Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

On the Democratic Process

So I caucused tonight. It was fine, but I didn't feel particularly enfranchised or participatorily democratic as a result. I'm happy to have made by contribution, but mostly, the process struck me as an unnecessarily noisy and time-consuming way of conducting a poll.

Like, in theory? Sure. You get together with your neighbors and there's a chance to have a discussion about who supports who and you choose a delegate that you trust to adjust their vote as different candidates drop out. Which would make sense if there were a bunch of different candidates to choose between and a lot of the attendees were undecided and we lived in tight-knit communities where people in the same precinct know one another.

But in practice, there are normally only a couple options, and everybody who shows up to caucus already has a pretty solid opinion, and the only people who know one another are the ones who are working for a campaign together. (And in principle you're also caucusing about down-ticket candidates, but they're almost always unopposed within-party.) And then the whole thing happens again at the county and state levels, which is totally unnecessary.

So it's a very inelegant and suboptimal process for reaching the conclusion it does. It's dumb, and that bugs me.

Really, the only thing you need to do is collect a preference ballot (a full ranking of the available candidates) from every registered party member who wants to submit one. Then you resolve the vote in the usual way: assign everbody's vote to their favorite candidate, drop the candidate with the fewest votes and reassign their voters to the next person on each of their ballots, and iterate until you have a winner.

If you were going to start over from scratch, I'd say the way to do it is just have a very simple website where everyone who is a registered member of the party can go and submit a preference ballot for the available candidates. And you make all the votes publicly visible so that everybody can check that their own vote was correct and that the final outcome was calculated correctly. And that's it! That's all you need.

If you think having an official space for discussion is important, you attach a forum to the website. And naturally you set up ways for people to access the system by phone or mail or by talking to a person for everyone who can't easily get on the web. Security-wise, sending one-time-passwords to people's registered address/phone/email on demand would probably suffice to keep everybody honest.

But that's as much of a system as is required. That would do the job of allowing and encouraging near-universal participation while keeping everything aboveboard and straightforward with minimal fuss, bother, and confusion and would eliminate all the tedious rigamarole of the current setup.

(I acknowledge that these are not goals that everyone actually wants.)

On the other hand, at least the current system uses proportional representation. Our precinct was split about 60-40, which resulted in 2 delegates for each candidate, and it would have taken more than a couple of people changing their minds to shift things one way or another. So at least it's fair.

Don't even get me started on how terrible our system of voting in actual elections is.

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