Tag - democracy

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Voting Assumptions Gone Awry
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New Chapter: A New Democracy!

Voting Assumptions Gone Awry

I have been advocating for making voting easier and more convenient for a long time. Give us more options of when and how to vote and, presumably, more people will vote. Two mechanisms for doing this have been the vote-by-mail (not male!) and early voting.

And yet, both of these mechanisms have just proven to have enormous drawbacks. Here is how:

Vote by Mail

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation in Boston has been doing fantastic research on gender and politics. Their findings from the 2016 election included the fact that husbands/partners influence the voting of wives/partners. Of all of the things women have to wrestle with to make their households work, the one they often don’t want to fight about is politics. Traditionally, this left open the option for women to vote their conscience in the privacy of the voting booth. However, vote by mail generally happens around the kitchen table as a family, which cancels out the option of voting differently from men for many women.

Early Voting

Well, we recently witnessed the worst case scenario for early voting – Montana. Over 250,000 people had already voted by the time Greg Gianforte was charged with assault for throwing a reporter to the ground. Of course, it’s impossible to know how many voters would have changed their minds and votes had they voted in person, but it seems reasonable to assume that at least some people regretted their vote.

Our mechanisms and practices for voting are a mess right now. Where new technology is being used it has been outsourced to private companies with proprietary technology, rather than open, public systems. And, of course, voter registration and participation is under assault by Republicans.

I remain in firmly in favor of online voting (the advent of bloc chain technology since I wrote this essay in 2008 makes online voting even more possible as both secure and distributed.) Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will have the political and public will to build the best, more secure, private and efficient voting system int he world. Someday…

 

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New Chapter: A New Democracy!

This post announces a new chapter in my work: developing a new democracy to match this new century!

I am working with my friends at Civic Hall Labs to create a new Democracy Lab. We have a 19th century democracy smashing into a 21st century society. This disconnect is causing democracy to fail around the world at it’s most basic job, to represent the best interests of the greatest number of people.

The Democracy Lab will remodel government for the Networked Age. The Networked Age is chiefly defined as social networks powered by digital technology. Every area of our lives is being remade for this new era, except, so far, government. But we don’t begin from a blank slate. There are excellent models from around the country and the world upon which to build. They include:

  • Citizen University in Seattle teaches people how government works through in-person trainings and conferences and online videos.
  • ioby (meaning “in my backyard”) mobilizing neighbors with good ideas to plan, fund and change their neighborhoods often in partnership with local government.
  • vTaiwan started as an online organizing platform for students to protest trade with China. It has since become a platform for citizens to suggest and research new laws, discuss them in open online forums and watch the final legislative deliberations.
  • Living Room Conversations is an effort created by Joan Blades, the founder of Moveon.org and Moms Rising. The program guides ordinary people to invite neighbors with different political views into their homes to discuss important issues and learn from one another.
  • NASA taps the expertise and ingenuity of ordinary people to solve problems and create new technologies.
  • Online platforms like Loomio, mVote, and, of course, Facebook and Reddit bring together large numbers of people to discuss and vote on issues.

And yet, significant gaps and deficits exist. Technology efforts too often focus on making government more efficient rather than remaking the relationship between government and citizens. Online platforms engage large numbers of people in conversations about issues, but do not necessarily connect these people to one another or engage government actors directly in conversations. On land organizing efforts are time-intensive but generally don’t scale to tackle big social change efforts. Citizens are taught how to engage with government, but government leaders aren’t taught how to engage with citizens. In other words, there are points of light but not a constellation of stars for a new democracy.

The Democracy Lab will begin its efforts by:

  1. Mapping the existing ecosystem of players and tools to determine what exists and works, what the gaps are, what needs to be woven together and what needs to be created.

Based on these findings, we will then

  1. Identify and pilot specific local experiments for future scaling and replication. And,
  2. Develop new models for network leadership within public institutions.

 

In the end, our aim is to revive and recreate the notions of common good and citizenship in a country that embraces diversity and opportunity. We are confident that together we can reinvent ourselves with the same optimism and confidence as generations of Americans have done in previous centuries.

 

Happy to talk to you about this if you have any ideas to help resuscitate our democracy – we need all the help we can get!

 

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