Direct Votes
The Referendum Site

MANDATE


   DirectVotes.ca is to be a web site where anyone can initiate a referendum on any subject, of any geographical scope, with a specified time period such as two weeks to a year allocated for further input and voting.
Anyone may vote on a global issue. Continental, national, regional or local issues are voted on by those living in the indicated regions. Divisions of society other than geographic may be inaugurated at a future date.

   Simply handing off power and control to those we elect to represent us doesn't always give results agreeable to the majority. Referendums are an essential part of democratic government, and for the first time, they can in principle be easily and freely effected by the ready communications of the internet: we the people voicing our thoughts and opinions to direct our own affairs. Referendums give "the silent majority" a voice.

   Naturally, a web site initiated and run by an individual or an independent group won't have binding authority over governments. But if it becomes widely used and accepted, if there are thousands or million of votes on a subject, it will be a powerful indicator of public opinions and preferences. We elect governments to represent us, and those who would take governing actions obviously contrary to the will of the people must do so in full knowledge that they are not doing what they were elected to do.

STRUCTURE

   In order that DirectVotes.ca should reflect the diversity of opinion that exists on most any subject, the site will use an interactive form of choice ranking voting. ("CRV") Here is a little background to describe the reasons for this and how it works.

   The single "Illiterate's 'X'" vote, while a definite improvement over changing governments by intrigue, coups, wars and strife, has never been fair when there are more than two choices on a ballot. For example, if there are two or more similar choices and one quite different, the majority of voters may cast their "X" for either or any of the similar choices with little preferment between them. A minority of voters, who prefer the different option, all cast their votes for the only choice in that direction. The majority "split the vote" and the minority vote wins the election. We see this over and over in elections, and countless examples of these unfair outcomes could be given, from the most recent elections going back even for centuries to the beginnings of democracy.
   Many realize that the winner won because of the unfair voting system. What is generally unrecognized is just how badly that system distorts, politicizes and polarizes the whole of our public life. It animates and gives power to permanently organized political partisan factions ("parties") and their adherents over and above gifted and worthy individuals - real leaders and legislators. It turns legislatures from bodies that represent a good cross section of the electorate where public policy is proposed, debated and enacted, into a body of "yes men" who rubber stamp decisions already made behind closed partisan doors - and lately often by unelected power brokers representing corrupt vested interests, who gain control over the head offices and 'leaders' of the partisan groups.

   One remedy for this dysfunctional voting system is multiple ballot voting. In multiple ballot voting, successive "X" ballots are cast, with the least popular choice(s) being dropped as appropriate from each ballot, until one choice has over 50% of the final vote. In some cases voters are mostly agreed and only one ballot is required. In other cases, opinion is diverse and several ballots may be required to determine a clear winner and prevent the unfair "vote splitting" outcome.
   It is usually considered "impractical" to have the public repeatedly return to the polls to effect a fair election, but there's a simple way to do exactly the same thing with a single balloting: Choice Ranking Voting. Voters simply rank all the choices (in an election, the candidates) with a digit in the order they prefer them: 1 - 2 - 3 for first, second and third choice. In the event of diverse opinion, the least chosen is dropped and the ballots of those who chose him are re-counted for their second choice. This is repeated as necessary until one choice has over 50% of the votes. Instead of several ballots, there are several countings of the one ballot. Naturally with computers counting, all the intermediate and final results are available instantly.
   Multiple ballot and choice ranking are the only voting systems I'm aware of in which the voter is always free to rank his first choice as #1 without being afraid that he is "wasting his vote". They're positive systems that allow freely voting for what you want most, instead of trying to vote to prevent what you want least. The negative, fear driven system inherent in the single 'X' ballot should be relegated to history. If your first choice is dropped and yet no one has 50%, your second choice becomes your effective vote and contributes equally to the final result.
   Choice ranking voting has been known under various more or less confusing names such as "STV" ("single transferable vote"), "instant run-off", and "the one-two vote". Especially the first of these terms has simply made the system sound complex and contrived.

   The interactive aspect of the system involves what might be loosely termed "amendments" to the original proposal. In traditional debating, when an amended choice is offered, debate must shift to whether or not to change to the amended version of the proposal, and that must be voted on before discussion can return to whether or not to adopt the proposal, original or amended, at all. The choice ranking vote allows the debate to stay on the main track, because all the various proposals for modification can be included on the one and only final ballot.

   In the context of DirectVotes, people may not exactly like the proposed answers to a proposal, and so others besides the original proposer may add an amended answer. Ideally those who have already voted will receive notice by e-mail that there's a new choice. In practice multiple notices will probably be send periodically, or according to the preference of each voter, ideally on each issue (s)he has participated in.

   There may be a number of choices by the time the debate or vote period is concluded, some quite similar and one or more quite contrary or different. But if most of the voters choose between four similar proposals as their first, second, third and fourth choices, the final vote will be for the most liked of those related "amendment" choices, with the different and contrary choices having been eliminated in the first round.

IMPLEMENTATION

   At this point, I have rather vague ideas of how to proceed and what software to use to implement DirectVotes.ca . The Yahoo Groups polling system is much too limited. Someone has suggested "Google forms". I've been thinking in terms of a relational database (which is likely to eventually grow very large) and web browser tools and forms.

   Useful suggestions will be appreciated.

thanks, craig saers com @.
Craig Carmichael
Victoria BC Canada