We have just under three weeks until the election, and as such I've been pretty much sticking to topics that directly affect how people vote. However, between record turnouts for early voting and the increasingly obvious fact that nobody's listening to me anyway, I'm switching gears as of this week to focus on the long-term.
This week I'm going to focus on something that might help put you in touch with my perspective; see, popular opinion among people who still talk to me (and trust me, the numbers are dwindling) is that I'm some combination of "idealist" and "total idiot;" it's not pragmatic, I'm told, to call out Trump's opposition as being no more help than Trump. What I have to realize, they tell me, is that change has to be incremental; it's not possible to actually get anything done in a democracy.
The problem with that mindset is that what we have in America is not democracy. It just isn't. Democracy is when the People decide what happens to them; we have a system in which we elect "representatives" who lie to us about reality and about their intentions to stay in power as long as possible, collecting our tax money for their paychecks and collecting bribes from corporations, all while putting their actual effort into letting as few people as possible onto the ballot, letting as few people as possible vote, and misleading the ones who can. That's not democracy.
In an actual democracy, a direct democracy, change is pretty simple, and fast, and easy. And we can have it. We have the technology. Without stretching or exaggerating, everything I'm about to discuss is easily possible today - aside from the fact that the people who would have to approve of it and put it in action never will, because it's in our best interest and not theirs. And when you see how possible this is, and how good it would be, and you understand that no one in either major party would ever let it happen - you might understand a little better how absolutely full of crap they both are and why I'm constantly so pissed off about it.
So let me lay out a plan for direct democracy for you, explain how it solves all of our most major systemic problems, and, in the interest of getting people engaged with the column (and because I'm the melodramatic bisexual I am), if you can come up with a single problem with it that I don't address in the article and that can't be summed up with "Our current system of overlords won't let us," I will personally PayPal you $10.
(And this solution is only an option after the federal government has managed to regain the confidence of the Public, which is its own completely solvable but never-to-be-solved problem)
There should be an individual voting machine in each household, featuring a secure, digital, end-to-end encrypted connection to a federally-overseen office that counts the votes. There should be no cameras or microphones on this machine, and it should have its own satellite connection to the counting office, not connected to the home's wifi - there should be no reason for concern that the government is using it to spy on the home.
This machine should be equipped with a fingerprint scanner; upon installation the members of the household are fingerprinted and the prints are registered to the voting machine - no need for certain IDs or complicated, bureaucratic registration processes, just vote by fingerprint. The prints are updated yearly in case there are accidents (scars, lost digits) or additions to the household (kids coming of age, marriage/divorce), or the household can report changes and request an update to their registry.
The machine should be built and installed and maintained at the expense of the government; no classism here. Further, assuming we start using them before capitalism is dismantled (and it will happen, sooner or later), an ample number of public machines should be installed in libraries and government buildings, and the houseless can register and use them. Everyone gets to vote. Period.
The machine should be easy to use, and when it's installed, those using it should be trained extensively - and for good measure, its use should be taught in school, starting somewhere around sixth grade, with refresher courses every year. People should be openly and actively irritated by the amount of education they get on it. The phrase "It's time to talk about the voting machine" should be immediately followed by a collective groan and at least two people saying "JESUS CHRIST, WE KNOW, WE GET IT." It should be as intuitive as possible and have the amount of training people usually get for nuclear physics.
The machine should be the most cutting edge thing on the planet in security - security of information, but also security against tampering. Obviously, as any computer security expert can tell you, one of the few things in life that is actually impossible is making any technology "unhackable;" but every effort should be made in advance to prevent tampering; measures should be in place to detect when it has been tampered with; and there should be an entire government agency dedicated to trying to hack it - remotely and locally, for any reason, to any end, offering huge rewards for successful hacks, offering plea deals and salaries to young hackers who get caught in exchange for their continued efforts to hack the thing in any way possible - and making it more secure based on any successful hacks.
Basically, there should be no question that this machine is safe and secure and infallible; there should be no question of its legitimacy. There should be no concerns about interference or misrepresentation; everyone should feel 100% confident and secure that their vote has been counted correctly and fairly.
