Dec 29, 16 20:47 UTC

Democratic Process and Voting Systems  

I would like to discuss the possibility of changing how democracy is upheld in Asgardia, by inviting you to review and assess a system designed to remove as much bias and unsuitability as is physically possible from the election process itself.

I have no doubt that many of you have seen how democracy and politics are currently handled by our modern politicians, and the problems inherent with such a system; a single person campaigning for popularity, regardless of the promises they make and then never being held accountable. The whole process often swamped in enormous donations to fund a campaign of rallies, speeches, and advertising. My question to you is; what does any of that have to do with running the country?

It is my firm belief that Asgardia should work to remove such fallacious thinking from our politics, and instead convert to a system deliberately designed to combat popularity, advertising, and lies. My recommendation for this is the system I propose below (with a link to the original, formatted document at the bottom of this post); a system that anonymises candidates to remove popularity bias. The system removes the whole aspect of money and funding from the democratic process by removing campaigning altogether. The system has only one potential flaw in the form of bias, and that would be through the individual candidate examination and results package.

Finally, I am aware that many people will argue that such a system, with such little public attention drawn to any one particular candidate or set of policies may not be truly be proportionally representative, and to you I ask how are the current systems any better? They have very, very similar flaws in that the public is swayed by lies from the candidate, smear campaigns by their opposition, stories in the media that may not be relevant, and advertising designed to trigger psychological processes. People who are not often interested in voting are brought in by promises that may not be upheld, or by the mass outrage caused during the campaign process. I argue that this system at least reduces the number of false positives to those who are truly interested in the democratic system and are willing to debate the finer points that actually matter, E.G. a set of policies, or a candidate's suitability based on relevant information, rather than their gender, age, or stories from the press.

As such, please see below for the system I propose.

 

Asgardia Blind Voting system proposal

Concept developed by Stephen Skepper, written by Adam York, edited and approved by Asgardians.

Note: Currently, viable candidates should be selected by the Asgardian administration, however in the future, selections for individual ministries should be handed over to the ministries themselves for approval by the public.

 

Proposal Submission

 

Any Asgardian may submit a single proposal to a democratic process board consisting of a group of individuals responsible for running the election in question. The makeup and rules of this board is to be debated separately.

The proposals may be revised three times over the course of the election, but final drafts have a final submission deadline of midnight, four weeks (28 days) before the beginning of the debates.

Within each proposal must be an overview statement of purpose their plans for the future of the nation and/or ministry and how those plans would be implemented and how the budget proposals would function.

Each proposal must contain the following sections;

-Overview; outlining the mission of the candidate.

-Major Goals; outlining the direction they wish to take the ministry/nation.

-Primary Plans; a list of UP TO THREE major full-term objectives that become legally binding; achieving them or not will not be judged, but the candidate should be held to accountability for the words they use, and unwillingness to follow the proposals they make should come under scrutiny to avoid false promises.

-Secondary Plans; a list of UP TO SEVEN long-term objectives that may or may not expand on the primary plans, but are equally legally binding.

-Tertiary Plans; a list of UP TO TEN non-legally binding short-term objectives that may or may not aid in the previous objectives, and are not legally binding.

-Budget Plans; a detailing of how the Ministry/nation's budget will be used to achieve the plans.

-Expected Outcomes; a list of results that the plans are expected to achieve in their implementation.

-Failsafes; a detailing of how the candidate expects to counter any problems that may occur through implementation of plans.

-Summary; a brief run-down of the key points of all of the above.

The proposals would be made public record through the democratic process board such that each citizen not only has the right to read over each proposal, but the free and limitless access to do so.

This subsection would take roughly one third of the total process.

 

The Debates

Once the proposals are submitted, verified for requirements (regardless of their seriousness) and made public, an interactive forum will be opened to allow the national media and Asgardian public the right to debate any given proposal.

While candidates themselves may have no hand in answering questions directly or indirectly to retain anonymity, current and previous ministers may make interpretations based on the proposal using their relevant knowledge to attempt to answer media and public questions.

This would be an open question and answer platform that all citizens could participate in, to remain open for a period of time no shorter than a third of the total process.

 

Candidate Suitability

Candidates must then be examined themselves for their suitability to the role. This is a multi-step process that requires all candidate data to remain anonymous, and thus be controlled by the democratic process board. It is important to note that this section, while it may take some time to complete, must be updated regularly as we learn more about psychology and suitability.

Step One - all viable candidates are interviewed by a committee of dedicated interviewers with a set of criterion and given scores and comments based on the individual job requirements/candidate's target role. Candidates are also interviewed on their depth of knowledge of current issues that are pertinent to their target role.

Step Two - each candidate is given a psychological evaluation to determine their political and economic system positions, their ability to handle stress, their willingness to be subversive, and any other personality evaluations as they become pertinent through research and development of psychology.

