Joe Firestone: The Interactive Voter Choice System: A Technological Fix for Failing Democracies

Lambert here: Joe Firestone has been persistent in doing the very important work on the IVCS (Interactive Voter Choice System). We could probably build a full-scale IVCS for the price of a single F-35, and it wouldn’t even catch on fire! We could pilot one for a fraction of the cost of the ObamaCare Marketplace. So why don’t we? (Personally — and granted, completely in “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!” mode, here — I’m uncertain about one big system first. I’d like to see IVCS bootstrapped in the context of Gene Sharp’s Non-Violent Method of Persuasian and Protest #198: “Dual sovereignty and parallel government.” For example, there’s really no way to manage a watershed, presumably as a Common Pool Resource, as a watershed, because there’s a mismatch between jurisdictional and ecological boundaries. So set up a parallel system of voting on watershed resource management issues with an IVCS. The difference between our dysfunctional electoral system and a functional one will become evident soon enough, as word of the disparate voting outcomes spreads.

* * *

By Joe Firestone, Ph.D., Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program. He taught political science as the graduate and undergraduate level and blogs regularly at Corrente, Firedoglake and Daily Kos as letsgetitdone. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives

Dysfunctional democracies are provoking anger, confrontations, crises and conflicts for the following reasons:

  • In many cases, the citizens of dysfunctional democracies are unable to decide who runs for office, who gets elected and what laws are passed because of obstacles erected to prevent them from doing so.
  • Several of these obstacles, for example election laws in the U.S., result in the election of lawmakers, such as those who control the U.S. Congress, who represent only a minority of eligible voters and pass legislation that rarely represents the will of a majority of voters.
  • According to extensive research, special interests, wealthy individuals, corporations and financial institutions tend to exert greater influence than voters over lawmakers’ legislative actions because they finance lawmakers’ electoral campaigns.
  • Rogue lawmakers whose actions are not controlled by their constituents but by influential groups and wealthy campaign funders are contributing to the creation of increasing inequalities of wealth that enable a small percent of the population to acquire most of their nation’s wealth, while the rest of the population has little or no wealth and few if any opportunities to create wealth.
  • Undemocratic political parties that control electoral machinery and do not allow competitive parties to take root prevent voters from setting party agendas and nominating and electing candidates of their choice, increasing the legislative disconnect between voters’ and lawmakers’ priorities.

These dysfunctional democracies are creating and failing to resolve life-threatening domestic and transnational problems, crises and conflicts for the following reasons:

  • Lawmakers from opposing parties, who spend most of their time competing with each other for campaign contributions from sources other than their constituents, tend to be unable to resolve conflicting priorities that must be resolved before they can agree to pass urgently needed legislation.
  • Even if lawmakers recognize the urgent needs of their constituents and their countries, they nonetheless tend to pass special interest legislation demanded by campaign funders that are not their constituents.
  • Lawmakers often fail to pass coherent and workable legislative programs to solve life-threatening societal challenges because they are too limited in their knowledge bases and too corrupted by campaign funders demanding legislation that is not in the public interest.
  • Lawmakers and chief executives faced with transnational conflicts tend to prefer the use of force rather than diplomacy to solve them, which often aggravates and expands conflicts.
  • Lawmakers and heads of state typically do not consult or obtain the support of their citizens for transnational policies that involve the use of force, despite the fact that polls show most people prefer non-violent solutions rather than the use of force.
  • Many nations, including the U.S., are expending large amounts of scarce resources fighting continuing wars around the world, expenditures that benefit special interests such as military contractors at the expense of legislative programs that serve the public interest.
  • Economically marginalized, socially excluded and politically disenfranchised groups that do not participate in electoral and legislative processes are opting to form armed militias and exploit the vulnerabilities of “open societies” to attack civilians and government officials.

The Technological Fix

The web-based technology of the patented Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) can fix failing democracies and enable voters and other democracy stakeholders to surmount domestic and transnational problems, crises and conflicts in the following ways:

  • By providing voters, lawmakers, candidates, political parties and issue groups common ground online for devising common legislative agendas and slates of candidates to enact them.By enabling these stakeholders, under the leadership of voters, to build transpartisan voting blocs, political parties and coalitions large enough to elect their candidates without special interest funding.
  • By facilitating the formation of transnational voting blocs, parties and coalitions to solve transnational problems, crises and conflicts, through collectively formulated peace plans and common agendas.
  • By enabling the members of transnational blocs, parties and coalitions to form blocs, parties and coalitions within their home countries to elect candidates who will enact the peace plans and agendas of transnational blocs, parties and coalitions.

