Electoral System Reform Policy discussion


#41

Oh, I see. The mechanics of IRC support either way of doing things. In that case, wouldn’t the PDC room be suitable anyway? Outside of meetings there’s never any activity in there.

(I’m still not overly familiar with policy development around here.)


(Alex Jago) #42

PDC room would be fine IMHO, especially outside of meeting times.

Fun fact: etherpad also has a built-in chat mechanism.


#43

I don’t think that it’s fair to exclude technology based on complexity of the algorithms. As long as the code of that algorithm is open source & audited by crypto experts, and scrutineers have access to the complete data, then scrutineers could actually run their own implementation of algorithm to confirm that the result matches.

If you are talking about using insanely advanced computations (like banks of ASICs and GPUs computing tonnes of data and using tonnes of energy like Bitcoin) I agree with you on that 100%, but that is not a requirement for Block Chains to work. It’s wouldn’t be a fully decentralised system - it’s under the control of the AEC. So instead of a huge computation being the price to enter a vote (of which bad actors would have the resources to inject their own computations anyway), another secure system would be needed to control the vote.

I was thinking of something along the lines of printing Polymer notes with similar security features as Banknotes (and produced in the same security as the Mint), with a random serial number/code which can’t be guessed. The notes are then sent in bundles to Polling Places. The Random Serial Number/Codes and the bundles they are in are recorded and open to scrutiny (but the actual serial numbers/codes are sealed until after the polls close). Polling Places record which note bundles have been opened, shuffle all the notes inside (like a Bingo cage) and then hand one out to each voter as they are marked off the roll. At close of rolls, all the codes in unopened bundles are invalidated and all the remaining notes are counted and scanned in to have their individual codes invalidated. If any notes are Stolen they can easily be traced and can’t be used.

I’d argue that it is the best tool for the job, under the right conditions and circumstance, but the points being raised in here are not on the lines of the technology actually being able to handle it, but rather the question of would Australians be able to accept the technology as legitimate?

The AEC has a huge amount of public confidence. It’s going to be hard to challenge the way they are running things because the public opinion of this organisation is so high some might think that they are incorruptable. The AEC can silently introduce proprietary OCR and nobody bats an eyelid, even though there is no way to tell that the OCR is processing those votes correctly. I’m not saying that they are corrupt, but as it stands where is the accountability?

How do we know what things will be like in 20 years? Already this current government is applying stretch definitions to legislation and destroyed the reputation of the once honourable ABS by making them put on a non-Anonymised Census and now making them do the work for their stupid Plebiscite. Anything can change and we should advocate for more and more robust systems which make it harder manipulate.

Public acceptance is a fair point, but many of the policies of the Pirate Party are very future thinking (like UBI) and Most Australians wouldn’t accept that either because it’s too radical.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, the Pirate Party needs two categories of Policy: Short term and Long term. Long term is the Ideal version of the policy, the one that would happen if the Pirate Party actually got power or a sympathetic ear to actually listen to it and make it happen. Short term is the compromise solution given the realities of the current situation.

So in this example of Electoral Reform, the Short term side of technology is to make AEC’s use of OCR transparent, accountabl & more reliable. The Long term is to make use of technology (which could include, but doesn’t have to, and is not limited to, Block Chain technology) where it can be done in transparent and accountable ways, which has been proven.

We couldn’t back Block Chain right now simply because it hasn’t been proven yet - it has never been done, there are no implementations available yet - but that doesn’t mean that we don’t support future development of the technology which shows promise and see if it ticks all the boxes.

Let me make up another example implementation:

  • Exactly the same as the current system for voters, the voter uses a voting machine as a “glorified pencil” in the following ways:
    • Basic data validation to make sure the vote has been filled in correctly
    • A bit of UI/UX improvement, instead of wrangling with an insanely huge piece of paper
    • Ability to scan a QR code in case you want to follow someone’s else’s How to Vote Card verbatim.
    • Prints it in a font which is easier to scan with OCR (rather than highly variable human handwriting).
  • It’s still printed onto paper for the voter to check and cast in the usual way.
  • The AEC MAY use OCR for these printed votes as long as these votes open to scrutineers using their own OCR machines to make sure the AEC got their OCR right.
  • 100% Paper option is still available, but may not be OCR’ed
  • Optionally, the voting machine could be testing new technologies at scale and collecting UX statistics under the hood.

