[EM] Election via Proxies

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Thu May 19 00:52:34 PDT 2005

On Wed, 18 May 2005 22:57:41 -0400 Abd ulRahman Lomax wrote:

> At 05:48 PM 5/18/2005, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>> Another post suggested use of proxies instead of electing.   I thank 
>> John B. Hodges  for waking me up on this, but offer my own approach.
>> Classifying kinds of elections:
>>      Presidential:  In their own world, and I say little - keep the 
>> Electoral College, partly because national popular vote can be 
>> poisoned too much by cheating in whatever states will tolerate that, 
>> and there is a deliberate bias in favor of small states that makes 
>> Constitutional Amendments that remove the bias impractical.  BUT, a 
>> Constitutional Amendment that requires Electoral College membership 
>> from each state to be distributed according to votes for each 
>> candidate in that state seems possible and useful.
> This would be a major step. I've seen arguments that trends in 
> constitutional law might yield the same result. In other words, 
> eventually it might not escape the notice of the court that the awarding 
> of all the votes of a state to the majority winner deprives the minority 
> of representation on the electoral college. It is unclear to me whether 
> or not the framers of the Constitution intended this. What they intended 
> was something like the electors serving as proxies for the states. The 
> idea of pledged electors they would probably have considered repugnant.

I have two targets here:
     Keep presidential elections separate from others.
     Propose a useful, doable change here.
>>      Single offices, such as governor, mayor, and US Senator:  Elect 
>> them, and I argue that Condorcet is good enough, and better than 
>> Plurality, IRV, AV, etc.
You mix topics below.  What I say here is:
     I DO promote Condorcet as preferable to AV, etc., but using some other 
election method for these offices would not disturb my discussion of bodies.
     You could wish to have less of this type of office, with individual 
offices having less authority than at present.  This, also, does not 
disturb what I am promoting as to bodies.
> What would Mr. Ketchum say about a claim that officials should be 
> acceptable to the greatest number of citizens? The argument for 
> plurality, IRV, and Condorcet involves an assumption that if a majority 
> of voters prefer one candidate, that candidate should win. Yet, if I'm 
> correct, this is what happened in Ruanda. Electing a major officer 
> without broad support, across most of the divisions in society, can have 
> very serious consequences, but even under more settled conditions, it 
> increases the gulf between the government and the people. Do we have a 
> government with the consent of the governed if the a substantial 
> minority of the governed did not consent, and perhaps even a majority of 
> those remaining only consented because they considered the majority 
> candidate the better of two evils? And what about all those who 
> abstained from voting because all available choices, with a shred of 
> hope of winning, were unacceptable to them? Put all these together, and 
> it becomes impossible to say that we have a true democracy. We have a 
> society which is democratic *in some respects.*

BTW - THERE IS NOTHING that can demand that a majority SHALL agree as to 
candidate (IRV pretends, but their majority is most of whatever subset of 
votes they are looking at at the moment, rather than all the votes).
> All electoral forms suffer from the disenfranchisement of the minority 
> problem. However, AV should suffer from it the least. In my view, a 
> proper electoral form would be something like, after open discussion 
> (which in a large society is going to require something like delegable 
> proxy), an AV vote is held. Then there is a referendum on the winner. If 
> the winner is not approved by a supermajority (I'll leave it to future 
> generations what that exact requirement is!), the winner holds the 
> office provisionally only. After a short term, another election is held. 
> It might be interesting to include a simple ranking in the AV vote, 
> i.e., there would be two boxes for each candidate: Preferred (check one 
> only) and Approved (check as many as desired). But the Preferred 
> information would only be used if there was a tie in the Approval vote.

