer to the problems of society.

As someone who falls under this group, I've often suggested that we should allow more participation for the individual in the democratic process, seeing as how the fundamental assumptions and constraints of society have so drastically changed since the current system was designed:

"In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good."

-John Adams, Thoughts on Government 1776

Ironically, many of the same people who disparage others for not "participating" enough in democracy (by voting), see a more direct/participatory system to be out of the question, claiming people are too stupid to have more involvement.


I don't see how "the whole [assembling] to make laws" is any more possible now than in the 1700s. Are you thinking drafting laws by wiki, or what?

>I don't see how "the whole [assembling] to make laws" is any more possible now than in the 1700s

They didn't have instanteous global omnipresence that we have today.

We didn't have to travel vast physical distances to do what we are doing right now with eachother.


I would break down the third group into people who people who have given up on politics and people who just don't feel represented by the current set of political ideologies, and would rather abstain than support people they don't believe in.

The problem with this sentiment is that ignorance and lack of enthusiasm aren’t necessarily correlated. Lots of normal people follow politics enough to be informed but are too busy to vote. Lots of crazy people get their information exclusively from bogus sources and turn up for every election.

Keeping it harder to vote doesn’t select for informed people, it selects for fanatics and extremists. Making it easier to vote selects for moderates and sane people. That would be a huge win for us.

That said, computerized voting is definitely not the way to do it.


Perhaps we could implement some kind of basic tests as a requirement for voting. Like a...literacy test...or something. /s

You are not wrong that we need to make changes to get people more engaged with government, but we also need to make it easier for everyone who wants to vote to vote. The forward march of progress in our country has been measured by the number of people who are allowed to vote. If you don't like how "ignorant people" vote, then start pushing for better public education.


It doesn't have to be one or the other. People who put forth the effort to participate in government -- whether it's voting, or going to a public meeting, or visiting their representative -- are sacrificing their time, and getting something out of it even if they initially do it for shallow reasons. They're at least getting firsthand experience of government's warts and all. And that firsthand experience is going to be more directly motivating than the passive enjoyment of transparency and other reforms that civic enthusiasts may bring.

I'm not belittling the benefits transparency or better information dissemination -- it's just that the average person can't fully appreciate such features. Even on HN, despite the abundance of online info and search tools, people are staggeringly ignorant of ordinary functions of our government -- including the use of public records to do the most basic research. But it's not because people are dumb, it's just they haven't yet had the motivation or need to engage with government and elected officials. OTOH, anyone who's had reason to be irate enough to speak at a city council meeting or read an entire environmental impact review quickly becomes knowledgeable about civic functions.

So I just don't agree with putting forth the idea that you should only vote when you've put in real effort. Voting was intended to be broadly accessible with minimal investment demanded and few requirements imposed upon a citizen's motive or knowledge. No amount of education, passion, or moral inclination changes the fact that your vote has the same worth as even the lowest-information voter.


> they spare us the chance of their error by not voting.

Why would you think that uninformed voters have a lower participation rate than informed voters?


> So when they know they haven't invested enough in fully understanding the issues and the candidates, they spare us the chance of their error by not voting.

I don't think this is true at all, at least not on a macro scale. By having a low sample from your population voting, you're greatly magnifying the impact of uninformed extremists, if anything.


Ignorance as a word is only meaningful in a narrow context, usually in context 'of a what' and hopefully with some facts to prove the accusation.

Without any moorings or context the word ignorance loses all meaning and value. Accusing any group xyz or a nebulous 'other' of ignorance is like accusing HN readers of ignorance of history, because it is logically and physically impossible to prove any such assertion of any group, and you are left with circular logic that points to source assertion as evidence ie uninformed prejudice.

Democracy is about everyone voting, it does not seek to make a judgement or value claims on individuals in any way and if you accept the concept your only job is vote and support the unequivocal right of everyone to vote.

Any arguments about individuals that disqualify them in your personal opinion would need a wider argument against democracy as a concept.