Here’s how the technology will work:

  • It will enable individual voters to set legislative agendas that cross partisan and ideological lines and connect online with voters with similar agendas to form voting blocs, parties and coalitions around common agendas collectively set by their members.
  • It will empower voters and other stakeholders to supplant undemocratic political parties that segregate and cage voters into divisive party organizations controlled from the top down, and replace these parties with self-organizing voting blocs, parties and coalitions controlled from the bottom up by voters themselves.
  • It will replace divisive and ideologically framed political party agendas with pragmatic transpartisan legislative agendas set by voters, lawmakers, candidates and political parties that respond to the current needs and wants of voters at the grassroots.
  • Elected representatives and candidates who use the system to collaborate with voters to set common legislative agendas will be able to build winning electoral bases that enable them to get elected and re-elected without campaign contributions from funders outside their election district.
  • It will enable blocs, parties and coalitions to adopt common slates of candidates and create transpartisan electoral bases around collectively determined agendas and slates – electoral bases that can numerically outnumber the electoral base of any single party and defeat party candidates because they comprise broad cross sections of actively involved members of the electorate.
  • These voters, blocs, parties and coalitions will be able to oversee the work of their elected representatives to ensure they exert their best efforts to implement the legislative agendas they were elected to enact.
  • The Interactive Voter Choice System contains an inherent consensus building incentive because it motivates and enables voting blocs, parties and coalitions to reach out and negotiate common agendas with virtually unlimited numbers of voters and other blocs, parties and coalitions so that they can create an electoral base large enough to elect their candidates; in contrast, blocs, parties or coalitions that do not reach out to build consensus with enough voters and other blocs, parties and coalitions will be unable to elect their candidates.
  • While people can create blocs, parties and coalitions based strictly on ethnicity, race, religion, culture, etc., they will be more likely to grow large enough to win elections if they reach out to broader cross-sections of voters to negotiate common legislative agendas, adopt common slates of candidates and build transpartisan electoral bases.
  • Marginalized, socially excluded groups and politically disenfranchised groups who use the technology to build voting blocs, parties and coalitions, domestically and transnationally, will be more likely to elect their candidates and get their agendas enacted if they reach out to non-group members to generate greater understanding of their perspectives, collectively adopt comprehensive agendas and slates of candidates that appeal to other groups, and build electoral bases that include broad sections of electorates in addition to their core membership.
  • The system will circumvent political propaganda and media that propagate propaganda because IVCS-enabled blocs, parties and coalitions will create and manage their own independent information and communication ecosystems.


  • The Interactive Voter Choice System can be implemented in a single web platform accessible from a single website more quickly than piecemeal reform efforts that are unlikely to be adopted over the opposition of lawmakers who do not want to change existing laws, regulations and practices that enable them to get elected.
  • The core technology of the platform and website will be the patents for the Interactive Voter Choice System and the System for Playing an Interactive Voter Choice Game. This online multiparty interactive game enables users to familiarize themselves with the agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools provided by the Interactive Voter Choice System.
  • The core technology will be combined with decision-assisting Artificial Intelligence technology to enable voters and other democracy stakeholders to query an expanding global database of laws, legislation formally under consideration by various legislative bodies, and informal proposals for new legislation.
  • The technology and platform will also comprise social software providing users state-of-the-art communication and interactive capabilities.
  • The platform will provide access to
    •, an interactive global democracy building community.
    • Mobile interactive multimedia kiosks that enable voters and other democracy stakeholders around the world to increase their understanding of the strengths and vulnerabilities of democratic forms of government and ways to use technology to overcome the vulnerabilities.

More information about the Interactive Voter Choice System is available at

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. c1ue

    I’m sorry, but as I read the list above, I could not help but think that were I in the power circles now, I would specifically not want to fix any of the disfunction problems in the existing system for precisely the purpose of retaining power and influence.
    The real issue is the inherent 2 party dynamic created by a winner takes all system – all the technology in the world will not fix this dynamic.
    Only the institution of a ranked voting system would – and that is a political change, not a technological one.

