[EM] Democracy Chronicles, answers to interview questions

Jameson Quinn jameson.quinn at gmail.com
Thu Apr 5 08:03:23 PDT 2012

2012/4/5 Richard Fobes <ElectionMethods at votefair.org>

> Great news:  The online newspaper named "Democracy Chronicles" wants to
> write an article about our "Declaration of Election-Method Reform
> Advocates"!
> The article also will cover what goes on in this election-method forum.
> Below are the questions that editor Adrian Tawfik is inviting us to
> answer.  Clarifications follow the questions.
> Question 1.  Your name and the city and country you work in.

My name is Jameson Quinn. I live in Guatemala City, Guatemala; but as a US
expat, I also maintain an interest in politics in the San Francisco Bay
Area, where I grew up.

> Question 2.  What is your Company or Organization?

I am a freelance web programmer (python, javascript, etc.)

> Question 3.  Any contact info you wish to give to be published with
> article for readers (for example your email or website.)

My email is my firstname.lastname at gmail.com. I also tweet on voting-related
topics as bettercount_us and am developing a voting website (not yet live)
for http://bettercount.us.

> Question 4. If you have signed the Declaration, is there any additional
> information, beyond what's in your signature, that you feel is important to
> mention?

I was the first person who instigated the declaration and was one of its
principal authors. I had four principal goals:
1. Foment more-effective cooperation between advocates of different
election method reforms.
2. Provide an "unbiased" (or at least nonsectarian) source for those
unversed in abstruse details of election methods to understand the
consensus of the field, and thus refute specious arguments against reform.
3. Move outside the "usual suspects"; contact people who don't habitually
participate in internet discussions of voting methods, and join "our"
voices to "theirs".
4. Create news. Give a reason for people to talk about voting reform.

> Question 5. If you have not signed the Declaration, why?
> Question 6. Briefly explain what characteristics you think are most
> important for a voting method to have?

I believe that voting should be merely one element of democratic
participation, and that the job of an election system is to make it so
voting can be integrated effectively with other forms of organization and
activism. So a good voting method should be appealing, should give good
(high-utility) results, and should tend to allow honest voting as much as
possible. Currently my favorite voting methods from this perspective are
Majority Judgment (MJ) and Simple Optionally-Delegated Approval (SODA). I
also think that approval voting is a key first step to reform, and a basis
for working together.

> Question 7. What do you think is the most important election reform needed
> where you live (either locally or nationally)?  Why is this reform
> important?

In Guatemala, there is a party list system for congress, yet the parties
are essentially personal fiefdoms with little continuity from one election
to another or ideological coherence, and almost no internal democracy.
Thus, the most important reform would be to give citizens power over the
internal party dynamics, for instance by moving from closed party list to
open party list.

In California: I believe that approval voting at the municipal level is the
way to build awareness and support for voting reform. I also feel that
removing supermajority requirements such as the 2/3 requirement for most
state budget issues and the filibuster in the US senate is needed for

> Question 8. What is your opinion on other aspects of election reform such
> as reforming money's role in politics or redistricting (particularly in the
> US but very interested as well concerning election reforms internationally)?

I believe that it is important to build strong alliances between voting
reform activists and activists for these reforms. That's because these are
both important reforms in their own right, and also "gateway drugs" towards
voting reform activism. That is, their importance is more obvious to naive
voter, but as such voters understand the systemic issues, they are led to
embrace voting reform as well.

(Also, you forgot voting rights issues such as same-day registration or
fighting onerous ID requirements; although these issues have a partisan
tinge in the US today, they should rightly be nonpartisan issues of

> Clarifications:
> * Please change the subject heading if you are writing something other
> than your answers to these questions.
> * This article is about our Declaration, and about the election-method
> reform concepts you think are the most important.  If you want to propose
> an article about a different topic, I'm sure that Adrian would be happy to
> consider it.
> * Please remember, as stated in the Declaration, that our enemy is
> plurality voting (or First Past The Post, or the single-mark ballot), not
> instant-runoff voting, and not the supporters of methods you don't like.
>  For example, consider that many election-reform advocates believe that
> instant-runoff voting is suitable for U.S. governmental elections, so if
> you dismiss that method as no better than plurality, then your other
> statements may lose credibility.
> * Remember to avoid jargon (unless you can explain it in a few words) and
> avoid acronyms.  Many readers of the Democracy Chronicles won't know about
> concepts that we all know by name.
> * I suggest taking a look at www.DemocracyChronicles.com to see what the
> online newspaper is about.  Physically it's based in New York, but the
> subjects cover the globe.
> * You do not need to answer every question.  If you just want to answer
> one or two questions, that's fine.
> * I have given Adrian a link to this month's list of forum messages, so he
> will be seeing the answers himself.  (I am not filtering the answers.)
> * Adrian might join the forum himself, and hopefully the article will
> attract other election-reform advocates to participate in our forum, so
> consider that this development is the beginning of a relationship with
> people who understand the importance of election reform (which is broader
> than just election-method reform).
> In my opinion, this is a great opportunity to connect with election
> reformers who can benefit from our election-method expertise.
> FYI, I contacted the Democracy Chronicles and suggested this article, and
> I made suggestions about the first draft of the questions, but I have made
> it clear that this is a collaborative forum, and the Declaration has been a
> collaborative effort among all of us who have signed it.  Although I have
> already written general comments that may end up in the article, I have not
> yet answered these questions, so I too will answer them here.
> Richard Fobes
> ----
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