[EM] Alternative electoral systems as tools to promote socialnetworks and activism

Bryan Ford baford at mit.edu
Wed Nov 24 08:58:49 PST 2004

On Wednesday 24 November 2004 11:04, Stephane Rouillon wrote:
> This idea is not crazy.
> It is simply the goal some of us want to achieve.
> I keep saying an election should be a representation exercise, not a
> battle... So we should 
> obtain representatives, not winners or losers.

Exactly!!!  Thanks for your words of support.  Now if I could just find a few 
people right here in Boston who'd be willing to work together to try starting 
a local prototype of some kind...

I have in mind trying to start sort of a local "social fair", which would 
happen say once a year, in which we try to get activists of all kinds to come 
in person, promote their various platforms and causes publicly, debate their 
political opponents, and get their friends and other ordinary "non-activist" 
folks to come along and vote for and support them in an indrep election held 
at the fair.  The election results (i.e., number of votes a particular 
activist was able to turn out for himself) would serve not just as a symbol 
of public support for the activist, but would also determine the activist's 
voting power in decisions regarding the future evolution of the social fair, 
might perhaps determine the amount of table space the activist gets to 
reserve for his or his group's booth next year, etc.  The primary 
"entertainment" might be getting to watch the pro-choicers and the pro-lifers 
duke it out in public (and similarly with other opposing groups); but the 
"meat" of the fair would of course be the election.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for ways I could strengthen or "hone the 
message" to be understandable to and to appeal directly to ordinary people 
and especially "ordinary activists" (those who aren't election-methods 
geeks :))?  I've already started trying to talk with a few local activists 
here who I think would be interested if I could successfully get the idea 
across in a crystal-clear and intuitively compelling fashion, but that of 
course is the big challenge...


> Stephane Rouillon
> Bryan Ford a écrit :
> > OK, here's a crazy idea.  A lot of people already compete as candidates
> > in elections they know they can't win, as a way to "organize" and "build
> > awareness for a cause" etc...  I won't comment on whether this is
> > actually effective or not, but what if we were to _design_ an alternative
> > "electoral system" not for the purpose of electing candidates to offices
> > or seats at all, but instead exclusively around the purpose of catalyzing
> > grassroots organization and social networks in ways that current
> > electoral systems don't?   (In fact I think standard electoral systems
> > actively discourage tend to discourage grassroots organization because
> > big-money mass-media propagana campaigns tend to be more effective.)
> >
> > I've written up my idea in more detail and put it at www.indrep.org -
> > here are the first two paragraphs summarizing the concept:
> >
> > ---
> > Individual Representation:
> > Real Choice for Voters, Democratic Currency for Activists
> >
> > The traditional purpose of popular elections is primarily to elect
> > candidates to government offices or legislative seats, but this is not
> > the only way we could use elections to facilitate democracy. Individual
> > Representation, or indrep, provides a new and different reason to hold
> > popular elections: as a tool for directly promoting the growth of
> > grassroots social and political relationships throughout the basic fabric
> > of society. An indrep election enables ordinary people, who often have
> > insufficient time, interest, or knowledge to be politically or socially
> > active themselves, to vote for periodically and thereby reward other
> > politically or socially active people they know personally and would like
> > to support. An activist participating as a "candidate" or delegate in an
> > indrep election does not "win" or "lose" any office, but instead receives
> > quantifiable democratic "credentials" from the election: a certified
> > count of the number of voters the activist was able to mobilize behind
> > his cause or platform in that election. A participating activist may also
> > receive a small monetary reward proportional to the number of voters he
> > was able to mobilize.
> >
> > The "credentials" an activist receives from an indrep election serves as
> > a democratically legitimate measure of the size of his public support
> > base, bolstering his status among peers and giving him the ability to
> > prove public backing for his platform when arguing in public forums. In
> > effect, democratic credentials can help activists who truly represent the
> > will of a community to distinguish themselves from the common "vocal
> > nut." Ordinary voters who do not have the time or inclination to be
> > activists, in turn, gain the ability to support their activist friends in
> > a way that requires very little personal time and no money. Indrep
> > elections give activists a greater incentive to court and develop direct
> > personal relationships with the ordinary, non-political people in their
> > communities and social circles, and to keep potential voters in all
> > elections personally informed and educated about important developments
> > that the voters themselves may not have the time or inclination to
> > follow. Voters in turn receive a truly unrestricted, individual choice of
> > activists who can represent their views or interests in public debates,
> > and thus can make their true preferences known in a fashion impossible
> > with conventional electoral competitions between just two or three viable
> > candidates. As an added benefit of participation, voters are also far
> > more likely to receive individual attention from the activists they
> > support than they would from traditional "mass market" career
> > politicians. Hence individual representation.
> >
> > ---
> >
> > With respect to the ideas already discussed at length on this list,
> > you'll immediately notice that from a _technical_ viewpoint there is
> > nothing new here; it is in fact basically a simplification of ideas that
> > can already be found in "interactive representation", "liquid democracy",
> > JGA's proxy system, my "delegative democracy", etc.  The key difference
> > is that it's a different application of these ideas toward a pragmatic,
> > social purpose that could be implemented immediately, independent of any
> > governmental support. Further, it could in the longer term serve as a
> > basis for experimenting with, exposing "ordinary people" to, and putting
> > into practice "conventional" alternative electoral systems designed to
> > elect candidates to offices.
> >
> > Since this idea is more pragmatic and social than technical, I'm not sure
> > it will be of that much interest to the highly technically-minded people
> > who tend to inhabit the list, but I thought I'd at least throw it out to
> > you and see what happens. :)  Also, the idea seems obvious enough that it
> > must have been tried before a few times - does anyone know of any
> > relevant pointers?
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Bryan
> > ----
> > Election-methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list
> > info

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