Home   Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter


Chapter 7
The Demos System: Convenience, Simplicity, and Security

Physically the demos would consist of a nationwide, electronic, always-on, real-time voting system. The design and function of the system should have three main characteristics: convenience, simplicity, and security.

The demos’ nationwide voting system would function in a manner similar to today’s Internet. Although the demos system is discussed in this book in terms of the Internet and web pages, it need not be the the Internet that is used. If necessary, an entirely more robust and secure nationwide electronic network system could be built from the ground up that serves only the demos. Using the notion of today’s Internet is merely a good way of presenting the concept of a nationwide demos with deliberations and voting. The Internet itself could not be used by the demos unless it underwent a security revolution sufficient to safeguard demos communication and data.

Voting terminals would be located virtually everywhere: in the home, at work, in public buildings and shopping centers, in your pocket, etc. Whether one was at home, at work, or about the city, one would find a voting terminal conveniently at the ready. Although a dedicated voting terminal, i.e., a specialized device used only for demos deliberations and voting, of simple design and usability would be widely available, any computer or other device with suitable capability could be used to access the demos system and vote. Any demos member could use any voting terminal or suitable device in the country or, for that matter, in the world at any time to connect with the demos.

In a manner similar to today’s Internet web sites, the demos would be presented to the electorate as one large web site with a hierarchy of web pages that would be navigated by mouse-clicking buttons and hyperlinks. The demos’ initial or Home page would contain a list of all of the demos issues. After signing in using a personal password, ID, etc., the voter would be able to enter the demos system. Clicking on an issue would lead to its own web page. Beneath each issue’s web page would exist a hierarchy of other pages relating to the issue.

The demos’ Home page as well as each issue’s initial page and the next level or two in the hierarchy of pages below them would be extremely simple in appearance and function. Unlike most commercial web sites today, the demos pages would be elegant in their simplicity. The pages would be completely free of advertising, distractions, and unnecessary information. Most voters would seldom venture much beyond these levels of the demos. If one knows one’s mind, as most of us will, it could take as little as five or ten minutes per year at any convenient time and place to vote. But those who did venture further into the demos would find increasingly rich and sophisticated discussion and debate about the issues in which they could participate.

Every effort should be made to maximize the convenience of the demos voting terminals by minimizing complexity, keystrokes, and mouse-clicking. Other input devices would be available for those who need or want them. Voting convenience should extend well beyond hardware and software design and include the whole conceptual and procedural design of the demos. In almost every aspect—hardware, software, mathematics, logistics, and security—the demos would be quite complex under the hood. But that would be a problem for the technicians. What the voter experienced both physically and mentally would be the essence of simplicity.

How to use the demos system and participate as a member of the demos electorate would be taught to every student in America’s high schools. Although students’ votes would not be tallied and their opinions would be indicated as those of students, they would use real voting terminals and actually participate in our nation’s demos. Free lessons in the use of voting terminals would be given throughout America. In short order few people other than new voters would even need lessons.

More discussion of the demos web site and pages will follow in later chapters. How specific issues would be presented to the voter will be briefly discussed when the issues to be included in the demos are discussed. Appendix 1 contains a detailed discussion about the methods used to present and vote on the nine demos economic issues.


The highest ideal of the demos technicians would be to achieve and maintain a perfect reflection of the electorate’s will on the demos issues. This could only be done by creating, maintaining, and protecting mathematics, software, and hardware that functions correctly and produces honest vote tallies and calculations. Obviously, if one or more errors are accidentally or deliberately introduced, then the errors could produce calculated results that temporarily or permanently favor particular interests or factions of the populace causing potentially devastating political, economic, and social injury or loss to others. We are liars and cheaters all, each in our own ways. Therefore, every available means must be used to secure and maintain the integrity of what would be our nation’s most priceless information and process.

In our early attempts at electronic voting in our current electoral systems, it seems that everything that can be is being done wrong. Hardware, software, and procedural integrity and security seem almost laughable. A Laurel and Hardy caricature of the many first attempts at airplane flight comes to mind. Some people now question even the possibility of achieving secure electronic voting machines, let alone a secure nationwide electronic voting system. Does this not throw into question the possibility of an electronically connected nationwide demos constituted of the entire electorate?