I think we need to move on somewhat from voting for people, to voting for specific actions as much as is feasible.

You could even require specific items in a manifesto be implemented (at pain of losing office and opening up a new election).

So if it says in a manifesto +£n billion will be spent in 2019 on education and the independent audit officer find that it wasn't then an election is called and the PM + education minister are barred from re-election.

If referenda can be streamlined (eg by sampling) then manifestos would have a list of referenda and they would then legally be required.

Democracy seems flawed; maybe it's still the least flawed system though.

(This is not a great comment: I'm mixing lack of accountability/honour of representatives with poor decision making and poor ability at forward planning by the ignorant.)


Making information transparent is only one step. The next step is the simplification needed to make the system understandable by people who work all day long, have kids, entertainment, etc. All the administrative forms, the accounting rules, the history of debt of a country, the geopolitical situation are all difficult to fully grasp if you don't spend full time on it. How could anyone make "informed" decision ?

I agree the first step is to make the system more transparent, maybe it will surface the almost insane complexity to more people.

Also, more transparency, but not at the expense of sacrificing fairness and privacy


Follow the money.

These new products and services justify changing from a per ballot to a per voter revenue model.

Whereas before vendors charged per ballot produced, now they're charging per registered voter. Signature verification, ballot tracking, ballot casting, etc. Every single step, task is being monetized.

The transition to all vote by mail is a bonanza for vendors. Creating a $2.50 ballot packet for every voter every single election, whereas before they'd only print 10 cent ballots for expected turnout (plus 10%).

Undermining the integrity of our elections (private voting, public counting) isn't even a factor in these conversations, much less acknowledged as a regrettable side effect.


Voting needs to be localized, easy (convenient), and mandatory (fines). Vote for people who vote for people, etc.

The level of abstraction, indirection, and complexity at a national (and state) level demoralizes and creates antipathy.

You can't blame populism when no one can be informed enough to make an informed decision.

Imagine being asked to make an architectural decision on a 5,000,000 LOC project your first day on the job... then add a bunch of stakeholders telling you that their way is better (and often lying about it, or at least exaggerating the outcomes).


One place where democracy unquestionably works is Switzerland.

One thing Swiss do often is voting on small local issues. Practice makes perfect. Seeing the more immediate local effect is a great teaching experience. Making the training ground small in scale makes a lot of sense.

I think that a path to more informed, conscious voting on big elections lies (partly) through exercise of voting often for local cases.

Approval / Condorcet voting would be another crucial improvement.

The problem is, of course, that I have no idea how the US political system could be adapted to allow this.


I would argue you make it a mandatory piece of the curriculum for voting age, or to be, high schoolers

Researching and reading all of the supportive material for a ballot's fill of decisions is a skill and effort

Detailing how to develop that skill and establishing that effort as habit could affect students to continue to keep an interesting in voting

Take your time with each element of the next vote's ballot

let the students discuss multiple viewpoints and coach a civil fact based discourse


> Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society.

What makes you think this is not already happening? Why would phone voting make it worse?


"abstain" is an option on every ballot. You are conflating "being able to vote" from "voting for a choice"

Most people are not going to abstain if they can vote from their couch, they will vote straight ticket.

While I agree with your overall argument regarding the overflow of issues and ignorance of their particulars, I have to disagree with your view on abstinence from voting being some sort of error prevention. By that measure, there is a right and wrong, then inherently, whether you vote or not, allowing the “wrong” choice to be made is an “error”.

I don't think they're saying the wrong choice is a particular candidate. The wrong choice is mistakenly voting for someone who doesn't actually represent you because you were ignorant of the candidate's stances or history.

Ok Socrates we get it the democracy is only as strong as the polis is educated. But maybe the polis will be forced to educate itself once a technology makes any barrier to voting irrelevant. Either you value an individual’s will or you don’t. It sounds like you’re advocating a poll tax.

