[EM] A quick, dirty, and somewhat obvious method for a secret proxy ballot

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Nov 16 20:44:09 PST 2005

At 07:20 PM 11/16/2005, Paul Kislanko wrote:

> > If you have a preference, why are you delegating to a proxy?
>Why have proxies? I guess you're saying it's a dumb idea.

No, I think he was saying that if you prefer a particular vote (which 
is what you implied), then why don't you just cast that vote yourself?

I.e., *participate* and vote yourself.

I've encountered some people who think that proxy voting is absentee 
voting. Someone comes to a meeting which discusses a subject and then 
holds a vote, and a friend of someone who is absent says, "John 
couldn't come today, but he votes against the proposal." And, quite 
rightly, everyone gets upset because John wasn't there to hear the 
arguments, there was no opportunity for others to change John's mind 
through cogent arguments, but John's vote gets counted anyway. I 
almost joined a cohousing community which prohibited proxy voting, 
but when I asked, what they had really prohibited was absentee 
voting, instructed voting.

The whole point of proxy voting is that the proxy is *not* 
instructed. Certainly the giver of a proxy may discuss issues with 
the proxy in advance, but the proxy must remain free to make 
decisions on the spot. The remedy of the voter is to review the 
proxy's votes and to vote directly if the proxy disagrees. (I'd have 
such a process in place in public organizations, this is one of the 
kinds of things that are possible when voting is not secret.)

Technically, if a motion passes and my vote was effectively cast for 
it following the proxy's vote, I voted for the motion, and under 
Robert's Rules, this would give me the right to move for reconsideration....

>If the idea of delegable proxy is to have folks with no preferences allow a
>proxy to vote their ballots, then only folks with no preferences must choose
>from available proxies.

No, not at all. I do think that proxy has been misunderstood. 
(Delegable proxy is just an extension of the proxy function.) The 
idea of the proxy is for the proxy to vote for you when you cannot or 
do not. The reason you do not vote might be one of many. If you have 
a preference, though, in a direct democracy, you might simply vote 
yourself, assuming that the preference is strong enough to get you to 
the meeting or to the polls or on-line to review the debate and to vote.

>  Now, that would be equivelant to their votes being
>replaced by random ballots, since if they have no preferences, their choice
>of a proxy can be random.

Garbage in, garbage out.

>One of us doesn't understand delegable proxy.

I don't think you did. Delegable proxy is just proxy voting plus 
automatic delegability. The delegability has not been much involved 
with this immediate exchange, it might as well have been simple proxy voting.

First of all, much of this discussion has been abstract. If there 
were an example being discussed, it would not be so confusing. Are we 
talking about delegable proxy as an election method (which it can 
be), or are we talking about it as a method of forming a deliberative 
body which addresses issues and votes on them?

>I doubt any voter asked to change from plurality to delegable proxy would do
>so based upon the arguments made by "experts" on the subject.

And this seals it that you are confused. Delegable Proxy and 
Plurality are not opposites. Delegable Proxy is a method by which 
voters can be represented in, among other things, a voting process. 
Plurality is a method of determining a single winner by compiling votes.

As to "experts" on delegable proxy, first of all, what has been 
written here would apply to proxy voting without delegability just as 
much as with delegability. Delegability merely adds scalability. 
Proxy voting is ancient and well-understood, or should be. (It is 
actually a common-law right except where expressly prohibited, 
whenever property rights are involved, which is why I was not so 
popular with that cohousing community when I pointed out that they 
might not be able to *prevent* proxy voting should someone choose to 
force the point.)

Delegable proxy, however, was only invented quite recently. I've been 
thinking about it for over twenty years, but I only started writing 
it down in the last five years or so, at the most, and started 
seriously promoting it in 2002. Others independently invented it at 
around the same time. There are currently no functioning 
applications, and only a tiny bit of experience (with Demox in 
Sweden). There are no experts, just a few people interested in it.

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