    1. ArmchairRevolutionary

      I think the technology could fix it, but it would require buy in from a large swath of voters. It essentially would force a popular voting system on top of the 2 party dynamic without any political (legal) change.

      1. Nancy Bordier

        Exactly. The Interactive Voter Choice System would create what Joe Firestone’s has referred to as a new meta-layer of autonomous online voting blocs, parties, and coalitions on top of existing ones without requiring legal changes in existing laws, regulations and practices.

    2. Nancy Bordier

      Hello c1ue,

      I agreed with you that most members of the dominant power blocs do not want to fix the dysfunctions from which they derive their power, which is why the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) is designed to empower voters to circumvent them and fix the dysfunctions themselves.

      I also agree there are alternative voting systems, such as ranked voting systems, that would bring change. At the same time, the powers-that-be are likely to block the adoption of alternative voting systems.

      That’s why IVCS is designed to enable voters and other pro-democracy stakeholders to build such large transpartisan online voting blocs, coalitions and electoral bases that they will be able to elect candidates to replace incumbents that oppose the changes these blocs and coalitions will introduce.

      All best regards,


    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      First, the people in the power circles are not expected to try to use IVCS to contribute to creating real democracy. The intent of building IVCS is to provide a tool for the vast majority of people force their representatives to legislate in their interest and to ignore the PTB if they intend to stay in office.

      As for the two-party dynamic, IVCs is intended to counter that by producing voting blocs and electoral coalitions populous enough to either take over the two parties and make them subject to democratic control and/or create third parties that will do the bidding of the people.

      Think of it this way. The two parties have fallen prey to Michels’s Iron Law of Oligarchy. They no longer are open structures that represent the interests of their members, but self-perpetuating elitist structures that dominate them. What IVCS will do is to enable people to continuously challenge and disrupt existing and emergent oligarchies through continuous bottom-up self-organization facilitated by the IVCS web-based platform.

  2. bmeisen

    Functional democracies exist and are characterized by an ability to successfully reform themselves via proportional representation (eg one man, two votes), constitutionally established roles for political parties, executive power-sharing for example coalition governments, and real commitment to public goods like public education, cultural capital, and access to information. Successful reform occurs when new parties successfully challenge established parties at the ballot box and assume a degree of responsibility for the executive. Arguably this hasn’t happened in the US since the turn of the last century. The US doesn’t need a new internet platform. It needs to adopt mechanisms such as those above.

    These mechanisms function independent of digital technologies. They can also benefit from digital technologies, which could contribute usefully to the development and formulation of political opinion. These technologies also have a limited potential to improve the transfer of political opinion into legislation, the process that is most often associated with “democracy”: voting and seating a legislature and forming an executive and enacting legislation. Digital technologies are not substitutes for sustainable democractic government. The claims by various digi-dudes that democracy is an obsolete technology are poppycock. Smart phones neither equip their users with democratic potential nor allow their users to ignore democratic processes.

    The authors of the American Constitution created a flawed system. Their efforts have informed the efforts of subsequent generations of democrats who have produced better systems – sadly not yet in the US. The strength of American democracy is that it created a mechanism for the transfer of public opinion into legislation that defends the public good and minorities from the tyranny of a majority as well as from the tyranny of an executive. Its weakness is that its defense is weak and modernity has made it weaker.

    1. ArmchairRevolutionary

      Can you give an example of a functional democracy that exists right now? The only possible one that I can think of is Iceland.

      1. bmeisen

        germany. the greens emerged in the 80s, shared power at the federal level from 98 – 03 i believe, now govern as the senior partner with the spd in the state of baden-württemburg (arguably one of the most economically advanced regions of the world) and are junior partners today with the cdu in hessen (the green minister for economics is tariq al-wasir – nr 2 in the state gov). additionally the pirate party emerged in the 00s and more recently the fdp – the closest thing to the dems or gop in the us – has disintegrated and a new right/libertarian party has emerged, the afd. this self-transformation is possible thanks to proportional representation and state-funding for qualified parties, ie those that receive minimum electoral support, usually 5%.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          Neither the Greens nor the Pirate Party have yet won at a national level, and Germany is still looking at rule by a small group of Party elites comprised of neoliberal elites whether from the self-identified “socialists”, or the Christian Democrats. The other parties cannot break through to disrupt the rule of these elites because the mass media outlets largely ignore the views of people who aren’t in the neoliberal, Euro-first establishment. So, no, Germany’s democracy is functioning little better than ours here in the United States.