Step Three - a candidate’s educational background is researched and included with the results, minus any and all detailing about their particular teachers, and the school they attended. Only the grades, scores, awards and honours are to be included in their entirety.

Step Four - the results for each are given to the democratic process board to strip all identifying information and amend any evaluations/interview results to remove words like "he" and "she", and match psychological evaluations to interview results, and then to their respective proposal. As each set is created, it is assigned a number through a random number generator.

Step Five - the re-written, numbered results packages are then given to the Asgardian administration to publish no fewer than two weeks (14 days) before election day via all available media outlets and begin the final procedure. During the entire process, media outlets and the public are prohibited by law from publishing candidate details that may have leaked accidentally.

 

The Voting Stage

During a formal voting procedure on election day, the public goes to their respective polling stations and chooses a candidate from the numbered list. After the election, results would then be released to the public for examination.

 

Developer’s Note: It is important to recognise that this system can be applied to local council/senator/governor/representative elections, national elections and more! It is designed to be an independent system specifically to remove showmanship, favouritism and bias from the democratic process.

 

The original document can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1F88mS3r4yr56mmmadKFNYCqQ7uN9goJmjWI5GRzq9HE/edit

Jan 4, 17 12:11 UTC

This is a very interesting proposal and looks like a good start towards a complete framework for electing representatives. I have a few questions:

  1. At what point will candidates be identified? On election day? After the results are counted?
  2. Will the media be permitted to endorse candidates? My concern is that elections in existing countries are often won and lost based on media influence and/or propaganda. Experienced journalists (and friends of candidates) will be able to identify candidates from the limited information available and promote the candidate of their choice, if biased reporting is allowed.
  3. What voting method is to be used? I’m a supporter of Single Transferable Vote (STV), which I will share a link to in another post.

Jan 5, 17 19:59 UTC

Thank you. To answer your questions;

  1. The candidates will be identified after the results have been counted, to ensure that they remain anonymous throughout the whole process.
  2. The media will have no more idea who these candidates are than the public; their identities are kept entirely secret at all times. From the date of submission, all identifying information is stripped, and candidates revealing themselves directly or indirectly will be immediately disqualified regardless of how far along the process is.
  3. STV is my favourite for this as well, but there are times when that does not apply. At the moment, we're only looking at the candidate and proposal submission to election process. The actual election method itself has not yet been fully discussed.

Jan 5, 17 20:42 UTC

This is more than interesting. I'm going to have to take some time to internalize the idea.

Anyway, I have some doubts about steps 2 and 3 of the "Candidate Suitability". How can we define the standard with which we will approve the candidates?

Jan 6, 17 20:14 UTC

If by "we" you mean "The Asgardian Administration", then that's the beauty of the system; "we" don't define any standards for anything. This is all down to the voting public. We, the Asgardian Administration, simply put all the information on display and let the public choose - that is the very basis of democracy, and how it should be operated. There is no pre-approval by the Asgardian Administration at any point. Anybody is free to run, but they will be treated the same as any other candidate.

All "we" need to do is find suitable psychological examinations that provide accurate details about a candidate's personality; things like their approaches to certain tasks and/or situations, their mental strength and stability under pressure, their general attitude towards life, their tendency to lie, their hunger for power/control, their levels of greed, these kinds of things.

A point to note, however, is that the anonymity is absolutely essential to this so that a person isn't permanently branded by any of the outcomes of the tests, as a person can change somewhat drastically over the course of a term. The only time this EVER changes is when the winner is announced; their anonymity has to be revoked to know which was the winning system and candidate.

Jan 19, 17 15:40 UTC

How would you resolve load issues? eg. 50,000 candidates want to run, and due to the low barrier to entry, all must be considered?

With regards to anonymity of candidates, I understand this is to restrict voters to selecting only based off salient skills. However this might hide important information, say someone with excellent skills runs for a finance position, but they have filed for bankruptcy a dozen times. Would your system have any exceptions to this, given that releasing this information might identify the candidate?

Jan 19, 17 21:16 UTC

I haven't considered load issues, largely because despite the low barrier for entry, the system itself will most likely prevent success by Average Joe Bloggs based on the lack of merit he has over far more qualified candidates. In seriousness, everybody deserves a fair chance to go through the process to gain the position, so this will need some serious consideration.

As for hiding important information... you raise a good point. It wouldn't be ideal to have that person in power, however the more information about the person you make available, the more likely they are to be identified, leading either to popularisation or demonisation - or worse. I guess the way to do it would likely be to have a research team as part of the same team that removes identifying data sift through their history to pull out any relevant information such as you described, but obfuscate the details somewhat. The person filed for bankruptcy, yes, but what were the reasons for that filing? What led him into that position? How long ago did he last file? Has he successfully built up since?

