[EM] Re: the simplest election reform

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Jun 17 08:51:40 PDT 2005

At 11:27 PM 6/16/2005, Russ Paielli wrote:
>Forcing the parties to pay for their own primaries is perfectly 
>reasonable, but I think it would have the opposite effect of what you 
>claim (under plurality at least). The big two could afford it, but the 
>smaller parties might not be able to afford their own primaries. Under the 
>current public financing of primaries, they essentially "piggy-back" on 
>the big two. What if the Libertarians and Greens couldn't afford their own 
>primaries? That would further entrench the two-party duopoly, wouldn't it?

This assumes that a maximally-effective candidate-choosing process requires 
expensive primaries. My contention continues to be that elections are 
actually a poor method of developing consensus, and simply choosing a 
majority-supported candidate within a party (not to mention one who is 
merely plurality-supported) is not going to maximize party power. What will 
maximize party power is broad consensus within the party. Elections *can* 
discover such a consensus, but quite often they damage it.

I'm proposing delegable proxy (DP) process, not for public elections 
(though a method has been proposed), but for the development of consensus 
in NGOs, voluntary organizations which depend on consensus for the 
application of true power. Political parties in democracies actually match 
this characteristic. If a DP process can find a consensus candidate *and* 
if it decides that the party goals will best be attained by actually 
running that candidate, then the party will maximally be behind that 
candidate. But such a process may also decide that party goals are best met 
by *not* running a candidate but by supporting a candidate with a 
reasonable chance of success. And representatives of the party might well 
negotiate with candidates in order to decide whom to support. Mr. Gore, you 
want our 2%, here is what we want in exchange. Don't want to give us what 
we need, what are you offering? And if what you are offering is not enough 
for us, we can simply run our own candidate,or support another. But 
understand that we *do* speak for our members, we are not merely 
self-selected leaders representing some faction of unknown size, and the 
process by which we are chosen makes it highly likely that our members will 
follow our leadership. Don't believe us? Watch!

What is really interesting is that the Gore campaign was presented with 
just such a choice in 2000, and they refused to meet with the faction's 
leaders. I.e., American Muslims, at least a few percent of the electorate, 
quite enough to swing Florida even with a small nudge. Bush met with them, 
and promised them some level of support. And they recommended Bush. I'm not 
sure they are happy with the results.... But then again, neither, 
presumably, was Mr. Gore. (American Muslims did not have, and do not have, 
the kind of coherent leadership that would be required for maximum effect; 
but the organizations that approached Gore were the top Muslim political 
action organizations, the best that exist so far.)

But there is the kicker: DP process should be thoroughly cheap, and fully 
supported through the simple participation of members. The process can be 
entirely internet; for security, a secret ballot stage can be incorporated 
that validates the results. I'd probably suggest mail-in. If a voter is not 
willing to spend 37 cents for a stamp, I question the commitment of the 
voter to the cause of the party. It takes much more commitment than that to 
show up at the polls.

Note that for the purpose of the development of consensus in an FA/DP 
organization, voter fraud (i.e, the registration of non-existent voters) is 
actually useless to the one who would defraud, because FA/DP organizations 
naturally organize into factions with chosen leaders (the proxies), and if 
a faction appears wtih the purpose of diverting the party from its true 
consensus position, the faction of the true consensus simply ignores the 
hijackers and acts independently, representing a defined number of members. 
To function, hijacking a party has to succeed in *convincing* the party of 
the propriety of its goals. Which is no longer hijacking, it is 
participation in a deliberative process. Welcome! Come right in! Have some 
tea.... Let's talk!

(For external purposes, though, validation of the true number of voters 
participating in a consensus could be important, as a talking point in 
negotiations. But having a history of implementing a consensus in actual 
vote counts would also serve for this. Credible is as credible does.)

>[...] under most election methods, having multiple candidates from the 
>same party would hurt the party's chances. No sane party would allow such 
>a situation.

Any voting method which allows overvoting, as I keep flogging, would be far 
less likely to do this. I'd have to give a statistical argument, though, 
and I don't have time for that today. In summary, a party which forces 
itself to settle on an internal compromise candidate can result in loss of 
voters in the resulting election to opposing parties, or simply through 
dissatisfied members staying home. This becomes more true as voters become 
aware of the advantages of overvoting. I.e., of Approval.

>A statement against her "1960's membership in a black-excluding sorority"? 
>Amazing. I wonder how many people realize that Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) 
>was an active member of the KKK in his *forties*? (some "youthful 
>indiscretion," eh)

It just goes to show.

>>Presidential campaigns are a different beast, anyway.  Any voting
>>change is going to have to start locally, with city, county and
>>statewide offices.
>Yes, especially considering the Electoral College.

This is, I believe, a consensus position. Indeed, I'm proposing that it 
start even before that. I'm recommending that it start with the internal 
processes of political parties and political action NGOs. But I'm not 
suggesting that any particular strategy be exclusive of the others. 
Approval, i.e., the allowance of overvotes, is, I believe, a state issue, 
since the rejection of overvotes is enshrined, it appears, in state law. 
But NGOs have no such restrictions, they can largely do what they please 
(except that there can be regulation of political parties.)

But most political action organizations are not democratic at all. They are 
oligarchies. And, I submit, this severely limits their power.

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