          1. bmeisen

            You don’t seem to recall Joschka Fischer, Green Foreign Minister for example at the start of Bush II’s war in Iraq. The Greens were junior partners in the national coalition government of Chancellor Schroeder from 1998 to in fact 2005. That’s success at the national level.

      2. TheCatSaid

        Ireland’s method of Proportional Representation, Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV) and multiple-seat constituencies merits consideration.

        It avoids the problems of the USA’s 2-party system.
        It can better represent the will of the electorate. (E.g., because there are multiple-seat constituencies, independents and small party candidates have real chances of being elected. One can rank all the candidates with no risk of one’s vote being a “spoiler”. If one’s first preference vote is for a smaller party or little-known independent, when that person is knocked out the ballot is examined and transferred to whoever got the 2nd preference. If that candidate gets knocked out, then the ballot is re-examined and shifted to whoever is the 3rd preference.)
        It is harder to “game” the system.
        It is inherently more engaging. The results are not known till after multiple rounds of transfers and recounts.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          Well first, you won’t get that reform without legislation, and you won’t get the legislation until you break the power of the two-party system. The IVCS offers the opportunity to break that power without first passing legislation or constitutional amendments or both.

          And second, Ireland does not have a functioning democracy. It has neoliberal elites from the major parties who, since the crash of 2008 have made every major economic decision for the benefit of banks and investors in spite of the great harm their decisions to adopt austerity policies inflicted on most of the people and especially the young who bore the burden of historically massive unemployment.

      3. vlade

        Swiss, Kiwis, I’d say most of the nordics are ok(ish). One pattern you’ll notice is “small”. The point being that a good democracy is small enough that the electorate can see most of what’s happening. The problem there of course is that small democracies are easy targets for large non-democratic empires unless they have something special (like swiss had for ages). Maybe nukes could play that role, but it’s a bit of a doomsday scenario…

    2. Nancy Bordier

      Regarding your comment that “The US doesn’t need a new internet platform. It needs to adopt mechanisms such as those above,” I would suggest that the US political system can be transformed by a new internet platform that enables the online formation of such large self-organizing voting blocs, parties and coalitions that they can win elections against major party candidates without having to enact legal changes that most lawmakers would oppose because they use them to get elected.

  3. vlade

    No technology will fix the main issue – engagement. Only those engaged can get power (but it will not guarantee it). Technology can help with engagement, but ultimately, it will not drive it.

    The main problem is the positive feedback cycle akin to Minsky’s ponzi. You get engaged in politics at the start, and get on with it, change the world and all is well. How many people stay engaged in politics then? Hardly any. That means you get people who want to change it engaged, and they will change it over time to their advantage. As politics is their main income stream (directly or indirectly), they will be engaged always, not only when things go badly. Until such a time that things are so bad it blows up.

    Oh, and if you’re asking for a broad engagement, be careful what you wish for. You may find that you only _think_ your point of view is a majority’s one.

    1. ArmchairRevolutionary

      Technology could drive it. If people participated and saw results, they would get that positive feedback cycle. If we got broad engagement, we might not get change on divisive issues; but, we might be able to solve a lot of 80/20 issues.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      The lack of engagement of people with politics is in large part due to their feelings of impotence. Another important factor is the expense involved in engagement that makes a difference. A third is ignorance caused in part by the continual exposure of people to mass media propaganda.

      IVCS will address feelings of impotence by enabling voting blocs and electoral coalitions to win important victories for their agendas as they grow their voting blocs. It will also provide the possibility of meaningful engagement at very low cost other than their time. The voting blocs in IVCS, and IVCS as a whole, will create alternative worlds of information and knowledge to those the mass media offer to people. Within these worlds of information and knowledge assertions people make will be subject to continuous questioning and criticism from their fellows. The wealthy and the influential won’t find it possible to create and circulate ridiculously self-interested proposals without contradiction in an information environment that they’ve previously bought. They’ll find that their views will be subject to continuous criticism and comparison with other alternative proposals and they’ll also find that beyond a certain point they won’t find an echo chamber magnifying their views, but a gantlet that will be very difficult for them to negotiate.