Do you have any data at all that backs your theory that the major barrier to voting is lack of issue/candidate information? Because at first read, I'm not sure how ranting about "ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes" is different than "I don't want those people voting."

I vote in one of the most complicated areas in the country: San Francisco. I had to make 40 different choices for a variety of different local, regional, state, and federal offices, plus 14 ballot propositions. There was an excellent local ballot guide, which voters receive on paper and can view online. [1] The State of California produces a good guide as well, again on paper and online. [2] For areas where I needed more information, there was plenty available. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has a nice site with general information [3] and both the local and state chapters produce their own good-government recommendations on ballot props. [4] Plenty of organizations have recommendations as well; I looked at several different ballot guides produced by individuals and organizations.

And you know why I did all this work? Because I had to vote. I was not particularly informed on the intricacies of bond funding and government budgeting before this. That's how it has always been. The first time I voted at 18, I surely made some choices I'd now regard as woefully uninformed. Until then I had no skin in the game! But each election I vote, see the outcome, and have more incentive to do better next time. And I do.

So no, the bottleneck is not information. There's a ton of it out there. The bottleneck is also not information access. If well-presented information doesn't land in one's mailbox (and it should!), it's a Google search away. The problem is that voting in America is needlessly hard.

How do I know? The nice people at the Center for Civic Design [4] actually research this. They have done hundreds of interviews with voters. And they write about the problems. [6] We also see, both historically and currently, that people seek partisan advantage by making the registration and voting process needlessly difficult. If those barriers didn't work to discourage voters, self-serving politicians wouldn't be putting them in place.

I have helped register hundreds of people to vote. Not one of them wasn't excited to take part. Not one of them struck me as unserious about exercising their franchise. So I am 100% for voter registration, GOTV, and removing artificial barriers to voting. And I'm 100% for good schools, so that future voters are well prepared. And I think everybody in favor of democracy should be.

[1] https://voterguide.sfelections.org/en

[2] http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/

[3] https://votersedge.org/

[4] https://www.lwvsf.org/ and https://lwvc.org/

[5] https://civicdesign.org/

[6] e.g.: https://medium.com/civic-designing/the-epic-journey-of-ameri...


> Because at first read, I'm not sure how ranting about "ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes" is different than "I don't want those people voting."

It's not, and therefore the only 'fair' way of conducting elections is to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote - even the people who will vote for the candidate you don't like.

A high turnout also has the advantage of inserting noise in to the result, negating the unfair advantages of highly motivated time-rich people (usually older people).


what you're saying is good but:

the right path is through transparency in government and other efforts to make it easier for people to understand what they're voting on

bit of catch 22, because in order to do this we need to vote out people actively obstructing this change


> Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society.

No it doesn't, but it does allow the media and establishment to manipulate people in order to obtain a favourable result under the guise of democracy.


Vote by mail! My wife and I spent 45 minutes at the kitchen counter figuring out which of the more obscure local candidates we liked, then mailed it back in the morning.

How about ending and prosecuting voter suppression?

The problem is that voting correctly is irrational since the chance of affecting the outcome is minuscule and not worth the massive effort of making a correct choice.

Hence, the only people who vote are irrational or badly informed (driven by the pleasure or duty of casting the vote rather than a commitment to voting optimally), with the well known poor outcomes all democracies suffer from.


The "well known poor outcomes that all democracies suffer from" that just happen to be better than the well known poor outcomes that all the other systems suffer from.

(Well, all the systems that have been tried. The systems that have not been tried do not yet suffer from well known poor outcomes.)


But those things impair business' short term profitability so they won't happen.

It seems to me that any measure that makes it too easy to vote will just make campaigns even more reliant on advertising spending.

An uninformed voter would have nothing else to go off of after all, and with average turn out rates of near 60% currently, it would have a dramatic effect on elections.


The goal is not to do the right thing, it is to get maximally ignorant, easily manipulated voters under your control. Or kabuki voting, in which the choices are the same, but voters get to feel like they matter.