Once you start digging out data like that, you need to then make it contextual, and once you start dragging contextualisation into the mix, you wind up with the issue of how much information is too much, how much is too little.

Do you have any suggestions/recommendations to tackle these issues? I'd love to hear them.

Jan 20, 17 10:31 UTC

I guess I'm thinking you're fighting against democracy itself. You want ease of accessibility to ensure everyone has a fair shot, but the logistics costs of this will always be huge. Secondly, you want people to disregard unimportant information and rely only on how experienced and capable they would be for that role, but to do this you must decide what is salient and what isn't. This drops quickly into shades of grey for which there wont be a clean answer.

Personally I lean more toward meritocracy (you seem to be hybridizing from this), but this has it's own flaws with who authors the rules/standards to decide merit, and is exclusionary by default, which no-one likes the sound of.

Jan 22, 17 18:58 UTC

I don't think we should focus on unconventional or experimental voting systems. It will turn many people off. First Past the Post with two candidates is the only system that is always fair. It's familiar, easy to understand, and is easily modified to suit particular needs.

Many Asgardians do not come from democratic countries. This kind of system will likely appear to them as a way to have democracy in name only behind an opaque system run by government insiders.

Jan 22, 17 23:25 UTC

I think Sammwich has a point about many coming from non democratic countries. Is Democracy the idea structure? When it comes to any democracy there are two issues that I see brought up regularly. First is fairness. A system based upon popular vote is going to have parties, and thus political pressures. Not to mention term limits which adds to competitiveness. Second is complication of the process. Such as been proposed it in itself is a complex process. Third is potential for abuse. I am speaking of subseptability for curruption.

Feb 10, 17 09:20 UTC

Asgardia is an experimental community of knowledge, so no idea should be discarded because it may be new or unfamiliar. It the exact place to use less conventional ideas that have been researched and validated, even if not widely used.

I like OP's ideas of accountability for campaign promises and interest in lessening the impact of a single personality and "showmanship". Is there a blind system like this already in existence anywhere?

For the interactive forum, how about the candidates respond themselves, but with a voice-to-text-to-voice setup, so they can answer naturally, but this is converted into a digital voice. That way citizen get the candidates own answer, but remain anonymous.

Candidate Suitability: I'm not sure about this section. it really depends on what we expect our representatives to do. We should probably have a role description for the representatives before we have criteria for judging their suitability. Will they be spending more time with other representatives, or with their constituents? Do they write/amend laws, or do they lobby for their own and their constituents interests to legislators who write/amemd laws?

Voting stage: I've already made another post about the STV system. But I also think that there should be a short entrance exam or quiz along with the voting ballot. As someone who has counted votes before I can tell you that many people vote without understanding what the vote is for. You get people writing this like "Why isn't Candidate x on my list" when it's a national election and Candidate X is a local representative. You also get voting, saying "I'll vote for anyone except Candidate Z because they said they couldn't fix my local hospital/school/park etc etc", clearly unaware that such things are out of Candidate Z's jurisdiction. So a short quiz or questionnaire to check that voters understand what that particular ballot is for would be valuable. It may have more invalid votes initially, but we expect our representatives to be educated enough to make good decisions, I think we should take our own responsibilities just as seriously. Voting is both a right and a resposibility.

Nov 21, 01 / Nov 25, 17 22:24 UTC

I certainly like the way the proposed system focuses on qualifications and platforms.  Being a member of parliament is not a gift or a popularity contest.  It is a responsibility.  Electing the most competent person for the job is what is important here. 

If the prepared presentation package and Q&A processes raise the right elements, then people can vote on those and whoever prepared the packages ends up being the best candidate for the people.

In order to avoid the problem of ability to prepare better packages than others and thus artificially looking like a better candidate, I suggest there is an initial simpler package presented as a first round and then the top X liked candidate packages (not detailed yet) by popular vote for each ministry be then completed by a subcommittee that has secret dialog with each candidate that prepared the initial rough draft.  The goal for this would be for each complete package be as complete and easy to read as the others for a final round of votes.

I also recommend that not all Asgardians be able to vote for every candidate.  It is well researched that people without sufficient knowledge about a position cannot select what to choose among choices if the choices contain elements beyond their understanding.  On the other hand, knowledgeable people in a field can readily know what is the best path or plan.  So let's give the population votes on different ministries based on whether or not they have sufficient knowledge of each vertical.  This means some Asgardians may be able to vote only for one elaborated package (2nd round), while others may have the knowledge and experience to be able to vote on several.

This ensures quality of votes.  

Electronic systems can be used to ensure all this runs smoothly and confidently until the last moment when the candidate(s) are revealed.