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Saving Democracy With Web 2.0 190

Posted by Hemos
from the hear-hear-hear dept.
Wired is running a piece about how "Web 2.0" (still hate that buzz word) can save democracy this upcoming election date. Web 2.0 hyperbole aside, the piece itself covers the extent of the different mapping tools, get out the vote, finding who funds a candidate and other election candies. Good round-up story.
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Saving Democracy With Web 2.0

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  • Nothing for you to see here... move along.
  • by Control Group (105494) * on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:05PM (#16737001) Homepage
    Really, this is no different than initial utopian claims about how the internet will change everything, bring people together, cause world peace, eliminate hunger, and usher in a new era of universal well being.

    More tools are great, and making information easily accessible is a Good Thing. Calling politicians on their sources of funding is always positive, and holding politicians accountable for the things they say and the promises they make is fantastic.

    But no matter how available you make the information, it only matters if people care enough to find out. That's the advantage the traditional media have: given US culture, it's a push medium. It brings information to people, rather than wating for people retrieve the information. The implication of an article like this is that the threat to democracy is unavailability of information, which isn't true - or at least, is far from the whole story.

    The real threat to democracy is people who don't really care about what's going on in government. People who have voted straight ticket in every election since they were 18 (and are proud of the fact!) are the problem. People who consider themselves members of a Team Republican or Team Democrat are the problem. People who don't know who's on the ballot until they show up to vote are the problem. It's a combination of apathy, cynicism, and misguided loyalty that is the problem.

    This "web 2.0" phenomenon that the article discusses is, in a sense, the same as the "get out the vote" initiatives that come out every election cycle. When you come right down to it, if someone's only going to vote because MTV told them to, it's probably someone that shouldn't be voting*. If someone doesn't care enough about the process to know who stands for what and to take the time to go vote without being harangued by some celebrity, then that person should have just stayed home; we might as well roll dice to determine who gets elected.

    All the tools that are now available for information disclosure are great tools, and they make the job of a responsible voter easier. But they won't make someone who doesn't care in the first place suddenly care unless the information is forced in front of him - which is exactly the information model that the web doesn't match up to. Helping informed voters become better informed is a great thing, but it's not going to save democracy.

    *No, this doesn't mean I would ever advocate any kind of system to "validate" voters. Every citizen gets to vote if he wants to, and anything that begins to change that is abhorrent to the very idea of democracy. Nor would I restrict the right of any person or group to encourage people to vote. But that doesn't change the fact that the people who only vote because the TV told them to are very likely to cast unconsidered votes, which is not an ideal situation. Then, of course, there's the problem that any group pushing people to go vote is, almost certainly, pushing people to go vote the way that group wants them to - and the people being convinced don't even know that they're being pushed to a specific political position, rather than just being encouraged to exercise their franchise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fossa (212602)

      I wonder how removing party designations from ballots, randomizing the candidate order on each ballot, or providing completely blank ballots and requiring a full name be written, would affect the polls, implementation issues aside. The goal would be minimizing the effect of ignorant votes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Control Group (105494) *
        I'm all for it, except for the name-writing requirement. I've written too much code to trust arbitrary input compared to menu choices. This would result in too many valid, considered ballots being discarded for reasons irrelevant to the election (spelling errors, for example).

        Now, providing a menu of all the offices to be filled on one side, and a menu of all the candidates on the other side (with no reference to the office for which each is running, of course)...then we'd be on to something.
        • by kbielefe (606566)
          Now, providing a menu of all the offices to be filled on one side, and a menu of all the candidates on the other side
          Cool, I want John Kerry for precinct committeeman.
      • Are you talking about removing the party designation printed next to the candidate's name or the designation on the top of the ballot in partisan races? Removing the candidate's party only helps keep the voter from voting a straight party line by looking at the party. It won't help when they use a slate card given to them by their local political party or interest group to help them mark their ballot. A surprising number of people do this. Removing the name from the ballot in a primary election (it doesn't
        • by Kijori (897770)

          How would this lead to a reduction of ignorant votes? They'll have exactly the same information when entering the voting booths as they have today; forcing them through additional hoops will make them all the less likely to want to vote.

          That's the point. Why shouldn't voting be restricted to people that know what the candidate stands for, or at least has one reason for voting for that person over an opponent? Not that I'm necessarily in favour of it, just think it's an interesting point.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by LindseyJ (983603)
            And who gets to decide what level of "candidate education" is acceptable? The government (ie. the currently empowered political party)? For that matter, what criteria are we testing? It's not such a big jump from testing 'knowledge' to what basically amounts to a litmus exam: "I see you filled in agreement with the War on Terror/NSA Wiretaps/Social Secuirty/[Immigration stance]... I'm afraid we can't let you vote today. Please re-educate yourself and report back next year." If you really believe that Diebol
            • by kbielefe (606566)

              And who gets to decide what level of "candidate education" is acceptable?