Very well put. Career politicians thrive upon such a system.

I'm going to be brutally honest: Voting for candidates is detached and unclear without having prior information or knowledge about the candidates readily available. Not knowing who/what I'm voting for or the impact of my vote for a candidate I know nothing about increases my apathy towards voting. (I know I deserve the "shame on you for ruining democracy!" remarks).

Having some sort of TL;DR for each candidate on the ballot or a short abstract of their goals/platform would help inform voters, at least in my personal opinion.

I am in my 20s, and have talked to friends about this, and voting doesn't translate to feeling "involved" in democracy when we have no idea who/what we are voting for. It feels like bringing in a guy from IT to vote for the winner of an NYC fashion show (no offense, since I would be that guy).

I saw the ballot list of candidates, and I knew nothing about even a single person on the list. My hypothesis is that without knowing a candidate's beliefs/morals/objectives, this leads to voters nonchalantly voting for a person based on whether they have a (D) or (R) next to their name, or based on something superficial like how cool their name sounds. This doesn't seem like democracy being put to an effective use.

Unless there is a specific issue groups are vested in compelling people to vote (such as marijuana or rent/housing), there really isn't anything special about purely casting a vote for the sake of it without any motivation behind it. It's not even clear what outcome people are contributing to with their votes in current methods.

Plus, with a lack of people watching TV, listening to the radio, or going out of their way to read election coverage (especially at the local level), there is not a good way for people who are not informed to even become passively informed (other than seeing signs with names plastered everywhere that will end up in some trash pile).

Further, unless practices change, making election day a holiday off work may not even have much effect if people just use it as a free day to vacation or relax.


Pretty much all candidates these days have websites... Just saying.

> Today it's a big investment in time to get oneself up to speed, and so making that information more accessible and useful would lower the cost for a citizen to make an informed vote.

And this is why Capitalism is not compatible with Democracy. Especially now that we even call it as 'investment' to be informed to choose who will control our lives. And then there's the fact that it is also an investment to campaign.

However, hopefully, sooner or later, technology will eventually help give the people more information as it did in the past. Pretty sure less centralized medium of information like Twitch or YouTube will eventually replace Fox News or CNN.


Of course, you are not an ignorant so you can illuminate us with your vote.

If you want people to vote make it mandatory like Australia. Anything short of that seems incoherent.

Mandatory voting? How would you propose enforcing it? How does Australia enforce it?

I'm not necessarily against mandatory voting, but it would be very hard to convince the American public that mandatory voting is a good idea when a huge part of the population would see that as an attack on their freedom to not vote.

This doesn't even begin to discuss the situations where voting only occurs on a Tuesday (aside from mail-ins) and some people can't take that time off work. There would have to be some clause to force employers to let employees go vote, at a loss of money somewhere. Such a clause would lead to more resistance.

Again, I'm not personally against it, but it's not so simple as "make it mandatory."


> Mandatory voting? How would you propose enforcing it?

With a financial penalty if you don't submit a ballot. The simplest method would probably be a per-election tax credit.

> I'm not necessarily against mandatory voting, but it would be very hard to convince the American public that mandatory voting is a good idea when a huge part of the population would see that as an attack on their freedom to not vote.

Most mandatory voting regimes require submitting a ballot, but they tend to accept explicit abstention (usually, just by submitting a blank ballot.)

> This doesn't even begin to discuss the situations where voting only occurs on a Tuesday (aside from mail-ins) and some people can't take that time off work. There would have to be some clause to force employers to let employees go vote, at a loss of money somewhere.

Almost every state already does that, and the exceptions (IIRC) have long early voting periods and/or all mail-in elections which avoid the Tuesday-only problem. So that's not really a problem.


How would you deal with unregistered voters?

How would you deal with malicious voters, who now surely would be so pissed they would vote for a bad candidate, or put in ballots wrapped in dog shit?