It could probably use a name - if it's left up to the software engineers to name it, it'll probably be something trendy like "Votrr;" if it's the hardware engineers, probably something like VoteFree or something; if it's up to Congress to name it, it'll either be something designed to sound harmless and innocent, like WeVote, or some pointless acronym, because they do love their pointless acronyms.
Personally, if it were up to me, I'd name it Vox Populi (Latin for "Voice of the People"), so from here on out I'll just refer to it as the Vox.
And all that's just the basic concept.
Election days stay the same, but early voting starts as soon as candidates are finalized - however, if you voted early, your vote stays tentative; if you change your mind before election day, you can change your vote, as many times as you want. If you vote early for Candidate A, but three days before election day you find out Candidate A wants to make it illegal to fart in public, you don't have to regret your vote; you can just change it. Votes are finalized on election day; no changing them after 11:59PM the day of. At midnight, voted are counted - and since they're all digital and have been submitted already, it will be almost instant.
This removes the national problems of long voting lines, mail-in ballots, voter ID and other vote suppression tactics, and having to take off work to go vote. This makes it convenient and simple to vote, as it should be - any system that says otherwise is not a democracy.
"But people will 'tentatively' vote for the candidate they hate, and then change it last minute!"
To what end? Isn't that just dumb? What does that accomplish? Who cares if they do? OH - you're worried about how it'll affect polling data, I'm guessing.
That brings us to a very important change:
I cannot conceivably stress this hard enough: There is absolutely NO REASON we need to be concerning ourselves with who's more likely to win, and it's a constant disappointment to me that so many of you very intelligent people keep fussing about it. It's a trick, and you're falling for it. Hard. If we want democracy to function, one huge part of that is to make it as illegal as humanly possible to publish polling data ahead of the election.
Anyway, back to the point.
All elections for elected officials are ranked-choice. None of this one-or-the-other and has-to-be-a-major-party crap; review qualifications and proposed policy and make your choice.
Speaking of elected officials...
...most of their positions can be eliminated by the Vox; with voting so easy, we can move to direct voting on all legislation, which can and should be written in plain language, in multiple languages.
Let me break this down in steps:
1. Vox should have an option for suggesting new legislation; a person can bring up a problem they want solved, and if they have a specific idea to fix it, they can list it; if they don't have a specific idea, it goes into a forum, accessible by everyone on any voting machine, and solutions can be suggested.
2. As the public discusses it, only legitimate, provable objections or rationalizations are allowed - no "my religion says we can't do this." If you have an actual reason to object, it can be discussed; other than that, not allowed.
3. Once we've identified the problem and a possible solution or two, that information is sent to relevant experts on the topic (unless they already signed off on it in the forum) so they can determine how effective it will be and suggest changes if necessary. If changes are needed, it goes back to public forum for approval.
4. After we have a vetted, scientifically viable solution to a clearly stated problem, it goes to a team of lawyers who make sure it doesn't violate any person's freedoms or rights, make sure it can hold up in court, and make sure it takes into consideration future developments; same as the scientists, if any changes are needed, it goes back to public forum for approval.
5. Once all that is cleared, it's sent to a team comprised of native speakers of the 10-15 most common first languages spoken in the US, and put into its final written form, written in plain language in all of them - no legalese, no confusing language, just the same writing you're reading now.
6. Now we have a clearly stated problem, and for it, a solution literally everyone can understand easily, which has been created by the public, vetted by experts, and confirmed by lawyers; everyone can view it on their voting machine and vote Yes or No, and if it passes: new law.
Example: I think it's bad that people can go on TV - news, talk shows, ads - and say whatever the hell they want, no matter how untrue it is, misleading millions of people. I think a good solution would be a requirement that any claim made to a broadcast audience has to be proved, with actual evidence and reasoning, to be true, with severe fines and required public retraction and apology for violations - and accessory charges for any harm done based on that misinformation.
So: I get on my Vox and submit this as proposed legislation; the public discusses it and we agree on the best way to go about it; experts on sociology and psychology review it and determine (let's just assume for this example) that it should work; the legal team reviews it and points out that some aspects infringe on others' rights; it's kicked back to public forum; those aspects are corrected; it's approved by legal; it's put in final plain language; it's posted for a vote, and it passes. Now we've made real change! With that system in place, there's no need for a Senate and no need for a House. Direct vote on everything.
