I’ve been trying to reconcile a problem with liquid democracy and the secret ballot, and I’ve found it probably cannot in the present system without making it unusable.
How can you mix being able to make sure your proxy is someone you can trust to vote with your ideals in mind, while at the same time ensure the secret ballot to all?
On a large scale you probably can, by placing legal safeguards to separate you as a person from you as a voter as the current UK system does. But this doesn’t really stop small scale problems such as inside a family “Your under my roof, you’ll proxy your vote my way” kind of attitude. Even if legal safeguards were in place I doubt that it wouldn’t be rife.
I doubt any system would be acceptable to the whole of society without the secret ballot intact, the fight for the secret ballot took 34 years since proposal by the Chartists to actual implementation. So is there a system that retains the proxy element of liquid democracy and still allow the secret ballot to exist?
One method talked about in the kuro5hin article is separating the proxy element from the direct democracy element. Users would subscribe to feeds for each ‘party’ and be able to manually or automatically choose their vote based on those feeds. The vote weighting system could be more tuned to the users way of thinking than a simple proxy, they could take the majority view from those ‘parties’ they are subscribed to. You could also still delegate your vote to your local MP (if you so desired) by subscribing to their feed. Since nobody has named this varient of liquid democracy, I’ve nicknamed it Recommended Direct Democracy. But it really needs a snappier name.
As well as just a yah, or nay vote the feed could have a fuller analysis of why they feel that their position is the right one. There wouldn’t be any limits on who could setup a feed, all the user would have to do would enter in a URL for the feed and it’d be subscribed. There would be no systematic way of finding if a feed was used to decide the outcome of an individuals vote. But it might be useful to track the statistics if the user voted manually or automatically.
From an implementation point of view it is also easier and more scalable as the system no longer has to hunt through data structures following proxies. If it was implemented as a distributed system it would be much simpler as the system only has to be presented with a block of data instead of having to constantly ask for the proxies results. To actually implement their proxy vote, the users software (or the web server) would do that proxying for them if they decided not to vote.
From the point of view of the secret ballot, the current system separating the user id and the user identity could be used. If there was a case of voting fraud the user id and real identity can still be matched up, but the requirements to access the real identity would have to be regulated carefully. From my point of view the only time when a persons voting record should become public is when they are elected or up for election to a political body, as the voters have a right to know where they stand.