              Maybe the candidates can each put a couple of short multiple choice questions? If you have a chance to talk to them face to face for a minute, every candidate has a few set things about themselves that they feel are important for people to know in order to make an informed decision, even if the voter doesn't know anything else.

              For one candidate it might be his vote on a particular bill. For another candidate it might be an innovati

          • Why shouldn't voting be restricted to people that know what the candidate stands for, or at least has one reason for voting for that person over an opponent?

            But, your proposal doesn't restrict voting at all, even if that would be a good thing. It just reduces one clear and impartial source of factual information that voters have available in making their decision, making them more vulnerable to voting based on false information from dirty tricks.

            If you want to limit voting based on a poll test that evaluat

      • by ranton (36917)
        or providing completely blank ballots and requiring a full name be written

        That is absolutely the best idea I have ever heard (as far as election reform goes). If you do not even know the name of the person you are voting for then why in the hell did you show up?

        Unfortunatly they would probably just stick their heads out of the ballot box and ask a guy standing in line what that one "John" guy's last name is.

        --
        • by hswerdfe (569925)
          I just did an early vote an early vote in the Ontario municipal elections. if I would have been given a blank ballot I would not have been able to vote.

          I knew the candidates (all of them)
          I knew the positions, on the issues.
          I know who best fit my views.
          and I knew I was going to strategically vote for based on poll results.
          But, for the life of me I would not be able to spell my candidates name without a crib sheet.
          • by ranton (36917)
            But, for the life of me I would not be able to spell my candidates name without a crib sheet.

            Thats where electronic ballots could come in. If you have a slight misspelling in the name it could give a suggestion (as far as the spelling goes) about who you want to vote for. But if you cannot even get phonetically close, or even have the foggiest idea what their last name is, then you dont really know that much about the candidates.
    • The main inhibitor to the efficiency of democracy (at least in the U.S.) is not -- you're correct -- a lack of information. It's the outdated system by which information is *legitimated.

      That system, which in a nutshell is "media conglomerates tell the unwashed masses what is true" can and will be outdated by decentralized tools. I don't think mySpace is going to save the proletariat, but the fact is that empowerment-in-general grew with the free flow of information, and it will grow again with reliable, obj
      • It's already been outdated by centralized tools. By pretty much any metric, news is better on the internet than on TV/radio (wider variety of sources to help counteract bias, more details for each item of interest, greater availability of primary sources, greater availability of raw data, greater variety of topics available, etc). But that doesn't mean that it has taken over for traditional media in the general population, because it require more work to go get the information than it does to be told the in
        • Gah

          "outdated by centralized tools" should be "outdated by decentralized tools."

          Nothing like typos that completely invert the intent of what you wrote. Sorry, and all that.
        • Er, "Internet news is better than TV news" isn't evidence that TV news is "outdated". By the criteria you use, TV news was never better than newspapers, anyway. The only advantage TV news has ever had is that its easier for lazy people to passively access. Heck, the studies I've seen have always shown that, all other things being equal, watching more TV news produces, on average, less knowledge of current events, so in one sense TV news has always had negative utility as a mechanism for spreading true infor
    • by demachina (71715)
      "The real threat to democracy is people who don't really care about what's going on in government."

      That is part of the problem but the real basis of the problem is we've settled in to an entrenched two party system. Those two parties have established a complete strangehold on the electoral process and as long as they are both equally bad they get away with it, they can just ping pong power between each other while the country heads in to the dumper.

      For example:

      - The 2 parties have used numerous methods to
      • That is part of the problem but the real basis of the problem is we've settled in to an entrenched two party system. Those two parties have established a complete strangehold on the electoral process and as long as they are both equally bad they get away with it, they can just ping pong power between each other while the country heads in to the dumper.

        I agree that the two-party situation we're in is a deep, systemic flaw in our political landscape. It's not, however, fundamental. The fundamental problem is
    • Calling politicians on their sources of funding is always positive, and holding politicians accountable for the things they say and the promises they make is fantastic.

      But consider: is any of this stuff really the issue this election season? I mean, I don't want to come off as a "Democrats and Republicans are all the same" kind of guy -- I suspect you'd find at least subtle shades of D vs. R differences between the funding behind your candidates for House -- but none of this is really the issue right no

    • the same as the "get out the vote" initiatives that come out every election cycle. When you come right down to it, if someone's only going to vote because MTV told them to, it's probably someone that shouldn't be voting

      But on the other hand, if Some Guy on Slashdot tells them to vote, they're just the kind of folks we need to take back the government from those Republican Diebold-lovers, so Don't forget to vote in the US election tomorrow kids!

