[EM] proxies and confidentiality

Raphael Ryan RaphFrk at netscape.net
Thu Mar 9 02:30:00 PST 2006

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>>Just to be sure, let me state more precisely what I think is a necessary
>>degree of secrecy: *Nobody* but me must know whether I voted, what I
>>voted, whether I named a proxy, and who the proxy is. I don't see how
>>this can be done in an easy way!
>All of this is easy and standard in elections. I'm just surprised 
>that you haven't realized it, there must be some kind of brain 
>fault.... happens to everyone.
>Here is an example of how it is done:
>You walk into a room and verify your identity with a clerk. The clerk 
>hands you a ballot, an envelope, and a pencil. You take this into a 
>curtained booth, and mark the ballot (or don't mark it), however you 
>wish, privately. You then put it into the envelope, walk back to the 
>clerk and hand it in. The clerk, in your presence, puts the ballot 
>into a locked box. There will often be a police guard to prevent 
>theft of the box or any attempt to inspect the ballots outside of 
>official process.

Is this not inconsistant with the following ?

>But with direct democracy using delegable proxy, you can have your
>cake and eat it too. If you most agree with A, and by this you 
>consider that you trust A, you can give your proxy to A, but if A 
>happens to disagree with you on your favorite issue, you simply vote
>directly on that issue, for you will follow it and know when votes 
>need to be cast. You don't have to follow all the stuff that you 
>trust A to handle properly. You don't have to vote for F just because 
>F agrees with you -- or, more often, pretends to agree with you -- 
>thus sacrificing every thing else.

The only way to link them would be to require that ballots are stored for the duration of the term.

Something like:

Every 4 years (or whatever), there is a general election.  Each voter is checked to make sure they only vote once.  They are given a ballot to fill out.  They tick the name of one proxy on the ballot paper and also enter a "password"/ID of their own choosing.  This password is just to mark the vote for later.  A voter is not required to add a password if they don't want to, but this means that the voter is locked in to use that proxy until the next general election and also can't cast personal override votes.

The record of who voted is maintained for the duration of the term and also all the ballot papers cast (though not who cast what ballot).  I think they should probably not all be stored in one central location.  Perhaps, one location for each district would be more appropriate.  This is esp true as otherwise they will need to be redistributed back to the districts for each minor election.

The best password would be the result of rolling a number of dice or other random process, so it might be worth giving the voters somewhere to write their password down on that they can take with them.  There should be enough space to enter a large enough password.  For example, in a district with 10000 voters, there would be a need of 5.14 dice to give each person a unique result.  This needs to be doubled to 10.28 dice and rounded up to 11.  If 11 dice are used, everyone can pick a number at random and there is only a small probability that two people will use the same password.  

An additional check could be performed by publishing say 3-4 characters of the password and which way that voter voted.  A voter could find their vote by looking up their password to make sure it was cast correctly.  This requires the password to be longer so that the loss of the 3-4 characters doesn't compromise it.  This gives people confidence that their vote was counted properly.  However, it could be used to breech the secrecy of the ballot.  You could demand that someone give you their password and then make sure that the vote is changed to the vote you want it to be. Maybe the voter could tick "don't show change" or something. 

Every 3 months during the term, there is a "minor election".  Voters who didn't vote already in that term can cast a vote as they would have in the general election.  Also, voters who have already cast a vote for this term can reallocate their vote by placing a change of mind ballot in the ballot box.  They indicate who their old proxy is and who their new proxy is and also the password used for the original vote.  When counting this vote, all ballots for their old proxy are examined and if a password match is found, the old and new ballots are stapled to each other and moved to the new proxy.  A voter who doesn't bother with a password would not be able to change their vote.  This also ensures that someone doesn't guess their password and perform the change against their wishes.

Finally, no law may take effect until after the minor election following it.  At the minor election, a voter can cast an "override proxy" vote.  A list of all bills passed or defeated in the previous 3 months are listed and the voter can tick for/against.  They also include their proxy name and password.  Every vote of this kind retrospectively reduces the number of votes for the proxy for that bill and enters the voter's personal preference.

This would probably be just one ballot paper, something like:

Current Proxy
New Proxy (if changing proxy or choosing initial proxy)
Bill1 For ( ) Against ( )
Bill2 For ( ) Against ( )

and so on.

Assuming voters picked their proxies well, the number of votes cast at the minor election should be reasonably low.  The first minor election after the general election would be an exception as a lot of voters who missed the general election would cast their initial vote at that one.

Also, I would set the thresholds for proxies to speak in the legislature at a fixed percentage of the total votes rather than just the top X proxies.  This encourages the first level of proxies to cooperate.  For example, the threshold to speak might be 0.5% of the total national vote.  A group of proxies could join together to form a "group" who has a total vote greater than the threshold.  Only one of the group is permitted inside the legislature.  They would also have to agree on the ranking.

One issue with this is that if there are some very large proxies, the total number of members of the legislature could be small.  If 2 candidates obtained 30% each and another 20%, then the max number of people in the legislature would be 40 and those 3 proxies.  Maybe large proxies can grant speaking rights to other proxies with their excess or something.

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