If you have "no place to go," come here!

2012: How US Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests -- Part II. Why the Political Context Is Favorable

letsgetitdone's picture

2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests -- Part II. Why the Political Context Is Favorable for A Populist Takeover of Congressional Districts Using The Interactive Voter Choice System


Nancy Bordier

See the series introduction here.

Thanks to advances in Internet technologies, the obstacles the major parties and their special interest backers have erected to prevent voters from ousting their incumbents can be circumvented by voters who leverage the large scale collective action power of the Internet via the web application described in this series to get control of U.S. electoral processes. This application, the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), enables dissatisfied voters to self-organize and build voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can run winning candidates in local Congressional elections without special interest funding. The voting blocs and coalitions will be able to run candidates who can defeat special interest-backed candidates, wealthy self-funded candidates, and candidates run by special interest-backed voting blocs, such as the Tea Party, because they will be able to set transpartisan agendas that appeal to a broader-cross section of voters. These voters will decide who they want to run and what their candidates' agendas will be.

The political context is very favorable for supporting this kind of role for the IVCS. 40% of the electorate has rejected membership in the Democratic and Republican parties. Their membership has shrunk to roughly 33% and 23%, respectively. Not all of them identify strongly with the Parties. In fact, two-thirds of all Americans favor having a third political party that would run candidates for president, Congress and state offices against Republican and Democratic candidates. With more than 80% of the electorate wanting to oust most Congressional representatives, because they favor special interests over their constituents' interests, typical election districts have more than enough dissatisfied voters to decide who wins and loses in the 2012 Congressional elections.

Because they will be able to mobilize these voters and engage them in collectively setting transpartisan bloc agendas crossing party lines and embracing new ideas, self-organizing voting blocs, whose formation will be facilitated by the application, will be able to create winning electoral bases comprised of disaffected voters across the political spectrum. These electoral bases will be broad and transpartisan. They will be able to outflank and outmaneuver stand-alone political parties and voting blocs running special interest-backed candidates with special interest agendas.

What is unique about the IVCS application is that it empowers voters for the first time in history to set agendas that can serve as written legislative mandates to candidates and incumbents setting forth voters' policy priorities across the board. The application enables them to use their legislative mandates to drive U.S. electoral and legislative processes every step of the way. Voters can choose their policy priorities from a database of 104 options, annotate the options, and add their own options to the database. They can then contact voters who have chosen similar priorities, and join forces with them to build voting blocs in their local Congressional election districts around shared policy agendas, using communication and collaboration tools and services provided on the website built around the application.

The application is also unique in that it enables voters to play a pro-active rather than a re-active role in U.S. elections. Voters can use their voting blocs and legislative mandates to set the terms and conditions for supporting Congressional candidates. They can use them to identify, nominate, run and elect Congressional candidates whose agendas converge with their own. When their candidates take office, they will have written legislative mandates from the constituents they represent. Voters can use them to oversee their representatives' legislative initiatives, guide them through legislative decision-making processes, and help them decide what compromises to make in order to build support for their initiatives. Voters can also use their legislative mandates to evaluate their representatives' track records and hold them accountable when they come up for re-election.

By enabling voters to run candidates with specific legislative mandates and use the mandates to hold them accountable, the application enables voters to close the glaring gap that has arisen in U.S. politics between voters' policy priorities and their Congressional representatives' priorities, and the laws voters want to see enacted and those that are actually enacted. Lawmakers will no longer feel free to cavalierly disregard the promises they make on the campaign trail once they are in office. If elected representatives cannot demonstrate that they have exerted their best efforts to implement the written legislative mandates their constituents gave them when they ran for office, the voters will be able to defeat them when they come up for re-election, even in the face of special interest funding and support.

The application also will greatly reduce or even negate the influence of special interest money in elections, and eventually may cause direct special interest contributions to dry up due to their increasing ineffectiveness. Since voters will put their own candidates on the ballot running on legislative agendas that converge with their own, the candidates will not have to solicit special interest campaign contributions to get their message out, since voters will already know what it is. Neither the blocs nor the candidates will have to pay for expensive political advertisements, since voting blocs will be able to count on their own members as the mainstay of their voting strength, as well as on their ability to reach out to the invisible, but very real and powerful foundation of American political dynamics, their own local influence networks of friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to get out a winning vote on election day.