    3. Nancy Bordier

      I would argue that people need an empowering technology that enables them to run and elect their own candidates. The Interactive Voter Choice System, IMNSHO, is such a technology because it enables voters to leap frog over all the obstacles that have been created to prevent them from deciding election outcomes. As the word spreads that IVCS-enabled voting blocs, parties, and coalitions can elect their chosen candidates, people who have been discouraged by these obstacles from participating — with good reason — will become actively engaged in IVCS-hosted decentralized networks of self-organizing voting blocs, parties and coalitions that become the driving forces of electoral and legislative processes and their outcomes.

    4. vlade

      I genuinely hope that you guys (I won’t respond individually, sorry, as the point is more or less the same) are right and I’m wrong. But unfortunately I don’t believe in it..

      Technology can help with number of issues, but is not a silver bullet (ask companies how easy it is to coordinate even with sophisticated internal systems). The fact is, that real engagement is almost a full-time job (just look at Yves, and that’s egagement on relatively narrow front), which takes strain on your work, family, hobbies.. Few people are willing to make that sacrifice unless they profit from it. Technology will not help there as much as you think it will, because the main time-investment is to persuade people, to discuss ideas and stuff, to have power battles, run cliques (and yes, it’s all part of it and no matter of handwringing will ever remove it) etc. etc. And it all takes time, regardless of whether you do it over a chat, web, or in person.

      You can say “but you don’t need to engage full time, just here and there, when and how you’re interested”. You know, you can. But I’d say it’s the worst case – as it’s very easy for those engaged fully to misuse.
      Politics is simply like another job – you get out of it what you put in.

  4. John Hacker

    Thanks Joe.
    “…individuals set legislative agenda…” So every idea can be voted on. Great head in the altruism.

  5. EoinW

    Our democratic process is dying because the majority of people in every democracy do not take an active interest in the running of their country. They have given exclusive power to corporate and special interest groups by default, simply because those groups are engaged. In this sense we have gotten the democracy we deserve. What angers me is what our leaders are doing to people overseas. Such people are paying the initial price of our apathy and their only mistake is to be living in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Regarding technological advances: if they can solve the problem without an economic collapse or violent revolution then that’s great. The problem, however. is a willfully ignorant electorate. How do you force people to educate themselves so they become responsible voters? How do you force them to care? Media reform might be a better first step. Good luck with that one! Ultimately people’s actions – or lack of actions – will lead to a reaction. Perhaps the consequences will lead to voter engagement, a better system and a better society. We’ve certainly chosen to achieve this the hard way and there’s no guarantee this has a happy ending. But it will end as karma exacts its pound of flesh from all us “innocent” victims.

    1. Banger

      The willfully ignorant electorate is ignorant for a reason–they want fantasy not reality. Why? Because the culture induces trauma for humans. Human beings are naturally curious and engaged–why are we different? Because the ruling elites who want to make us serfs they can exploit (yes that is the agenda) have to keep us confused and fearful so we don’t seek truth but, rather escape. Again, people choose to escape because something is chasing them.

      Don’t assume that the current state of culture is “natural” it is an induced state by the ruling elites–who didn’t necessarily “plan” it but the situation emerged so why not take advantage of it?

      1. EoinW

        That’s a more positive spin on people and certainly worth considering. As I know many of these “politically ignorant” people and they are good people I’m happy to cut them some slack. The thing is: if/when it falls apart it really won’t matter whether we think of them or ourselves as innocent. We’ll all just be victims and that’s all that will matter.

        1. Banger

          I’m not fond of the word “victim” it implies too much passivity. Yes, at times it is an accurate term but for large numbers of people it isn’t. If you take the the American people as an example you can certainly make an argument that they are victims of a mind-control regime that uses very specific techniques to manipulate public opinion–these techniques, in fact, almost always work just as stage magic always works unless the few members of the audience know the trick and are looking for the misdirection. In the case of the mind-control regime it is not even that good–the tricks are crude and depend on the fact the audience wants to believe in the magic and even if it glimpses the clumsy sleight of hand will pretend not to notice–and this is important to understand–all the deceptions the government and the corporate elite have laid on us are easily deconstructed if you have an interest. Even the famous WMDs in Iraq was so easy to deconstruct at the time–I knew the truth pretty quickly by just a little research just as I knew the fraudulent nature of the war and occupation which was a cash machine for the friends of Cheney–I can go on and on.