If you are proposing something to use, consider whether it would survive 
electing a governor in NY or CA.
> However, this list is full of experts on election methods. My own 
> special interest is in the form of organizations, not so much in what 
> election method they choose. If the organizational form is fully and 
> efficiently democratic, they will very likely choose a fairly advanced 
> election method. If they hold elections at all.
> I have argued that holding elections for representatives is worse than a 
> fish bicycle, because it leaves the opposers of an elected candidate 
> without representation. As Mr. Ketchum would agree, I'm sure, elections 
> for officers makes more sense, but it is still not clear to me that 
> elections are necessary even there. I just suggested what is, in fact, 
> an election method that does not involve an election:
> AV followed by the actual vote, which is on an ordinary motion to elect 
> a nominated officer. AV is essentially an approval poll, and measures 
> exactly what it purports to measure: approval. So one can tell from an 
> AV vote what alternative is most widely acceptable. (There is a bit of a 
> difference between approval and acceptance, so I'd expect that the 
> motion to elect would attract wider support than the candidate received 
> in the approval poll.)
>>      Bodies that attract thoughts of PR, such as US House delegations 
>> from a state, legislatures, etc.  Let those in control of each, when 
>> they choose to, substitute the proxy-based system described below (I 
>> will talk of "body" as a general label):
> Let me point out that those in control of these bodies will never, until 
> and unless faced with a stronger force, change to proxy. Fortunately, it 
> is indeed quite possible, if society is ready, to bypass the existing 
> structures. A delegable proxy organization can form that advises the 
> voters. (Advisor is the term used for the proxy in at least one European 
> implementation of delegable proxy.) The only thing preventing this, 
> right here in River City, and almost immediately, is widespread cynicism 
> and apathy. But even a relatively small Free Association/Delegable Proxy 
> organization could wield power beyond its size, in the absence of 
> similar competition.

My claim is that my proxies should not be harder to sell than a variation 
of PR.

Some places can introduce change via voter-backed initiatives.

Not clear how your FA/DP organizations get muscle to be effective otherwise.
> And the really cool thing about FA/DP is that it is fluid, it merges and 
> divides without disruption. So if two FA/DP organizations cover the same 
> territory, the same issues, there is absolutely no reason not to merge. 
> This is because the organization itself readily lends itself to caucus 
> formation, and caucuses can act independently, so there is not harm in 
> people with thoroughly divergent views belonging to the same FA/DP 
> organization. FA is really an important part of the concept. DP without 
> FA would be useful in some contexts, but combine them and it would truly 
> be a revolution. But about the calmest, sanest revolution the world has 
> ever seen.
>> Body details:
>>      Each voter, eligible to elect a member of the body, finds another 
>> such voter who is at least somewhat in agreement as to goals, and is 
>> willing to act as proxy, and registers this agreement as part of their 
>> voter registration (just as a voter votes separately for city council 
>> and US House member, they are members of separate trees of proxies and 
>> register for each - nothing wrong with a voter being a proxy in more 
>> than one such tree and registered accordingly - the trees are 
>> independent).
> This is the proxy part of DP. I see a society, in fact, where people 
> belong to hundreds of organizations. The proxy concept makes this 
> possible, because most of the organizations might command only a very 
> minimum of attention from the individual. It is set and forget. But the 
> individual never loses, because of inactivity, the *right* of participation.
> The core of a proxy system is the list of proxy assignments.
>>           Part of the agreement between voter and proxy relates to 
>> communication:
>>           Some voters only want to find a proxy with desired goals and 
>> abilities - and ask no more.
>>           Some voters want to also have debate and communication 
>> within the group - and need to find a proxy willing and able to cooperate.
>>      Proxies, in turn, register in the same way with other proxies.
>>      Each proxy has as many votes as they represent, directly or 
>> indirectly; a voter with no proxy would have one vote.
> It seems that DP is described here. What DP does is to include the 
> assignment of further proxy in the act of assigning a proxy. If I can't 
> attend the annual meeting of the corporation, I may give my proxy to 
> Jim. Jim might intend to go, but at the last minute finds he can't make 
> it, so he gives his proxies to Paul. Paul exercises all of them. Except 
> if at the last minute I *can* go, and do, I may vote directly. Or I 
> might just watch.