Lets see if you can pick that example apart.


(Frew) #44

You are trying to sell this to the Pirate Party, if we aren’t interested, how do you think it would play in any audience not into cryptocurrencies? You seem to be a faction of one on this issue.

Explaining how to legitimately carry out computer assisted voting to someone outside of IT and they’d go do something else, if you were talking to them, they would most likely pull out their phone until you changed topic. We have limited time where we can talk to and explain things to the public in order to convince them to vote for us. We need to be hitting key concerns, cost of living, climate change, the hope for a better future etc. and for our target audience, civil liberties and digital rights. Computer assisted voting is not on that list. It would dilute our message.

Electoral reform is important, we need to be talking about election results best representing the desires of the voting public. That is the point of trying to reform the system. Changing the method of counting is a side issue at best.


#45

Well I’ve made my point, good luck with the rest of the reform.


#46

The points being raised here are both. If Australians can’t accept it as legitimate, then it can’t be used. Simple enough.

But it’s also very important for a voter to be able to verify that they are actually casting the vote they want to cast. This must be able to happen while the voter is left alone in privacy with themselves and whatever they’re using to cast the vote. Any computer equipment involved at this stage must be able to stay secure from tampering and verifiably correct throughout. And the vote has to remain anonymous. This is generally where all electronic voting fails.

You seem to be suggesting casting votes by paper, with key improvements of consistent ways of filling the paper out and each stakeholder being able to supply their own scanning equipment, verify that the ballot scans as what it should scan as, then calculate independently. That is workable.

There are still bits to nitpick over in the specifics, such as insanely huge pieces of paper being a sign of a poorly designed system, and some (including myself) might argue that we shouldn’t make it easier for people to mindlessly follow how-to-vote cards. But it’s workable.


(Kaz) #47

Great, I’ll be in there tonight if anyone wants to chat.


#48

Well if we wanted to actually get the idea adopted, that would be the carrot to wave in front of the major parties to make it happen. They would love anything that makes it easier for people to vote for them, if they had the choice between someone voting for them or an invalid vote, they would go for the easier option so they can get more votes That is the price we pay have to pay to bring it on the line, and also it’s more respectful to the public to make it more accessible for them to follow through with their intentions, and if they want to blindly trust the party they go for, that’s their right to do so.


(Alex Jago) #49

I don’t seem to have said it in the current round of discussion, so I might as well say it:

I think unicameral mixed-member proportional, with preferential district voting and best-near-winner topup-MP selection, is the way to go for most state level parliaments (in particular, my native Queensland, which is already unicameral).

Making the district vote be preferential doesn’t make much difference in terms of number of top up MPs required, but it does avoid vote-splitting issues at a district level and even permits using just a single ballot (most MMP systems have two).

My issue with ‘Hare-Clark’ STV, like they do in Tasmania or the ACT, is that in the larger states you run up against massive district-size issues, and STV of any reasonable magnitude only exacerbates the problem. Some people propose retaining single-member districts for the big outback seats, but that’s actually a bit of a gerrymander - whoever wins the outback districts can still have a crack at 1-2 seats per city district (which they would lose handily under all-single-member). Also, to get decent proportionality you need fairly high district magnitudes and we all know how big those ballot papers can get.


#50

All information and evidence I have so far suggests that to be the best option, but I like to be very thorough about things. I’d go further and suggest that such a system would be ideal for all state, territory, and federal parliaments. But there are problems, of course. Mostly in the form of Tas Legislative Council and the Senate.

It’s a widespread myth that STV is proportional. As it operates on candidates only with no regards for party it can offer no such guarantees. It comes close when people vote strictly on party lines (usually the case) and when there are very few districts (not so much outside local elections, for exactly the ballot reason you mention).


(Alex Jago) #51

If STV doesn’t produce a party-proportional result (plus or minus one seat from what a party “should” have gotten) that probably indicates people weren’t voting along party lines anyway.


(miles_w) #52

I think the debate of whether the Australian electorate would accept blockchain is moot because it’s been proven they will - Flux party’s successful member drives and state registrations are proof. It only needs a persuasive and simple way to be marketed and by holding back due to security concerns we risk legitimacy as a “technically literate” party, howevermuch that caution may be warranted.