There's way more unpleasant things than voting the populace is forced to deal with and yet the government still manages to deal with their ire.

Like filing tax returns. Or jury duty. You may as well ask them how they deal with dog shit filled envelopes.


Jury duty, which is so routinely avoided/worked around that it is a joke?

Tax returns, which are only done at the threat of prison? And mostly in the US because other countries have figured out a way to do it directly as long as you have a job?

I have voted in every election that I was elegible to, but this time I have lost every faith in the system and just want to some way to say to say enough is enough, you have lied to be too many times.

But no, you want me to continue the charade that democracy, without the possibility to hold the politicians responsible for their lies is worth anything at all.

I want them all to burn in hell. Where in your system do I vote in farvour of that?


> Where in your system do I vote in farvour of that?

Submit an empty ballot, or write "burn in hell" on it. It won't make a difference to how your vote is counted, but sitting at home and not voting will make just as little of a difference.


As you said, it makes no difference either way.

I don't see how not voting is "keeping politicians accountable". Vote third party (in Australia we have many third parties and independents, though unfortunately because we use instant-runoff preferential voting we still have two very large primary parties).

> How would you deal with unregistered voters?

How is that even a problem if the financial penalty for not voting is implemented by way of a per-election tax credit for voting?

> How would you deal with malicious voters, who now surely would be so pissed they would vote for a bad candidate

A large minority of voters do that in the best case now. I'm not really convinced that anger at being offered a financial incentive to turn in a ballot is going to motivate people to be more effective wat voting for bad candidates than those who are ideologically motivated that way now.


Mandatory voting exists in many countries, including Australia (since 1918). As an Australian, I've never heard of anyone submitting a ballot wrapped in dog shit. Culturally, voting is seen as just something that you go and do every couple of years, and so most people aren't really as pissed off as you assume people might be.

Unregistered voters exist obviously, but current statistics estimate that only a very small percentage of the population is actually unregistered (and unregistered voters aren't fined as far as I know).


> If you want people to vote make it mandatory like Australia.

Empirically, a more proportional election system not only improves satisfaction with government, but also participation in voting.

People not voting should be a signal that there is something wrong with the voting system’s fitness for purpose. Mandatory voting may treat the symptom, but ignores the underlying problem.


Mandatory voting solves the problem that "party X won because they convinced more people to leave their house and vote". It also immediately solves all of the voting discrimination problems you see in the US, as well as making it practically necessary for voting to occur on days that people actually have time to vote (as well as provide more tools to make early voting easier).

So while I agree that apathy and lack of satisfaction are some of the reasons why people are not voting (and are serious problems that need to be addressed), there are other problems that mandatory voting can help resolve. And ultimately the friction to convincing people of your argument is much smaller -- because now it is just a political problem of convincing the public, rather than a practical problem of getting some folks to take time off work to vote.


And make it a public holiday

There's also the huge problem of vote suppression in the US, either via gerrymandering or by demanding IDs which most minorities don't have and are inconvinient for them to get.

FYI, "IDs which most minorities don't have" is incorrect and it looks sort of racist.

Here, the first third interviewing people at UC Berkeley with that idea and the remainder interviewing actual minorities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrBxZGWCdgs


The video you linked is strawmanning the problems with voter ID in the US.

Nobody is saying that (these are direct quotes from the video) "black people don't understand how to use the internet" and "black people don't know how to get to the DMV". The problem is that poor people (outside of a major city in the US) don't have all of the documents they need to get ID, so they need to pay several hundred dollars to get those documents and the ID they need. Several hundred dollars might seem like a small amount of money to you, but the majority of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency -- there are lots of poor people in your country.

Interviewing people in a major city is not really a good example of journalism -- what benefit is gained from asking people who haven't experienced these problems, when we know for a fact that they exist.

(In Australia we don't have voter ID requirements at all, and no study that I know of has shown significant amounts of electoral fraud here. So the entire idea of needing ID is quite foreign to me, and I think you should ask yourself what the threat model voter ID is trying to defend against.)