Without a Senate and House - with the legislative branch just being extensions of the public - the President can focus on their Actual Duties, such as foreign relations and the military - except GUESS WHAT, now that we have this direct vote system, we have control over that, too!
The President has to submit an open request to act on anything, from troop movements to ambassadors to any kind of foreign trade agreement, and anything and everything in between. Everything goes through the public for approval, or it doesn't happen.
"But what if there's an emergency and the President has to act RIGHT NOW?"
Totally! That will come up, great question. In cases like that, the President, after acting, files a report with the Public detailing what happened, why they had to act immediately, what they did and why, and what the repercussions were. The Public then gets to vote on whether that action was acceptable:
- If 75% or more approve, no problem.
- If 50-74% approve, the President has to address and answer to the minority opinion about their concerns.
- If 25-49% approve, impeachment hearings begin the day after voting.
- If less than 25% approve, the President is immediately relieved of duty by the Vice President, and a vote is scheduled to decide whether the VP keeps the position or a special election is held.
- If, at any point, anyone doesn't like this system or these tiers, they have the option to propose changes to it!
So now we, the People, have direct control over the legislative and executive processes of our country! Too bad we can't just expand that to the Judicial branch as well OH WAIT YOU BET YOUR SWEET LUSCIOUS BUTT WE CAN
Try this on: the justice system works largely the same way it does now, except the appeals process can be started by anyone, from home, on their Vox. People are arrested and tried as they are now, but if you hear about a case and think there's something hinky about it, you can review all details of it - names, charges, evidence, arguments, context, and full audio and video coverage of the trial, including jury deliberations - and if you still feel it's wrong, you can open an appeal right then and there. That appeal pops a notification up on every Vox, and everyone who wants to (which would be a lot of us) can review and vote on whether we think it should be revisited:
- If 75% or more agree with the verdict, it stands.
- If 50-74% agree with the verdict, it's reopened as a fresh trial with a new jury, new judge, and new lawyers, specifically addressing the concerns of the public.
- If 25-49% agree with the verdict, it's dismissed immediately, but remains on the defendant's record as "convicted, but acquitted on public appeal."
- If less than 25% agrees with the verdict, the case is dismissed and expunged from all records.
Of course, there's more at play in a bad court case than just the trial, and all of that can be addressed with these appeals as well:
- If the public generally agrees that the verdict was right based on the law, but that it shouldn't be - that the law itself is unfair or prejudiced and should be amended or removed - we can vote on that!
- If the public generally agrees that the verdict was right, but that the sentencing was too lenient or too harsh, we can vote to change the sentencing!
- If the public generally agrees that the verdict was wrong because the judge was biased? Bye-bye, Judge! Removed from their position, barred from serving in the future, and mandatory jail time, with sentencing determined by ranked-choice voting.
- If the public generally agrees that the verdict was wrong because one of the lawyers messed up royally or was biased? Disbarred, baby!
- If the public generally agrees that the jury was biased? No one on that jury ever serves on another jury!
("What if they did it on purpose to get out of future jury duty?" Careful jury selection should rule out that possibility, but if it were to come up, that could be addressed in public forum via the Vox).
So, case by case, with public involvement, we can weed out:
- Biased judges
- Incompetent lawyers
- Faulty laws
- Ridiculous sentences
- Any possibility of prejudiced juries.
I may be forgetting something, but I'm fairly certain that fixes most of our systemic justice problems.
So at this point in the plan, we've taken our power back and fixed most voter suppression issues, political fraud and grift, government overreach, a lot of federal budget bloat, lack of government official accountability, rampant misinformation, bad laws, and systemic racism/sexism/classism/transphobia/homophobia in the justice system; not to mention, all the people complaining about protests and riots get what they want, too - we protest and riot to force change out of power-hungry rulers who benefit from the way things are now; if we have a system for direct voting, we enact the change ourselves, and we don't have to protest or riot to convince others to do it. Everybody wins!
Granted, that's exactly why this won't happen anytime soon; the type of people with the time, money and desire to run for office are not the type of people who benefit from the People actually having a voice. But hey; never hurts to throw this out there, right?