Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I Want My MTV

Jeez, it's quiet as a mouse's fart at the moment. No news apart from loud tuis, photogenic sharks and nice pussies. It's been a while since I poked my head in the Aardvark, but just as well. Bruce Simpson has an interesting post on Recoverable Proxy voting. I was so impressed with my forum argument, I've reprinted it below:

Nice post on Recoverable Proxy, Bruce. I've been pondering a similar system for some time now, under the working title of Multiple Transferable Vote (MTV). The upshot of which is to increase participation in the democratic process by introducing a scale that doean't spook the punters.

First off, a couple of observations on your post. The main drawback of RP as I see it is in the improbability of unpopular but necessary legislation getting voted through. Imagine every confidence and supply vote determined by the whim of opinion polls and short-term appeal. You'd never get a budget passed. Can't remember who said it but "If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is popular, he is not doing his job."

Secondly, I think you over-estimate the appeal of internet and text participation in elections. I worked as a Census Collector in the last Census, the first to introduce the internet option for submitting a census form. Although I handed PINs out like to approximately half of households, fewer than 10 percent used that option, at least in my Central Wellington area.

Maybe it was just the early adopters doing it, and next time round will be greater uptake. Maybe it was the nature of the data being transmitted. Voting may not be considered as sensitive as personal information as the Census dictates. But I maintain my reservations of some techno-gimmicky tool to increase participation, at least, on national politics. There is no evidence to support increased options as a way of increasing uptake of civic duties.

Besides, the physical act of voting down at the booth is unique. In 2005, I went down to Wellington Town Hall to vote. In the booth with the form in front of me, everything came together. This was it. Hesitation with the marker in my hand. I wasn't alone. I surveyed the booths and saw others staring into space as well. The act of marking and putting it in the box is compellingly different from any text message or internet form.

If technology is to play any role in national elections, it would be in improving the speed of a result through electronic voting. No, not Diebold-style, and no hanging chads neither. I'd favour a triplicate style for transparency's sake. A provisional result gathered through electronic ballot, as well as a hard copy "receipt" which is deposited into ballot boxes (in code as well as human languages) for actual results and recounts.

Ok, enough with the drawbacks! Putting them aside, I APPROXIMATELY agree with your idea. You've got to start somewhere, and if any area of democratic participation is in serious need of overhaul, it's the local bodies. That's where MTV comes in.

Experience in Census collecting gave an interesting insight. Meshblocks; bigger than a household, smaller than a suburb. Non-gerrymander-able due to their size and Department of Statistics control over what a meshblock is. One can eliminate the selfish gene to some degree, congregating ideas on a manageable scale for common purpose (even if it is on a geopgraphic residential basis).

Recoverable Proxy on this scale might work. Say, randomly allocate a meshblock leader every year, who would be responsible for collating the various votes. Pay them an honorarium equivalent of a rates rebate for the term (Cheap!).

Such a scheme has a purpose on a practical level. For example, I live in a cul-de-sac and am pondering a letter drop to see if any other households round the dead end would be interested in seeking funding to plant fibre with a DSLAM at the end. Unfortunately, I don't know where to start. The Digital Funding has not been announced for new projects, and in the meantime I'm stuck in a chicken and egg loop.

As you can tell, the idea is still gestating. The gist of MTV is to provide a tertiary level democratic participation; Low-level transferable voting on local issues, retaining national political structures, at least for now.

BTW, you have my support for your jamming of the EFA.