I am not doing corporations.  My proxies are part of voter registration, 
just as party membership can be.  For example, in a proxy tree whose tip 
is a member of a state legislature, all must know how many votes that 
tip owns - although the count can increase and decrease as voters and 
proxies enter and leave the tree.
> In a true FA, there are no restrictions on the proxy relationship. I've 
> considered, a lot, whether or not there should be a limit to the number 
> of primary proxies collected by any individual. But there is a practical 
> limit, due to the fact that, ideally, giver of proxy and recipient must 
> be mutually available for communication. However, the amount of that 
> communication will vary greatly with the nature of the organization, and 
> with the character of the individual member and the proxy.
>>      Body membership has as a goal about the size it would have if 
>> elected.
> I have an equivalent concept that is less restrictive, I think. All 
> members belong to all bodies (i.e., to a town council, to a regional 
> legislature, to a national legislature). However, because the various 
> bodies incorporate increasing populations, the noise level becomes 
> overwhelming. This starts to happen in Town Meeting Towns with even a 
> few hundred voters; fortunately, most voters don't ordinarily attend 
> Town Meeting. So a body could decide on an ideal meeting size. It could 
> do this when the problem arises. It would then restrict *active* 
> participation in the meeting to those persons holding a certain minimum 
> number of proxies. A proxy tree can be printed out for manual use. 
> Basically, one starts with an assumption that there is a single member 
> to be chosen. Who would that single member be? It would be the member in 
> attendance with the most proxies held, regardless of who else is in 
> attendance. So this person has full meeting rights at that meeting. Then 
> it would be the next most trusted person, and the next, and so on. If 
> there is a tie at any level, all persons with that level of trust are 
> admitted. So the final number could vary a little. But not a lot. All 
> other members in attendance are still able to vote, and to vote the 
> proxies they hold, if any, but they may not, by right, enter a motion or 
> speak to the meeting, unless the meeting permits. Note that "permits" is 
> a vote, and all members present may vote on it.

If an elected legislature had 100 members, a proxy replacement should start 
with about as many.  Experience would educate as to whether the count 
should increase or decrease.

While bottom proxy twigs might serve multiple bodies, upper levels almost 
certainly keep busy enough serving a single tree, such as a state senator.

ONLY those proxies that are part of a body's membership act as body 
members.  Others interact much as they would if the body was elected.
> So if a non-privileged member desires to enter a motion, he or she 
> presents it to one of the privileged members, preferably one in their 
> proxy tree, who then either enters the motion or requests permission for 
> the non-privileged member to address the assembly.
> (Not all members would be represented unless there is a mechanism to 
> break proxy loops that are small enough to cause this lack of 
> representation. It only takes one member of the loop changing his or her 
> proxy to someone outside the loop to, at least, enlarge it. My suspicion 
> is that most people will end up with representation near the top.)

Not clear:
     Certainly a proxy can desert its tree.
     Whatever tree lost members is weaker and, perhaps loses membership in 
the body.
     Whatever tree, or new tree, gained members has more votes and, 
perhaps, has enough to become a member of the body.
>>      Those proxies with the most votes.  To avoid proxies so strong as 
>> to have too much power, have a limit on weighted vote per member (WANT 
>> those who represent more voters to be stronger, BUT do not want any 
>> one proxy to be too strong).
>>      Voting in the body is by weighted vote.  If there are too many 
>> proxies, those beyond the membership limit have no vote in the body - 
>> it is up to them to combine or find someone to be proxy to a bunch of 
>> such.
Remember that the bodies here are such as state senates, needing 
multiple members to do what their elected equivalents would have done.

Offices, such as governors, are not the current topic.

I admit to not seeing need for such as FAs.
> I thought about limits. I think limits on delegated proxies are 
> artificial and unnecessary. If the group really comes together to the 
> point that there is a superproxy (one person at the top of a proxy tree, 
> why not? What better way to elect a consensus president? By the way, 
> there can be more than one such person, because the top proxy may have 
> delegated proxy to a "lower" person; so there is an automatic 
> vice-president to act in the absence of the president....
> But most organizations won't have a single such person, I expect. 
> Rather, there will be a small number of people who hold the vast 
> majority of proxies. But since it is a FA, there is no danger at all. If 
> it is not an FA, limits might indeed be necessary. This is why the FA, 
> Free Association, concept is so important.
> FAs are not power concentration structures. Rather, the power in an FA 
> remains at the root, with the individual members. FA/DP organizations 
> are communication and consensus development structures. Which might well 
> be used to manage non-FA organizations by organizing the members, 
> management, employees, clients, customers, and all that, bringing all 
> elements to the table.
>> Where we got to:  Somewhat like PR, we have groups of voters within 
>> the whole district assembled by interest, and with voting power to fit.
>>      Beats PR, for all those in the district sharing an interest can 
>> be represented by a single proxy - or by multiple proxies backing that 
>> interest if it is very popular.
> Yup. Proportional representation on steroids. *Exact* proportional 
> representation. Without parties. Parties may exist (a caucus within an 
> FA/DP organization, with a single superproxy or a few lesser proxies 
> cooperating, could be a party if it served the interests of the group. 
> This aspect of FA/DP is what makes it easy for FA/DP organizations to 
> fracture; the organizational structure for the schismatic group is 
> already in place. But other characterstics make it unnecessary to fracture.
>>      Voters can move from proxy to proxy as they see goals match and 
>> mismatch.  Can happen at anytime, but need enough sand in the gears 
>> (rules) to keep some stability.
> I'd rather not have sand in my gears, thank you. I should be able to 
> change my proxy at any time. However, most people won't do that, absent 
> some kind of emergency, such as a major proxy going insane. An in an 
> emergency, "stability" can be fatal. FA/DP organizations could be very 
> fast-response.

