There is a rather frightening trojan horse making its way into American elections, called AmericansElect.org, or as I think of it, AmericanSelect.org, because they have positioned themselves to secretly choose presidential candidates for us. What is really insidious about this is that NO ONE is calling them on their unaccountable, undemocratic, unwatchable, and completely nonpublic and unauthenticatable methodology.
Now, this may be mainly well-intentioned but naive folks trying to address a problem, but if this catches hold without critics, we’ll see it in more mainstream elections, and that will be the end for any semblance of a democratic system.
Americans Elect is using Internet voting, controlled entirely by whatever insider runs the server, to do their thing. (Why don’t we stop throwing democracy in the toilet with pretend-democratic ideas that actually concentrate power and remove all ultimate control from the people?)
The candidates selected by the public will only be reported if those with control of the server choose to let that be so, and that is a pseudo-democratic system, a magic show, a sham.
When I reminded one of the listserves about this, I was asked, “then how do we make the system more accessible to minor parties without resources?” To that I wrote:
You present a false framework, the implication being that the necessity of some system for parties without resources outweighs the right to self-government itself. The primary right is the public right to self-govern. It does take resources to mount what is essentially a national advertising campaign, or at least, very good planning and execution using alternatives like social media.
But for elections to be democratic, the public must be able to retain control over the process. If any of the four essential parts of information are not something the public can see and authenticate, you’ve just thrown the whole form of government out the window.
People need to see this more clearly. In the Soviet Union, they had elections, but the deal was that the government would tell you who won. Those were elections, but not PUBLIC elections. The defining term for what constitutes a democratic system is the word PUBLIC, not the word “election”. Any election which is constructed such that a government or other insider can just come out and tell us who won, without our being able to authenticate, is on its face undemocratic.
No, a “receipt” does not suffice or do much of anything at all. Imagine that your accountant gives you a paper that states your profit and loss and what’s in the bank, but says you can only verify one receipt. The only valid authentication process must enable public authentication of the whole pool at once (rather than one at a time, which creates a moving target).
The four things the public must be able to see and authenticate are:
- Who can vote (the voter list)? — how the heck are they dealing with THIS at Americans Elect?
- Who did vote?
- Chain of custody
- The count.
Internet voting, with or without “receipt”, makes ALL FOUR key areas impossible for the public to authenticate.
The best way is still to vote privately in a public setting (polling place) and to count publicly before the votes are moved out of public view, with public posting of the list of who is eligible to vote before the election (the whole list, not a one-by-one look yourself up method), and a public posting of who did vote within 24 hours of poll closing, with a permanent, voter-verified record of the pollbook (ie, voter signature at polls, on paper not etch-a-sketch).
I am sorry if this makes it challenging for minor parties, but the solution is not to discard the democratic system itself in search of easier access to the ballot.