      Well, presuming you're a US citizen. And presuming you're

  • by udderly (890305) *
    FTA: Many Americans believe that our political system is broken, and that money is to blame. Legislators are beholden to donations from special interest groups. Regulators pass through a revolving door to take jobs in the very industries they used to regulate. Big campaign donors somehow land big government contracts, despite arcane public bidding processes.

    This is exactly the problem. I wonder if this will help though. Beware the media/government/corporate complex and interlocking directorships.
    • This is exactly the problem. I wonder if this will help though. Beware the media/government/corporate complex and interlocking directorships.
      you misspelled DICTATORSHIP
  • What good do all of these tools do if we cannot protect the mechanisms of voting? Transparency is a good thing, but it only goes so far. I do not understand why so many places are moving to electronic machines after decades of success with other devices. (I am personally a big fan of mechanical lever machines.)
    • Eh. Voting machines are just another distraction from the real problem: democracy is dead in the US. There are only two parties even allowed to be on the ballot in most states, and many states even throw away write-in votes. At this point, it's like voting for Coke or Pepsi. There is no real choice, but people like to think that they have a real choice to make a real difference. It's 100% bullshit. The Democrats and Republicans are just playing good cop/bad cop. They're both happy as long as they can
      • And if you don't live in a swing state, you don't actually even get to choose between D or R. You can thank the Electoral College for that.
      • There are only two parties even allowed to be on the ballot in most states, and many states even throw away write-in votes. At this point, it's like voting for Coke or Pepsi.

        Look, are you a Republican shill? That seems to be one of their talking points for forums like this that they perceive as being liberal/left: "Oh, there's no damn difference between Democrats and Republicans. I'm going to stay home. Anyone with me?".

        In the United States we have a clear choice at the polls on Tuesday: we get to

    • by creimer (824291)
      Electonic machines are supposed to reduce the human element in deciding if a ballot chad was hanging, loose and/or pregnant. The only thing we have to work about is the machine was hacked and/or tilted to Republican.
  • After 236 years of elections, both fair and foul, we need Web 2.0 to save deomcracy?! Sounds like a bunch of soon-to-be unemployed Republican policy wonks looking for a new angle to sell their snake oil.
    • by k_187 (61692)
      nah, wouldn't they just clog the tubes or something and prevent this from working?
    • why is the method of voting, the operation of government, only a problem when Republicans win?

      I mean, c'mon now, the old voting systems were nearly always rigged. It became so common place people joked about it. Government has ALWAYS been about who had the money.

      Ever since the Big Deal, when we started being more concerned having the government look after us, instead of us watching the government it does not matter who is in power. People are apathetic because they cannot see how they can do anything.

      Go
      • by dangitman (862676)
        Got to love it, my friend who teaches has been told to vote for specific people by her UNION.

        Well, that makes a lot more sense than being told who to vote for by God, or TV or talk radio hosts. After all, a union is usually pretty involved in issues that effect the members directly. Sure, they may be wrong a lot of the time, or even corrupt. But if you're not going to bother researching candidates directly, then wouldn't it be better to be told who to vote by someone who represents your employment than so

      • by doom (14564)
        Shivetya (243324) wrote:

        why is the method of voting, the operation of government, only a problem when Republicans win?

        Well the simple explanation is that this just isn't true, however it is a popular form of smoke blown by Republican sock-puppets.

        The reason everyone is worried about the electoral system just now is that we all know that the forms of electronic voting machines that were pushed into use are horribly vulnerable to wholesale fraud... the fear is that it's not just a finger on the scale

    • After 236 years of elections, both fair and foul, we need Web 2.0 to save deomcracy?!

      Its an arms race. A lot of the threats to effective democracy are enhanced or enabled by technology (fine-grained political gerrymandering, targetted misinformation and push-polling, astroturfing in every medium known to mankind, etc.) So, yes, those interested in preserving democracy rather than allowing a narrow elite to run the government by control of information and elections need to make effective use of technology,

  • How can Web 2.0 change the fact that lots of votes go through easily rigged voting machines?
  • ... web 2.0 just makes it prettier...
  • by KermodeBear (738243) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:12PM (#16737107) Homepage
    * Solve world hunger
    * Cure cancer
    * Revive the dead
    * Talk to God
    * End poverty
    * Find your soul mate
    * Kill Chuck Norris

    What else am I missing? Help me out, people!
  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:14PM (#16737135)
    The real good news is that the web gets around all those pesky laws stopping you from telling lies about the political subjects or canidates you dont like.

    In fact, there's nothing stopping me from saying things like Mesure A (a public transit initiative where I am) will kill babies, and all who support it will feast on the baby meat!
  • My one major wish for this election is for the mainstream press to give some breakdown numbers that show precinct-by-precinct-by-ballot-type totals. Does Diebold seem as party-neutral as other electronic tally machines? Do paper-trailed machines disagree strongly with pull-lever machine totals? Does optical scan seem to lean to the Preservatives? Does punchcard seem to go to the Libertines?