My prediction is that a little experience with lightning change will 
inspire you to dig up some sand.  Does not mean that quick recovery from 
true emergencies should not be supported.
> Had there been an FA/DP organization of FBI agents, we would not all 
> know what 9-11 refers to, we'd think it was a universal number to call 
> in emergencies. I think that, within a day of that FBI agent noticing 
> the student at the flight school, from a country from which many 
> terrorists have come, who was strangely interested in learning to fly a 
> large plane but not in learning how to take off and land, the 
> information would have reached the top, bypassing the official FBI 
> management structure, the literal bureaucracy, and that report would 
> have not have been buried in a file cabinet awaiting a review that might 
> not ever have come. The agent need only contact her direct proxy, 
> someone she chose as being congenial and trustworthy. She need only 
> convince that one person that there is an urgency to this. And then that 
> person proceeds similarly up the tree. Particularly if the 
> organizational structure has been tweaked to avoid long proxy chains 
> (easy to do, and it would be done voluntarily), it is only a few levels 
> to the top, how many depends on the average number of direct proxies 
> held by individual proxy-holders. Twenty should be quite manageable.

Interesting thought:
     Certainly the FBI should have understood communication.
     The proxies I propose are not in that business.
>>      Can have proxies representing extreme positions.  They group 
>> together in bands of enough voters to back their positions, or 
>> cooperate to the extent that is effective.
> Yes. Nearly everyone can be at the table. This is why FA/DP 
> organizations could be effective in finding the widest possible 
> consensus on issues and decisions.
> (Note that in a Free Association, there can be a membership definition. 
> That association is free does not imply that it is obligatory. This is 
> another reason why FAs may not be appropriate for governmental bodies, 
> but only for watchdogs and communicators *about* governmental bodies.)
>> -------------------------------------------
>> I wrote the following in 1998.  What is above adds some flesh.
>> Something is needed to strengthen "by the people". An alternative method
>> of representation is offered for thought:
>>      * Everyone retains present right to be a voter, but may assign that
>> right to a proxy who, by soliciting the job of representing voters with
>> one set of interests, accepts responsibility for using the voters' rights
>> to further those interests and for keeping the voters informed.
> I think that soliciting proxies will come to be seen as the very bad 
> form and very bad idea that it is. The solicitation of proxies is 
> exactly what is wrong with standard share corporation proxy practices.

The tip proxy in a proxy tree will speak up for, and vote for, all the 
voters in the tree.  This only works if voters who think alike manage to 
share a tree.
> However, aspects of my own proxy concept are here. The relationship of 
> the proxy and the represented member is free and not constrained by more 
> than the simplest rules, as well as ordinary law about such things as 
> coercion, extortion, etc. However, people will come to expect this 
> minimum service from proxies:
> The proxy is available for communication from the represented member. 
> The proxy will hear the concerns of the member and will transmit them to 
> the next level *if* the proxy considers them worthwhile. The proxy will 
> inform the member if the proxy deems the idea not worthy of carrying up 
> the structure, and will explain why. It is a *free* association. The 
> member does not control the proxy, just as the proxy does not control 
> the member. The member may revoke the proxy at any time, or may 
> effectively revoke it with respect to a single issue merely by 
> personally voting on that issue.

In general I do not see how to fit in "personally voting", though a proxy 
might poll members on particular issues.
> The proxy will also inform the member of any issues that the proxy 
> understands as being of particular interest to the member, but this 
> might be limited by the capacity of the proxy to keep all this straight. 
> At a minimum, however, the proxy will contact the member if there is any 
> action that the organization, or the proxy, is recommending to the 
> member. The proxy will also be available to explain any organizational 
> recommendations to the member. Thus the job of proxy could be a 
> considerable one, in an organization with substantial business.