If you'd rather make this about poor people, OK.

Government benefits in the USA require ID. This is to keep somebody from getting the assistance that would be meant for more than one person.

It's kind of like voting for more than one person actually.

I guess you could claim that poor people don't get government assistance because of the ID requirements. Being unable to eat seems like a higher priority than being unable to vote.


I agree, we should restrict the franchise of voting to only the most informed and qualified. How about just white male land-owners?

I agree this is far from the primary thing Americans should be focusing on, even forgetting about all the horrific and completely impossible to fix security issues that this will bring.

What the US needs to be focusing on is changing the voting system. It's absolutely insane and undemocratic for this to keep happening almost every election:

https://preview.redd.it/lyvqks420vw11.jpg?width=949&auto=web...

If this isn't a broken system, I don't know what is. This is not the "voice of the people" being heard. Oh, and what do you think happens when people see how broken this system is? Do you think they'll still "go out and vote"? Many will be turned-off by it and stay home, whether we like it or not.

And if you're looking for an alternative solution, the multi-winner ranked-choice voting system (for Congress/state legislatures) looks pretty good to me, and it would eliminate gerrymandering, too (as a simple side effect of allowing candidates from multiple parties to win in the same district, thus removing district monopolization by a single party):

https://www.fairvote.org/fair_representation


The senate will never change. It was an agreed-upon compromise to entice independent states to join a federation. You’re better off hoping for the state where you live to declare independence and do without the federation completely than hoping the federation changes its entire structure.

> It's absolutely insane and undemocratic for this to keep happening almost every election:

> https://preview.redd.it/lyvqks420vw11.jpg?width=949&auto=web....

> If this isn't a broken system, I don't know what is. This is not the "voice of the people" being heard.

If that graphic were for the House rather than the Senate, it would be more persuasive. The Senate is (by design) not about representation directly in proportion to population.

It may be debatable whether the Senate model of equal representation for each state is appropriate, but that's a different issue than changing the FPTP voting system.


Beyond that, the data is unsourced, and given that it thinks there are 92 (rather than 100) Senators, is suspect.

Also, raw vote counts are meaningless because the most populous states are dual-Democrat states, excluding Texas.


One issue with ranked choice is that it's more complicated than some alternatives like approval voting, and certain ranked choice methods (non-Condorcet ones) can encourage strategic voting or produce surprising results.

> if this isn't a broken system, I don't know what is

You are either willfully ignoring the structure of the system or need to study it more. If a billion people vote for democrats in New York and California, it has zero impact on the election of the representative from Wyoming (or any other not CA or NY). Thinking that it should fundamentally misses the point of a federation.


> Getting ignorant people to cast poorly-informed votes does not help our society.

I think this describes pretty much everyone who votes today. It's nearly impossible to actually understand the issues and I'd wager it's literally impossible to understand the future effect of what you're voting on. The system is just too complex.

Have you ever read a news article about a topic you're actually familiar with? They are rife with inaccuracies. Most of us are not politicians but I'm sure the same can be said about political coverage.

In summation I think the government and society are too complex to reason about with a human brain and what little there is to know is heavily distorted through inaccurate reporting. I don't see smart phone voters being any less informed than the people that currently think they're informed.


> The Boston-based company raised $2.2 million earlier this year, helped along by buzzwords such as “biometrics” and “blockchain,” which it claims allows it to secure the voting process. Its app reportedly requires voters to take and upload a picture of their government-issued I.D., along with a selfie-style video of their face, which facial-recognition technology then uses to ensure the person pictured in the I.D. and the person entering a vote are the same. The ballots are anonymized and recorded on the blockchain.

This is horrible on so many levels.


...and it doesn't address one of the key issues with votes being cast in places other than a booth in a polling station where you are alone: Coercion.

