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The Demos System: Convenience, Simplicity, and
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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Beyond Plutocracy - Direct Democracy for America
© Copyright 2001-2017 Roger D Rothenberger