[EM] proxies and confidentiality (six variations)
jarmyta at antioch-college.edu
Thu Mar 30 04:34:59 PST 2006
Dear election methods fans,
I'd like to make a belated reply to the discussion about proxies and
The issue was raised that voters could not only be *pressured not to
vote* for a representative, but that they could also be *pressured to
vote* for a representative. I think that my proposal deals a bit more
easily with the former time of pressure than the latter.
Overall, I'll say that delegable proxy, or indeed anything approaching
direct democracy, is not a very natural fit with very strong
confidentiality. Perhaps accommodations can be made to provide this, but
the system probably works best in a society where this kind of
intimidation is not a major problem.
Also note that there is sometime a tradeoff between confidentiality and
the transparency, or integrity, of the process. When information about who
voted for whom is not available, it becomes harder to verify that the
final count is correct.
I'll explore the issue of confidentiality via variations on the basic
proxy representation scheme. Each successive variation presupposes a
greater worry about coercion than the last.
To avoid repetition, I'll note that the proposal I made last month can be
found at these links
Variation 1: If you do not choose the secret ballot option (mentioned in
the proposal linked to above), then your choice of proxy is recorded on a
public list, which you or anyone else can view at will.
* In some political climates, voters could be pressured to publicly
declare a particular representative as their proxy, i.e. not use the
secret ballot or vote for another representative.
* Voters could be pressured against publicly voting for other candidates,
i.e. pressured into using the secret ballot option, and thus losing their
direct vote capability.
* Very transparent, almost no problems with integrity.
Comments: This should work best in a society where there is not much
worry about coercion.
Variation 2: Base level voters can choose between secret ballot (no
direct vote option), having their vote listed publicly, or having their
vote known by the election authority but not listed publicly. Proxies must
have their votes listed publicly.
* Doesn't really solve the problem of people being pressured to vote for a
Comments: This is a mix of variations 1 and 3.
Variation 3: As long as you do not declare yourself as a proxy, the
identity of your proxy is known to the election authority, but it is not
publicly available. You can request a paper receipt for your proxy
delegation, should you be unsure that your vote is being recorded
* Although the information about base level is not officially public, it
is known, and thus can potentially be leaked.
* It is still possible for someone to put pressure on you to declare
yourself as a proxy, and thus make your delegation a matter of public
Comments: Perhaps this is what Abd had in mind? Seems like a reasonable
compromise if there is some worry about coercion, but not an intense
amount of worry.
Variation 4: There is no public list of who has delegated to whom, only a
record of how the final votes were cast (i.e. the votes of the top-level
representatives). I can obtain a receipt detailing the paths that my own
votes have taken (chain of delegation, and final casting), but I cannot
obtain similar information about other midlevel proxies.
* Again, the information can be leaked.
* Somewhat less accountability than in the variations in which proxies'
votes are publicly known.
Comments: Voters have to be fairly worried about coercion to adopt this
instead of variation 3. Doing so presupposes that midlevel proxies might
be a target of intimidation.
Variation 5: Non-proxy voters vote by strictly secret ballot, thus
ensuring anonymity, but also losing their ability to cast direct votes.
(If it isn't known who your proxy is, then your vote can't be subtracted
from his usual total if you vote directly, and thus direct voting can't
* Direct voting can't work
* It is still possible to pressure someone into declaring themselves as a
proxy and voting for the favored candidate.
Comments: I can't really recommend this, as the direct vote option is one
of the major benefits of the system.
Variation 6: Give up on delegable proxy altogether and just use STV with
the entire nation as one district.
Comments: This, the actual legislators are the only people whose votes
are formally recorded; hopefully at least the members of the legislature
can be protected from coercion! If not, then I guess the next step is just
to give up on democracy altogether, which resolves the problem by
realizing its worst consequence.
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