What's to stop a family member (OK, not much of an issue for overseas military personnel, one would think) or another person from hovering just outside the camera's capture area with a blunt object, ready to -ahem- influence your vote?

Granted, this would only affect individual votes; there are bigger potential issues with electronically tallying votes, but I'll leave those be...


> What's to stop a family member...[from] influenc[ing] your vote?

This is also a problem with mail-in ballots. (It’s why I believe early votes should be allowed to be overwritten by in-person votes.)

The issue with smartphone voting with selfie verification is almost everyone’s phones contain selfies. (Americans overseas are also likely to have a photo ID on their camera roll.) So controlling the phone means controlling a vote. That’s a scalable risk.

Moreover, if the app is anonymising after verifying, it means the app developers have been deputised by the Board of Elections to verify voters and count their votes. (Whether you voted is public, in America. For whom you voted is not.) That’s a big deal!

The blockchain add-on is worthless if done right, dangerous or illegal if done wrong, and increases the cross-section across which the above issues get amplified.


>This is also a problem with mail-in ballots.

Just as a datapoint this doesn't exist everywhere. In France for instance it's not possible to vote without physically going to a polling place unless you're living in a foreign country and only for certain elections (not possible for the presidential elections for instance). It is however possible to give a "procuration" for somebody else to vote for you but you still need to go to the police before the vote to make the procuration so it wouldn't be a very convenient way to fraud since you'd have to coerce the person into giving you their vote in front of a police officer.

I agree that if your electoral system accepts mail-in ballots then other electronic ways to vote remotely don't seem that much worse overall since they would share pretty much the same potential for abuse. I guess paper ballots would make it a bit harder to automate fraud at least.


Just to point out that "early voting" can take several forms, since I believe in the US many states combine (erroneously) mail-in voting with early voting.

In Australia, early voting can be done at polling places for several weeks before the election (though there's less polling places open obviously). Mail voting is also provided, but I agree with you that it really is something that has questionable merit -- when you're overseas you can vote at the Australian embassy. The only real use-case it serves is people who live in the outback or are worried about personal safety (who are "silent electors" -- where your address is not posted on the public voter roll), and I think that mail voting should only be provided to those people.


> It’s why I believe early votes should be allowed to be overwritten by in-person votes.

It's an interesting idea, though how would you maintain the secret ballot? If you ask them to make a "negative vote" they can suddenly vote three times without any chance of being caught.


You could keep the ballot sealed but tied to the voter's ID. Once the polling center closes for every mailed-in ballot they check if they have an in-person vote. If so, they discard it, otherwise they add it in the urn before it's opened for counting.

This is actually how it works in Sweden. They check the voter list whether the person already voted during the day and discards the mail-in if so.

> Once the polling center closes for every mailed-in ballot they check if they have an in-person vote

Agree on keeping votes sealed until live polling closes. But there is no need to check every mailed-in ballot against in-person votes.

Instead, when a mailed-in ballot arrives one marks the voter rolls. When a voter checks into a polling place, the rolls are anyway consulted. At that time, if a live voter shows as having already voted: that ballot is found and destroyed, and the voter given a fresh ballot to cast.


If you could re-vote as many times as you’d like, then this would largely destroy coercion since the coercer would have to control you or your device during the rest of the voting period. That alone would significantly reduce this risk. For more complex scenarios, you could allow the user to enter his/her PIN backwards which would mean “silently ignore this vote.”

>and “blockchain,” which it claims allows it to secure the voting process...

(I'm rubbing my temples right now)

I don't even have the words for how bad this would be for a democracy or republic.

I will, however, make a curt but general comment on blockchain:

Anytime you see that buzzword, be on your guard.


Question: Are there (m)any people other than those involved in the manufacture and sales of voting machines, or their lobbyists, that support increased automation in the voting process?

I'm absolutely, 100% happy with putting a pencil mark onto a paper ballot, which I fold and place into a box (with people watching), which is later taken (with people watching) to a counting place, emptied out on a table (with people watching), and counted by hand by volunteers (with yet more people watching).