Could be:
     Proxy A has few members, to be able to provide the services you 
     Proxy B has and follows a platform, ready to serve many voters who 
ask no more than they would ask of an elected senator.
> Proxies *could* charge a fee. Most relatively low-level proxies, I'd 
> think, would not, but they might collect a small fee to cover the costs 
> of retaining a high-level proxy.... (Someone who represents millions of 
> people on an issue of importance really should be paid! And the money 
> should come from the represented, or at least from those of them who are 
> willing to make the contribution.

A fee structure is essential.  I see most or all of the expense being 
paid for as part of running government.
>>  The voter
>> may recall such assignment at any time.
> Yes.
>>  There is no limit on the number of
>> voters directly served by a single proxy, but it is in each voter's
>> interest to choose a proxy personally known to be responsible, with an
>> appropriate platform, and willing and able to keep the voter informed.
> Exactly.
>> However, since the proxies discussed above would be too numerous to meet
>> effectively for tasks such as electing or recalling a senator, proxies may
>> follow the above rules in assigning their voters' rights to other proxies.
> Bingo! This makes the organization scalable, while leaving the 
> individual communication links manageable. And without elections.
>> Candidates must start at the bottom and get recommended to the next level
>> by at least one proxy at each level - this is a simple formality for
>> well-known politicians, but is needed as a mechanism for controlling
>> introduction of newcomers.
>>      * Reasonable stability is needed. Recall should always be possible,
>> but require a super majority such as 2/3 or 3/4 (easier to achieve via
>> proxies than via individual voters). The recalled political office or
>> voter rights should automatically be voted against any activity for a
>> fixed period of time (the idea is for recall to always be possible, but to
>> be done only to recover from serious problems).
> This, now, is mixed with the election of officials. An independent DP 
> organization will determine all these things for itself.

I propose these bodies as equivalent to elected bodies.  As such the 
formalities need documenting as law.
> As to the ease of recall, the shareholders of a corporation, through an 
> elected board, hire executive officers to serve at will. They can be 
> fired at any time. It might be possible to eliminate the middleman, the 
> board, because a few high-level proxies could serve as a board. (They 
> might be formally elected to satisfy existing legal requirements.)
> We still think of elected presiding officers as kings, hence terms 
> during which deposing them is difficult. It's a very old habit.

This requires thinking beyond what I offer.  Note that a legislature 
could elect a governor - but that we CHOOSE to have the voters elect a 
governor - and to elect for a fixed term.
> In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the traditions reads "Our leaders are 
> but trusted servants, they do not govern." Elected officers should 
> basically be employees of the people, serving at the will of the people. 
> Of course the people won't arbitrarily and capriciously remove an 
> experienced officer, who is doing a decent job! But if there is an 
> urgent need, why wait?

We have to consider (arbitrarily and capriciously) imagined needs and 
try to control trouble.
> (I think FA/DP organizations will demonstrate serious stability, 
> gravitas, if you will. They will be selecting people for trust, and I 
> think people are better at this, when not constrained, than at making 
> many other kinds of decisions. Instinct is involved.)
> A simple FA/DP setup requires only a list of proxies and a means for 
> members to assign and change them. I also consider it important that 
> proxies be *accepted* to be valid. Accepting a proxy is accepting a 
> burden. It should be voluntary.

I propose that voter registration attend to honoring voter proxy 
assignment, including counting how many voters belong to each proxy.
> (If someone has as many proxies as the person feels can be managed, then 
> the person would presumably recommend to the member a different person, 
> perhaps one of the person's represented members. Or, alternatively, a 
> proxy might assign the communication duties to a subordinate. But this 
> would have to be explicitly accepted by the member, so it amounts to the 
> same thing. It is essential that the member believe that he or she is 
> connected, that the organization is responsive, and the proxy is the key 
> to this.)
> Remember, it does not take any change of laws to make FA/DP democracy 
> work. It is not necessary to convince a majority of voters to do it. 
> Even a small minority could accomplish a great deal. But one or two 
> persons chatting away, late into the night, on an email list, is not 
> going to accomplish much of anything. Unless one of these sparks reaches 
> some tinder.

Seems there are two proposals:
     Abd has FA/DPs with such powers as require no backing by laws.
     I use proxies and see need for laws to balance power vs control.
> http://www.beyondpolitics.org
> http://www.beyondpolitics.org/wiki

  davek at clarityconnect.com    people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
  Dave Ketchum   108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708   607-687-5026
            Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
                  If you want peace, work for justice.

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