This whole Virtual Party thing came about because a few of us were thinking about the potential impacts to our current democratic process of a ubiquitous, freely-available interactive communications network linking the members of said democracy together. That network is, of course, best exemplified by Social Media services such as Twitter and Facebook, but is essentially a web-connected, bi-directional network that could relatively easily be constructed using freely-available open-source tools.
Additionally, a technology called “Peer-to-Peer” would provide additional security in that there would be no single, central service but multiple, loosely-connected “peers” each of which could participate in maintaining the network when and if needed.
In order to link the social internet to the democratic process, we introduce the basic concept of one person, one vote. For trialling and development purposes, the people might be members of the Virtual Party but it would eventually be all members of a society eligible to vote. They vote, by clicking a button to represent their position on an issue. Votes could be requested on many different issues and as part of the many steps that might be taken in developing a policy. Rather than place one mark on a ballot once in three years, the technology would allow us to indicate our preferences often and on a wide variety of issues with a click of a button.
The same technology would support the policy development process by providing downloadable background documentation. Chat facilities and blogs would allow people to freely interact and discuss issues, while tools such as Calendars and Event Management could coordinate members in coming together in dates and time and in locations.
Well, while the ability to vote often is a wonderful improvement on the current system, it’s just not really very practical. You might, for instance, like to read up on all sides of a particular argument – say Public vs Private Hospitals – but there are lots of people saying lots of things on the topic. You will inevitably find it increasingly difficult to be across all the arguments and information. To solve this problem, we introduce the additonal concept of vote delegation
When you vote for someone in a normal election, you are effectively ceding them the power to make decisions on your behalf. Vote Delegation acts the same way but, thanks to the underlying technology, we can improve the process somewhat.
For example, you might provide your vote to one person for anything to do with, say, the environment, but to another person whose ideas on finance you prefer for any decisions about the economy. Every time your vote is used by the person to whom you delegated it, you can, if you opt to do so, automatically receive a message, email, SMS, tweet or whatever informing you about what happened – “Richard Smith, your delegate on the environment used your vote today in favour of the proposed “Trees are People Too” policy. (I’m joking :-))
When you delegate your vote to someone, you can also indicate whether the vote can be further delegated. In other words, you can allow that person to delegate his or her pool of votes to another delegate, and so on.
Vote Rescinding and Reallocation
You can take back your vote at any time and give it to someone else, use it yourself or choose not to participate in a particular debate. In that case, you vote is not counted at all.
You have one vote that can be used anywhere. However, you can also divide your vote into fractions. For example, you might like the positions of two people in the Environmental debate. You can give them each 50% of a vote. Or you might prefer one a little so give them 75% and the other 25%. Because the underlying tech can manage all the intricacies of counting up the votes and ensuring no one is able to express more than one vote in total, we can provide voters the subtlety of casting a nuanced vote.
The net effect of this ability for your vote to be constantly involved in representing your interests should provide much more effective feedback into the political process. Currently, a politician can and does say anything to convince people to vote for them, understanding that once elected, they can change their mind, not act on their promises etc. When this occurs, the voter can simply take their vote away from that politician, give it to someone else or withdraw it entirely. If sufficient people act similarly, that politician will find they have less voting power and consequently become less powerful and influential. Conversely, a politician who is seen as doing great work will find a increased flow of votes to them and thus be better-able to make effective changes.