While electronic information integrity and security is a daunting issue, the problems involved are not insurmountable. The game of leapfrog currently played between those who work to protect information and those who attempt to gain illegal access to it will not continue indefinitely as some people suppose. As the field of hardware, software, and data protection continues to advance, the cost of protection will go down while the cost of attempting to violate that protection will go up. Also, much protection would result from the very nature of the demos voting system proposed in this book, which is very unlike the systems we use today.

The physical and electronic protection of the demos would involve three main areas: 1) the demos processing centers, computers, and information, 2) the voting terminals used by the members of the electorate, and 3) the communication between the demos computers and the voting terminals.

We already do an excellent job of physically protecting important stuff. The demos computing centers where votes are tallied and processed would be protected in a manner similar to our most secure intelligence agencies and military installations.

Several security measures would collectively secure the demos’ data processing system and voting terminals: Voter ID cards, passwords, and other identification methods such as finger and voice prints. Data encryption. The demos would not have a single center but a distributed structure involving a good deal of redundancy and feedback. A voter’s current votes in the demos would not be sent from his or her voting terminal to only one location but to several locations within the system. A paper record for the voter at the end of each voting session. Parity checks, mail backs, call backs, and electronic “reality checks” of a random sample of voters would be made on an ongoing basis. Ongoing test voting by demos technicians from randomly selected voting terminals to see what votes are received by the demos system. A thorough, public system of oversight and quality control during the design, production, installation, and maintenance of all demos mathematics, software, integrated circuit chips, and hardware. Rigorous background checks of all personnel. Rotation of personnel in the most critical positions. Illegally altering one or more votes by any means should be tantamount to treason and punished as severely as the worst crimes in the nation.

There would be a built-in protection against illegally altering a single voter’s votes in the demos in that it is hardly worth dealing with the complex encryption just to change one vote. The real danger would lie in the major computing centers of the demos system where votes are tallied and mathematical calculations are conducted. Most security would have to be focused on these areas.

One important thing in our favor is that the mathematics, software, and hardware used for vote tallies and calculations in the demos computing centers would be restricted to the same narrow set of electronic processes. Once the mathematics and software for these processes have been publically perfected and checked by many people in many ways, they would, as it were, be carved into stone. They would be etched into chips for use by the demos computers which would also be guarded and repeatedly checked through the years.

The millions of demos voting terminals would be constituted of a wide variety of software and hardware. One problem that the demos system would face is that a voter must be able to vote at any time from any one of millions of voting terminals.

The individual voter would not be able to pad the electronic ballot box with extra votes by repeatedly voting as often happens in current voting systems. A demos member could vote as often as he or she liked. The voter would only be repeatedly altering or reaffirming his or her own set of votes that are already continuously riding on the demos issues.

The science of establishing the identity of a particular individual is advancing rapidly. Using the several security measures listed above and others that may be developed, the demos system would, by identifying with certainty a given voter at any voting location or time, protect against one individual voting in many different voters’ names. Think of the difficulty the electronically capable, would-be criminal faces: To cast votes in another voter’s name, the criminal must break or mimic a complete set of devilishly difficult encrypted identifiers of the voter such as ID number, password, fingerprints, voice print, iris scan, etc. This difficult task would have to be repeated for each voter in whose name the criminal wishes to vote. We would not need to achieve perfection here, just the ability to make it so difficult and costly for a criminal to cast unlawful votes that it is ridiculous to even attempt to do so.


Also of great importance to maintaining the security and integrity of the demos: With the sole exceptions of demos personnel maintaining the integrity of the demos system and rooting out voting fraud, the data that identifies a specific voter for the demos system and the physical location of the voter when connected to the demos system, if known, must be protected absolutely by the demos at all times, even from the rest of government no matter why the individual may be of interest. Even within the demos such information must be available on a strict need-to-know basis only to the specific personnel who maintain the integrity of the demos system and root out voting fraud. Government itself is often evil, and its participants often wear the black hats. That an activity or person within a society is government sanctioned or not cannot serve as the ultimate test of the morality of the activity or person. The demos system cannot be used as the judge or servant in such matters. The use of the personal information possessed by the demos system to track down “criminals and enemies” would destroy the demos. Discerning the true will of the entire electorate on the issues included within the demos must reign supreme as its highest moral good over all other considerations. Only absolute voter privacy would enable all members of the electorate to feel safe enough to vote and the tallied votes to accurately reflect the true will of the electorate.