    Even if everything looks mostly kosher with regards to the final vote totals, it would plant the seed that shows

    • by balsy2001 (941953)
      My wish for the 2006 election is that "None of the above" be implemented on the ballot. Then if say 30% of the people vote none of the above we have a new election.
      • by oojah (113006)
        ... with none of the previous candidates being allowed to stand again.

        (I'm from Britain, not the US)

        Cheers,

        Roger
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      How about the press staying out of the election all together?
      No more opinion pieces, no more endorsing candidates, and NO MORE POLLS.
      They just publish what the candidates say?
      • by Dionysus (12737)
        They just publish what the candidates say?

        Like,
        Candidate R: My opponent supports terrorism and hate America!
        Candidate D: My opponent is a fascist and hate America!
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          Yes because what we have now is the candidates getting other people to say those things for them!
    • This information would be interesting, but there are too many variables involved to make any kind of conclusions about which voting methods actually lean in any particular way. The problem is that the various types of voting methods are not evenly distributed among all states and districts. For instance, the district that I am currently registered in is a very republican district, yet it is in a consistently blue state. This district, to the best of my knowledge, has usually had "cutting edge" voting boo
    • by 0racle (667029)
      Who cares. The popular vote is just that, a popularity contest. Your vote doesn't mean anything.
  • Not until you get your electoral system fixed first.

    e.g.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_represen tation [wikipedia.org]

     
  • Good rule of thumb for anyone who invests in or works with technology:
    If it's in "Wired", you know it's crap.

  • by TonyXL (33244) on Monday November 06, 2006 @01:30PM (#16737373) Journal
    Democracy is the most vile form of government... democracies have ever
    been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found
    incompatible with personal security or the rights of property:
    and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent
    in their deaths.
    -James Madison

    That is why our country was founded as a Constitutional Republic where FREEDOM, not democracy, was the ideal. Unfortunately, we are drifting away from freedom towards democracy, which has given us a bigger, more instrusive, and more corrupt federal government.
    • If 50% + 1 person votes to kill an ethnic group, guess what happens in a democracy?

      Wow, the rights of the minority are nonexistent. Better hope you don't end up in that minority.
      • by smoker2 (750216)
        If 50% + 1 person votes to kill an ethnic group, guess what happens in a democracy?
        Even worse, if there is only a 60% turnout and the winners get 40% then we have government by 24% of the electorate.

        Yes, that means you TB.

        Bring on proportional representation ...

        • Sorry, but apathy is no excuse.

          I see people that dont vote as happy with the majority decision. If they wern't happy, they'd vote.
  • by mulhollandj (807571)
    Democracy is just tyranny of the majority. A 51% vote by the people still doesn't give them moral authority to take my land. Government only has power which people give it and people can only give power which they themselves hold. This includes defense of life, liberty, property, and little else.
  • Web 2.0 is not on our side! Look at Web 2.0's track record:

    Web 2.0 has done nothing to protect the environment. Under Web 2.0's watch our harmful green house gas emissions have INCREASED!

    Web 2.0 has never prosecuted violent offenders!

    Web 2.0 failed to vote for a resolution that would put child molesters behind bars!

    Web 2.0 funnels millions of dollars through thousands of corporations and special interest groups. There have even been ties to Phillip Morris (big tabacco)!

    Web 2.0 stood by doing nothing while A
  • We still have districts, which are arbitrary geographic regions often with little common interests. They're chopped up based on population, nothing more. That's how we have all of these little fiefdoms. The ultimate blow to incumbents would be when like-minded people could vote for any candidate in the state who represents them. When I lived in Virginia's 6th district, we had Congressman Goodlatte, the guy who drafted the gambling ban. The SOB did NOT represent me as a libertarian, conservative Christian or
  • typically there is less than 50% turnout on elections of the REGISTERED voters in an area. of that percentage the majority are old people that dont care about what is online or how a blog talks about something.

    I.E. it's all you young people's fault the system is as screwed up as it is! if you got your butt to the polls and voted on EVERY election the voter turnout would be higher, the young to incredibly old voter ratio would change and the 90+ year old undead that are maintaining seats in the senate and
    • voting this time around is a waste of time.

      voting machines are rigged. we all know that.

      I wish it wasn't true, but it surely is.

      bring back paper ballots and I'll go spend my time to vote. but as it is now, we're all being duped into THINKING our votes count.

      • If for no other reason than to help prove the election is rigged! Seriously, if the election is rigged, the more people who vote, the harder it will be to rig without getting caught.
    • by hswerdfe (569925)
      To the best of my knowledge Voting is a very small part of the power structures decision making process. perhaps it is a good idea to encourage participation and reform in all portions of the decision making process.

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

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