Digital Democracy

If elected, I will introduce a system of digital democracy into Dublin Fingal. This means that any of my policies may be overturned by you, the voters.

I will commit to holding 5 votes in the first year of my office and 10 each year thereafter to poll citizens as to how I should cast my vote in the Dáil. This voting will be done online and will be open to all registered voters in our constituency.

I will also explore possibilities for committing part of my pay as a TD to compensating citizens for their vote on these public matters.

All of the other policies laid out on this webpage are therefore provisional. They explain how I intend to vote, barring other instructions from my constituents.

The Reasons

Holding elections for representatives is an outdated model of democracy. When this system was invented there were simply no other options for people to hold large meetings over vast territories other than to physically attend a gathering at a pre-agreed time.

Since the advent of the internet that has changed. It is now possible to do just about everything online, including voting. In fact, voters in Estonia and Switzerland already regularly cast their ballots online in elections and referenda.

There are many reasons why mass online voting is superior to traditional representative decisions:
– it is more transparent
– it limits corruption
– it lends decisions greater legitimacy (making it more likely that people will voluntarily obey those decisions)
– it allows citizens to communicate with each other about what is important to them
– it prevents the statistical skewing that is inherent in the electoral process

Details / Frequently Asked Questions

    1. How is the electoral process skewed?
      Countries like Ireland are home to millions of citizens, but only elect a few hundred national representatives. This means that it is mathematically impossible for them to represent voter preferences. Whenever something large and complex, like all of the citizens of a country, is reduced to something small and simple, like the Houses of the Oireachtas, it loses accuracy. This is compounded by the fact that a party gains power not by winning votes but by winning seats. Therefore, it is possible for a party that wins the most first-preference votes to end up forming the opposition instead of the government and therefore the citizens end up living under policies that they did not technically vote for. It is estimated that this happens under STV (Single Transferable Vote) in Ireland about 20% of the time. Since we spend about 1/5th of our lives living under policies that the majority of us did not want, it is no wonder we are dissatisfied.
    2. What about implementation? If only three people cast a vote online, are you really going to do what they say?
      Voting will be subjected to a quorum, whereby at least 15-20% of registered voters will need to take part for an online vote to be binding. (Note: this is a larger number of votes than I need to win election in the first place). All online votes will be well-publicized in advance so that everyone has the chance to participate.
    3. If you allow online voting, won’t people just create fake profiles and troll the site?
      Anyone registering to vote online would need to create a profile to be checked against the voters’ register to ensure that multiple accounts/trolling does not occur. Online voting will also be subject to a policy preventing bullying and be implemented in compliance with all existing laws on privacy protection.
    4. Aren’t people too irresponsible and uninformed to be making these kinds of decisions?
      Shouldn’t it be left to the experts?

      There are two points to be made here. The first is that leading Irish politicians rarely possess any subject-specific expertise or relevant qualifications so that the material difference between a minister making a decision and the general populace making a decision is difficult to see. The second point is that while details often do require expert attention, general policy decisions do not. For example, I do not know very much about medicine, but I do know that vaccination against illnesses like polio and tetanus has saved millions of lives and that these vaccinations are cheap to produce. Therefore, the conclusion that people should have access to free vaccines isn’t hard to reach. I do not need to know how to personally manufacture a polio vaccine to come to it. These are the kinds of general policy decision that I propose should be made by the people as a whole.
    5. Is this the first time digital democracy has been tried?
      Internet voting is already used in some European countries. In Estonia, it is even possible to vote by mobile phone. Other countries, including France, Germany and China have hosted online experiments in participatory budgeting, i.e. a situation in which voters get to decide how a proportion of the public budget is spent. However, as far as I am aware, it would be the first time that a sitting representative commits to voting in accordance with their constituents’ wishes.