          1. Nancy Bordier

            Rather than blaming voters, I suggest we look at the system, the structure of laws and institutions, within which they are attempting to influence the outcomes of elections and legislative processes. The U.S. system of government, with its divided branches of government, federal/state/local layers of authority, and Byzantine electoral laws, is one of the most complicated and counter-productive systems that has ever emerged. As the legendary political scientist James McGregor Burns noted in a famous book published decades ago, entitled, Deadlock of Democracy, it is a DEAD-LOCKED system. It had so many fault lines in it from its origin that it would have had trouble working even if these fault lines had not been multiplied by deliberate rigging of elections and legislative processes to permit special interests and lawmakers representing a fraction of the electorate to make laws in the name of the American people as a whole.

            What the Interactive Voter Choice System does is to make it possible for voters to join forces to transform this rigged system using digital technology that enables virtually unlimited numbers of voters and other democracy stakeholders to act collectively to run and elect candidates of their choice to enact agendas collectively determined by voters.

            This is the only system-changing solution that I know of which has the capability to transform the rigged system that has paralyzed governance in the U.S. into a popularly controlled government.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      How do you force people to educate themselves so they become responsible voters? How do you force them to care?

      You don’t force them. You engage them with an incredibly rich and empowering environment for them to have an influence over what happens to them, and to learn what they need to know to have that influence.

    3. Nancy Bordier

      I do not blame voters for being “apathetic” or giving away their power because their ability to exercise their sovereignty at the polls has been deliberately undermined by multiple players acting with single-minded perseverance for many decades.

      The problem we have, IMNSHO, is a rigged system that has been re-engineered from many angles and vantage points to undermine popular sovereignty. Perspicacious as the founder fathers were, I doubt very much that they envisioned the multitude of dirty tricks that have been played on voters to prevent them from playing the roles they were originally intended to play in fully functioning democracies — roles they are entirely capable of playing and will play when they have the power to do so.

  6. Douglas Guillory

    If this starts to catch on, well-funded rivals will spring up to coopt the issue and distort the result, ala the Tea Party.

      1. flora

        Look up ‘Ethereum” on Wikipedia.
        ” The platform was initially described by Vitalik Buterin in early 2014,[3] and will be released in late winter 2014/2015. It is among a group of “next generation” (or “Bitcoin 2.0″) platforms.[4]”

    1. citizendave

      Perhaps there is a market opportunity here. The corporations are taking over the republic, so perhaps we common people can invent a non-profit democratic process. We have never had true democracy, but the Internet has the potential to make true direct participatory democracy a reality for the first time in our history. In addition to the patented and formalized process described in the article, we will need some kind of free-for-all wide-ranging public-house drunken shouting match of a web forum to feed and inform the formal process. It needs to be able to handle trolls the way they are handled here at NC, without draconian law-and-order moderation. (I know what that’s like, having served a brief stint as a moderator on John Kerry’s online townhall during the 2004 campaign, where the rule was “don’t argue, just kill the troll’s account”.)

      Maybe we can devise a system that uses commenter reputation points, or some transparent mechanism to thwart manipulation by people with oceans of money to use against our democratic process. I don’t have a patent on my system, but it would involve getting to know each other at the most local level, so that we’ll know whose ideas and comments to vote up or down — and we’ll know what to do with the interlopers, wherever they live, who want to disrupt our public citizen-run democratic process. The ideas that emerge from this idea foundry would then feed the IVCS system described in the article. Without some very public and very transparent arguing, how will we know if somebody is stacking the decks described in the game?

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        IVCS incorporates the opportunity for all of this in its process. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by “formal process.” IVCS is already about supplementing the formal democratic process with a informal metalayer facilitaitng democratic interaction.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      This isn’t an issue. It’s a platform. And it will have all kinds of hedges designed to prevent the well-funded from taking it over. And if the rich and powerful try to build their own, then they won’t be able to, because the essence of the IVCS platform is uncontrolled self-organization, while the essence of any platform they will build must be co-optation and neutering of continuous self-organization. I think that people will be able to tell the difference.

