[EM] The structuring of power and the composition of norms by communicative assent

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Jan 13 12:20:12 PST 2009

--- On Tue, 13/1/09, Kristofer Munsterhjelm <km-elmet at broadpark.no> wrote:

> Any sort of voter-reconfigurable proxy democracy has the
> kind of feedback that enables coercion or vote-buying. In
> order to verify that a certain voter "votes" a
> certain way, the candidate or party in question can tell the
> voter to connect to an allied proxy. The proxy can then
> determine whether or not the voter actually connected.

Are you saying that it is not possible
to build a proxy system that uses secret

Most election methods have traps that may
reveal the opinions of individual voters.
A voter-reconfigurable proxy system could
fight these problems e.g. by collecting
atomic changes to sufficiently large
groups of changes to hide changes in the
individual preferences.

> Now, there may seem to be a way around this by having the
> proxy be publicly available, so that voters that
> "subscribe to" a certain proxy just duplicate the
> proxy's suggestions when voting.

This would be another way to group the
individual changes (delayed until the
next vote).

I assume that you meant that every voter
would vote, possibly copying the opinion
from a proxy. In this model the proxy
would not know how strong she is (unless
that info would be collected when voting).

> Producing the required
> feedback becomes more difficult in that case, but it can
> still be done. For instance, if the conspirators assume law
> X has near-majority support, they can buy the votes of
> enough to get a majority, and then pay them if X does indeed
> pass;

How about voters that are certainly not
going to change their opinion but that
are happy to take part in the campaign in
the hope of being paid in case the other
camp wins? Aren't these problems quite
similar also in some more traditional
election methods?

> or they can try to corrupt a proxy instead, since the
> proxies' positions are publicly availably.

Today the opinions of some high level
representatives, e.g. MPs can be bought,
but this problem is probably quite well
in control. In proxy democracy where the
number of proxies is high there would be
a bigger risk of some of them selling
votes. Of course those proxies could lose
support when their voters notice that
their opinions tend to be something else
than what the voters assumed.

It is also possible that the opinions of
the proxies are not known beforehand. If
there are many of them and they change
often then their opinions can not be
easily followed. If the proxies may change
(or sell) their opinion just before the
election there is maybe no point anyway
in officially maintaining the opinions of
the candidates (so information on their
opinions would be available in the
traditional way, for private/voluntary/
campaigning reasons only or could be
guessed based on party affiliations).

> The problem reaches further. I think we can generalize that
> it's not only proxy democracies that has this problem.
> The problem itself is that of conflicting goals: in order
> that the public knows what their representatives are doing,
> the representatives' votes should be public. But the
> greater the proportion of the people become representatives,
> the more votes will be public, and so coercion and
> vote-buying becomes easier.

Yes. The votes need not be public
beforehand though. (In a some forms of
proxy democracy voters may also be able
to vote directly at any time if they
want to be sure what their vote will be.)

> By that, one would assume that it'd be a problem in
> ordinary representative democracies as well, because the
> representatives' votes are known and thus one could use
> feedback there. I think the difference is that
> representatives stay in their position for some time, so any
> use of such tricks would also become known and would hurt
> the representative in the end. I guess it's also related
> to that there are few representatives compared to the
> people, so each can be checked more thoroughly.

Yes. Modern technology could also allow
the voters to follow the opinions of all
the numerous proxies / final voters (or
at least those that are happy to publish
their voting behaviour (there could be
also low level proxies that consider
themselves private people and want to
keep their vote secret)).

> Ultimately, what we want is for the
> "representatives" to be effectively aligned with
> the wishes of the people, while not being disproportionally
> more aligned with the wishes of those who have more power.
> How to do that isn't obvious, since the mechanisms
> don't know about power.

I note that flexible proxy systems are
in some respects also safer than current
systems with fixed representatives since
those changing proxies are harder to
contact and they are not really part of
the "fixed club of leaders" that may well
have lots of all kind of bindings and
dependences among them.

> Perhaps each voter could vote twice - once in public and
> once in secret. The secret vote either says "defer to
> public", or something separate, in which case the
> secret vote overrules the public. But if so, what's the
> point of the public vote in the first place? I suppose it
> could be used to measure the degree of pressure people feel
> exist in the society - if all vote "defer to
> public" on their secret ballots, there's none at
> all, and if all vote something else on their secret ballots,
> there's quite a bit of it and many feel like they have
> something to hide. The only information given to the public
> from the secret ballots would be the number of "defer
> to public" versus (different opinion) ballots, and
> that's not enough to set up feedback with.

We can say that today the default
democratic system keeps the votes of the
individual voters secret and keeps the
votes of the representatives public. A
proxy system can be seen to mix the
border line between these two groups.

There is usually a requirement that the
voter opinions *must* be kept secret, and
the system makes its best not to allow
voters to reveal how they voted even if
they want to (e.g. vote rejected if it
contains additional markings, voting only
in controlled locations and alone in the
booth). In order to follow this tradition
the lowest level(s) could be kept
strictly secret as before.

There is maybe no as strict requirement
at the high end to keep the votes public.
This is because high level proxies that
want to keep their vote secret could
simply not be trusted by the voters and
they would lose support. Mandatory
openness could however be a requirement
at some level.

How to draw the lines between the
different levels then? One could use e.g.
the number of proxy votes that one holds.
Maybe proxies that hold X votes would be
allowed to reveal their vote if they so
wish. Maybe proxies that hold Y (>X)
votes would not be allowed to keep their
vote secret. As already noted this latter
condition is not as important as the
first one, and it could lead also to
surprises (vote revealed) when the voter
could not anticipate that she would
become a representative of so many voters.

There may also be some hysteresis that
allows some delays so that the proxies
have time to adapt to their new role.
Note that traditional elections typically
have a hysteresis of few years. Proxy
systems could be in a way similar but
just with considerably faster cycles.

- If the proxy system allows only part of
the voters to vote directly, this
property could be combined with the
public/secret vote rules.

- There could also be a fixed number of
top level representatives with different
rules. They could e.g. get (higher)
salary, have a seat in the parliament
building, have fully public votes etc.

- The rules may be different in different

There are also some additional related
publicity related questions.
- Should the voter-proxy relationship be
public or privately verifiable in some
cases? (or do voters contact their
proxies only as "potential but not
verified voters")
- Shall the number of voters (number of
proxy votes) of each proxy be publicly

At the low levels we should probably not
reveal this information for similar
reasons as in the case of hiding
information on how each person voted.
A simple approach is to use the same
border lines also in these cases.



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