Pen and paper is the objectively superior technology for the job; it's the Minimum Viable Product that is auditable by the most number of people. You shouldn't need to be a crypto expert to be able to confirm that your vote was counted. Public trust should be an explicit design goal, and arguably the most important one.

I'm with you on that but I was surprised to find out during the last Brazilian election that they seem to do most of their voting on electronic machines and it seems well accepted over there. At least when I mentioned that to Brazilian colleagues they seemed fine with it.

This video (in Portuguese) shows a "tear down" endorsed by the manufacturer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wrMLzqgKEI

Both the tone of the video (unsurprisingly, given its "officially endorsed" nature) but also the comments seem overall pretty positive. Even though they mention that the software is closed source and you basically have to trust the manufacturer (and any third parties making hardware and software for the device along the way).


Politicians, political parties, and governments (from local to national).

For some reason the lure of instant results is so great that every year there is some place in the world where electronic voting is once again strongly pushed for, even though none of the arguments against it are suitably addressed.

Is it a mindset thing? A disdain for an analogue process that they deem outmoded? A lack of understanding of the inherent problems with automatization for this particular task? All I know is that it takes a lot of effort to keep elections free from voting machines.

This is a global phenomenon by the way.


For the average person, it probably seems weird that you can buy groceries online but you have to go to a place with a special machine to vote. Online voting seems like an obvious win, if you don't realize how fragile online security is.

Finally.

REASON!

Now this guy has the right idea.

Why are people trying to fix something that is not broken?


A good question which could also be asked of 30% of HN articles

Don't worry, I'm gonna solve the trust problem in blockchain technology by creating a blockchain that lets you know which of the blockchains are trustworthy. It will be fully secured by blockchain technology, so you know you can trust it.

Honestly, I don’t think voting by app is inherently a “horrifically bad idea” – just that Voatz’ implementation is horrifically bad.

Biometrics are going to be almost impossible to do in a non-invasive and secure way for now, so cut that part of the pitch. Blockchain may not be an entirely round peg in this square hole, but there are other cryptographic architectures that probably make more sense (I am not a cryptographer, but maybe go talk to a competent one before just deciding on blockchain).

Obviously, without the two big buzzwords of blockchain and biometrics, you’re suddenly at a big disadvantage for VC money, but if mobile voting is ever going to be feasible, it’s going to need a considered, end-to-end approach that isn’t some MVP built from off-the-shelf components and off-the-shelf ideas.


> I don’t think voting by app is inherently a “horrifically bad idea”

If a voter can cast their vote from their phone, anyone else can.

The strength of paper-based voting is in its cost and complexity: the number of confederates required to tamper with an election is prohibitively large. With app-based voting comes the risk of a large number of compromised phones tampering with elections.

The security downsides simply don't make sense next to mailed-in ballots, which capture the security (and accessibility) of paper ballots with the convenience of voting from home. The only upside of app-based voting is cost, which is a ridiculous factor to strongly optimize for when it comes to something as important as elections.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_ele...


> Honestly, I don’t think voting by app is inherently a “horrifically bad idea”

Yes, it is. There are many ways such a system can go wrong. If its not this defective implementation, it'll be some other company's defective implementation. If not that, it'll be a targeted attack against the underlying platform.

Another big thing you have to think about is... Who will be choosing the system? Its going to be some bureaucrats with a vested interest in supporting one particular vendor, who use their power to silence any critics of said vendor's solution. Whenever electronic voting comes up, we always end up with this situation.


What's better about traditional methods? Numbers are always off, recounts always get different results. It still seems like a black box.

So who's betting both the "anonymized" votes and the biometric software are both going to end up having time-stamped logs, which we'll only discover after a major election takes place?

I wonder how many pairs of ID pic and selfie video can directly be grabbed off Instagram.

Apparently there is an eerily relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/2030/

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