Regarding our policy re blockchain voting, it is an excellent implementation pathway for liquid democracy and I think it’s important we at least draft something now so we can move to the next step of developing an official policy statement on it.


#53

And by not holding back when caution is warranted we risk legitimacy as an evidence driven party. Technically literate doesn’t mean jumping on whatever latest technology fashion comes along without considering whether it’s really a good idea.

You’ve got the order a bit mixed up. We could have a perfect shining example of liquid democracy policy and none of it will ever see the light of day because the two party system at the moment is so dysfunctional. Fixing that issue ranks a little higher in importance.


(miles_w) #54

Point re balancing technical literacy vs evidence based policy. My view however is that the Australian public is already supporting blockchain voting in increasing numbers via Flux party and while part of our strategic goal is for advocacy beyond electoral gains we need a position on this sooner rather than later.


(Jesse Hermans) #55

I haven’t had time to follow this thread and have only skim read it. I will however put it on record I strongly oppose liquid democracy on the grounds that it formally commodifies votes, which is an affront the very principle of one vote one value and the sanctity of the secret ballot.
From my basic understanding FLUX advocates for a liquid democracy system, and on these grounds I oppose them.

Direct democracy however in some applications is fine though, given it doesn’t breach the above principles.
What is much more preferable in my opinion is not to even rely as heavily on votes. I’d much rather have a system where a certain portion (if not the whole) senate was elected purely by sortition to form a super citizen’s jury (deliberative democracy), one which served a single limited term. I’d then make the lower house a more proportional based system in addition to this. Unlike jedb I am a fan of STV (Hare-Clark) and the PR Society of Australia, which has fought hard over a century to have the system introduced (NB their website is appalling).


(Jesse Hermans) #56

Also FYI:

Federal Elections: Australia has limited constitutional protection for direct election. Section 7 of the Australian Constitution requires that State senators be “directly chosen by the people of the State”, but Section 122, which empowers the Federal Parliament to provide for senators for the territories, has no requirement for direct election. It would seem a difficult task for a government to hold a referendum and persuade a majority of Australian electors to approve the omission of the word “directly” from Section 7.

This means any attempts to (for the senate) abolish the existing STV system (or even allow for sortition candidates) for state senators e.g. a MMP system, cannot be implemented without changes to the constitution. However from what I understand, it does not preclude adding non-state senators to the senate. So adding non-state senators elected via sortition from across the country seems plausible.


(Alex Jago) #57

We can abolish the existing STV system, but whatever we replace it with has to feature a method to directly vote for candidates: Finnish-style open-list party proportional would presumably be permitted, but Israeli-style closed-list would not.

In any event, I don’t propose changes to the Senate any time soon.


(Jesse Hermans) #58

This is true, but no doubt party list systems seem inferior versions of the already existing STV system. It just sounds like a first past the post version which fails to let voters cross preference candidates across party lines, which makes no sense to me.


#59

I haven’t consulted a constitutional lawyer on the subject, but I expect even closed lists would be fine. Group voting tickets as they used to exist were essentially the same thing. Sortition candidates would be right out though.

Btw the “directly elected by the people” clause has already been noted in the pad, along with an equivalent clause in the WA state constitution.

Been there, read that, was on their mailing list for a while some years ago. The major flaws of STV that make it a poor choice for the House of Representatives and other lower houses are:

  • Geographic bias if you don’t use one big electoral division. (And to do that you’d need to change clause 29 of the Aust constitution.)
  • No local representatives and massive intractably large ballots if you do use one big electoral division.
  • Votes, both casting and counting, are more complicated than they need to be.

If you want an example of STV being used for lower house elections, check out Ireland. Note the distortions of proportionality in their results. Ireland is an interesting case because they often have a high number of independent MPs, likely due to a particular rule they have about needing an MP to create a political party or something. I haven’t looked at it for a while.

What STV is quite good at is coping with lots of independent MPs and minimising vote wastage. The former property makes it very good for local elections. The latter property being one good reason to keep it for the Senate. After tweaking things to make ridiculously sized ballot papers a lot less likely, of course.


#60

Funny thing is that, with very few exceptions, the Senate has been de facto party list (closed, even!) for decades. Voting below the line is rare enough that it’s exceedingly unusual for the candidate order of election to be different from their order on the ballot.

Robson rotation would fix that particular niggle, but still.