What if the demos system broke down and its members could not vote for a spell? Having nothing to do with security but simply during the course of its normal function, the demos computers would repeat their vote summation and calculations every few seconds. But the values representing the demos electorate’s current consensus on the included issues would actually change only slightly and gradually over extended periods of time—weeks, even months. Save for voter inconvenience, the system could fail for days on end and come back online using the consensus that was current at the time of system failure with no ill effect.

What if there was a technical failure during a particular voting terminal and demos computer communication? When a voter used one device or another to vote, the demos system and that device would do electronic “handshakes.” If the voter’s vote did not get properly processed, the voter would be so informed.


Whether the voter were using a dedicated voting terminal or some other device or computer to cast demos votes, the voter should be provided with a paper record of his or her current votes at the end of each voting session. The voter should immediately scan the votes on the record to verify its correctness and then keep it in a safe location that will be remembered later. This does not guarantee that the voting machine has actually sent to the demos the same votes that were printed on the paper record. It may be broken or deliberately set to send to the demos different information than is printed on the record. But it does provide a needed “reality check” when demos staff members conduct random or focused investigations of voting machine and system integrity. It should also be noted that presenting a printed “record” of one’s claimed votes does not prove that that is actually how one voted. Such printed records could be forgeries presented by someone or an organized group of people, who, for whatever their reasons, wish to instill doubt in voters’ minds about the reliability and integrity of the demos system. While voter honesty would usually be presumed, certain incidents or patterns would cause the level of a demos investigation to rise to a more complex, subtle level.


Some people warn that our over-reliance on technology is dangerous. Our whole world economy is entrusted to software and hardware: the financial industry, trading exchanges, the operation of most transportation, and billions of other machines and processes. A world civilization that depends on technology is taking a huge risk. If our technology breaks down and civilization with it, world population, sustained in artificially high numbers by our use of technology, will dramatically die back. Such risks have been taken throughout human history but never on such a scale as today.

But technology and all that we create in the world about us is the reflection of our inner selves. It is good or evil only insofar as it is a physical manifestation of our own goodness or evilness. While technology may amplify our capability for self-destruction, it may also serve as a means to enhance the expression of our humanity and highest selves.

Setting aside the possibility of the collapse of civilization from unsustainable population growth or the collapse (or attack?) of the biosphere that sustains us, the greatest danger to the “techno-sphere” is ourselves as we engage in war and sabotage. The single greatest measure that the human race can take to protect its techno-sphere, including a future demos, against war and sabotage is to not create the desire for war and sabotage in the first place. The best way to protect against terrorism is to not create the terrorist, the insurrectionist or the revolutionary in the first place. Creating fair and just systems of governance and human relationship within and among nations that include the will of everyone and maximize individual freedom and happiness is the way to achieve harmony and peacefully evolving change. The system of governance presented in this book is such a system; it can achieve these ends. The most important element of protection for a nationwide electronic voting system, a demos, is the fact of its existence and the realization and feeling within each of us of fair inclusion and treatment and that we have achieved good governance and “the good society.”

As to the intractable problems of our ever increasing numbers and our ill effect on the environment, if we are ever to gain control of our numbers and intelligently husband our world, it will come through our transcendence of avaricious plutocracy and the achievement of just, inclusive governance. People who feel that government and our relationship with each other is fair and reasonable will be much more inclined to cooperate in the measures needed for our self-mastery and good husbandry.

Achieving adequate security for a robust national electronic democracy, hopefully the demos described in this work, would be a challenge, but it is not impossible. It is an endeavor in which everybody wins and the nation flourishes, and, therefore, one we should pursue. We should not let today’s admittedly laughable beginning at electronic voting sway us from embracing it.

For those who have been reading or viewing too many science fiction works, it should be noted what the demos would not be. The demos would not be an incredibly complex, networked computer system that someday reaches a sort of critical mass and “wakes up,” becoming conscious. It would not be or become some sort of “thinking” machine that would make our decisions for us. It would be always and only ourselves who make decisions as we used the demos system as a tool to come together as an electorate to deliberate and cast votes on the included issues. The demos computers would make the same cyclic computations day in and day out without ever venturing beyond their built-in tasks. The demos system would do extremely well the singular task that it was designed to do, but it would do nothing else. It would merely collect votes from the electorate, process the votes according to the rigid rules that were programmed into it, and present the results of our voting to us.


Home   Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter   Top of Page

Beyond Plutocracy - Direct Democracy for America    www.BeyondPlutocracy.com
© Copyright 2001-2017   Roger D Rothenberger