In addition, by enabling voters to set their policy agendas across the board, the application also enables voters to mobilize a broader electoral base around a larger repertory of priorities than existing political parties or special interest-funded voting blocs, like the Tea Party. Moreover, as described below, the application, especially its Voting Utility, allows voting blocs to easily and pragmatically modify their agendas to enlarge their electoral base quickly, increasing their chances of defeating opponents whose agendas are constrained by fixed, special interest ideologies.

Significantly, the application will shift the locus of political debate from the national to the local level, where voters will be continuously engaged in debating the policy options they want to include in their agendas, updating the legislative mandates they give to their elected representatives as legislation moves through Congress, negotiating common agendas with other blocs and coalition members, selecting their nominees, collecting signatures to put them on the ballot, and getting out the vote to elect their candidates in primary and general elections.

Voters will be able to team up locally with their candidates and elected representatives to devise pragmatic, workable policy solutions to national crises that the stalemated U.S. Congress appears unable to resolve, such as the economic recession, and the failure of the economy to generate the jobs needed by American workers. Voters can use the application to transform their local communities into seed beds of democratic public policy formation that serves the public interest, and prevents special interests from dictating public policy at the federal level.

Moreover, the citizen-managed policy dialogues that grassroots voting blocs engender, will overshadow the mass media disinformation campaigns that dupe undiscerning voters and turn political discourse in the U.S. into verbal slugfests. Since the website built around the application will provide voting bloc members state-of-the-art one-to-one and one-to-many messaging, networking, and collaboration capabilities, voters will be able to communicate with each other instantaneously to share and objectively screen and vet critical information. They will be able to debunk the political disinformation, innuendo and propaganda emanating from the corporate-funded campaign advertisements that will be flooding the country as a result of the Citizens United decision.

In addition to online messaging, voting bloc members working within a Congressional district will be able to hold "town hall" meetings where they can get together, face-to-face and online, with other bloc members and non-bloc voters to express, debate and reconcile their views — by using the application's Voting Utility to vote on them if necessary. Voting blocs engendered by this application may well be unique in their capacity to institute democratic consensus-building processes at all levels of government by electing representatives who will see to it that such processes replace undemocratic ones like the Senate's filibuster, and become the norm in all public policy decision-making arenas.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving, Fiscal Sustainability, and Reinventing Democracy)

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

Is is the source code open sourced? I'm not sure I'd trust any digital voting system that wasn't.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

Agreed that digital voting systems have to be considered inherently untrustworthy.

The code has not been written yet but when it is, it will be open source.

We will also have to build in multiple checks to make sure that the results can be verified.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

"digital" "voting." i don't care if it's candy and rainbows and pot of chicken in every car open source. paper. pen. locked box. with no fucking "digital" machine in between the enumeration of the votes. which is done by real people. in the open. it works in other countries. if we have to staff more voting places to accommodate this process, so be it. the funds to do so are there; it's not expensive.

i just have to be a purist and drop that on this thread. carry on.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

digital voting = digital vote stealing

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

I like your reference to other countries that have developed verifiable voting systems.

It is a travesty that U.S. lawmakers have not only allowed the rigging of votes, digitally and otherwise, but have actively encouraged it.

The Interactive Voter Choice System provides an unprecedented opportunity for the U.S. electorate to articulate its policy priorities AND broadcast them throughout the country.

It can prevent politicians and pundits from putting words in voters' mouths and attributing to voters stances they do not hold,

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

The IVCS doesn't propose changing the voting system, which I'd like to see go back to paper ballots or the old-fashioned voting machines they used to use in NY city when I was a boy.

It's purpose is to facilitate organizing voting blocs quickly, and inexpensively, so insurgent candidates have a chance to beat the moneyed types. I'd think you'd be very much for that CD.