  7. flora

    Um, I think the underlying premises about technology, control, and agency/influence are glossed over.
    See BradsBlog article here:
    AI assisted electronic voting is one of the ideas being promoted by Silicon Valley’s libertarian VCs. See the January 2015 ‘Harper’s Magazine’. They are looking to dominate a space.

    Voting is the last step in confirming existing power relations. I think the Occupy Wall St. movement and demonstrations led to states, even GOP controlled states, raising their minimum wages.

      1. flora

        I did read the post. The comment is brought forward as an example of digital security, technology issues that are too often assumed away as inconsequential or subsumed in “benevolent magic box” thinking. See Bitcoin, for example.
        Not trying to be snarky. I like your writing.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          Thanks. Also, the difficulties of digital security are very real. IVCS is being designed to achieve the highest levels of security consistent with being able to guarantee to our members privacy and freedom from surveillance of their communications within the IVCS framework. The developers of the platform are definitely not assuming or wishing the digital security problem away at all.

  8. Banger

    This is a great article and deserves our support–technology is there and just because some people at Google and at NSA choose to use it to assault us doesn’t mean we can’t use it to get back to a more human culture. Political engagement is a natural thing for humans–as I stated above, our culture through the MSM and entertainment complex wants to keep us ignorant and in fear so they can manipulate us. We can move towards a more humanistic situation using technology–at any rate we have no choice because to fight the system that has automatic weapons with knives just isn’t going to work. Firestone’s ideas are on the way to what I favor which is direct democracy but we need a series of preliminary steps and the ideas in this article are a good start.

    1. Nancy Bordier

      So glad you mentioned direct democracy.

      The digital technology underlying the Interactive Voter Choice System will make it possible for voters to “disintermediate” so many of the superfluous interlopers who have stepped into the political system to edge out the voters at the grassroots who are supposed to control it.
      BTW, Joe Firestone and I are kindred spirits and this piece is one of our joint productions. Next on the list of our priorities will be one or more posts showing the steps by which voting blocs, parties and coalitions can spring forth from the IVCS platform and claim electoral and legislative victories over the interlopers.

  9. Another Gordon

    “It will enable individual voters to set legislative agendas that cross partisan and ideological lines and connect online with voters with similar agendas… “

    In ancient Athens citizens would meet in the market place to discuss politics and make laws. AFAIK direct democracy of that sort has never worked on any significant scale yet Joe Firestone proposes a tech version as the answer to the political crisis.

    What would more likely happen is that single issue groups, fundamentalists, gun freaks and the rest, some with heavy weight backing from the usual suspects, would make the running. Meanwhile Faux News propaganda would continue to assert that public option healthcare is *gasp* dangerously socialist, that social security is unaffordable and that never-ending war on terror is unavoidable.

    Power brokers will always bend the rules to their advantage; that is what has gone wrong with the US so a far simpler remedy would be to straighten them out again. For example:
    1. Campaign finance reform – impose limits, restrict television advertising to strictly limited publically-funded slots.
    2. Congressional districting reform – gerrymandered boundaries grant effective immunity to loosing to far to many.

    1. bmeisen

      good points. firestone is proposing half of a direct dem program. more or less broad-based inclusive political systems should address 3 critical processes: development of political opinion, translation of competing opinions into legislative programs, and the seating of legislatures and formation of an executive. the direct dem delusion claims that the third process – the seating of a legislature and formation of an exec – is the root of all democratic evil and must be done away with.

      the ivcs could meaningfully shape the first process. firestone implies that it could also help translate political opinion into a legislative program. how that would work is unclear. in direct dem fairyland an ivcs would facilitate the formation of a majority regarding specific matters of political discussion. whether a majority on a given issue is right, i.e. represents what is indeed best for the entire constituency, is hard to determine. the determination is rightly the task of a sitting legislature in dialogue with an executive.

      1. TheCatSaid

        If it’s not possible to have sufficient security for electronic voting to avoid man-in-the-middle scenarios, how can we have secure processes for policy development?

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          Who says it’s not possible? All that’s been pointed out is that current systems don’t accomplish that. We intend to accomplish it within the confines of IVCS. It’s up to others to do the same for e-voting systems.

      2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        I don’t think this post “implies” that IVCS can produce voting blocs that will translate opinion into legislative programs. I think it says that and also says that individuals and voting blocs will be formulating policy agendas i.e. legislative programs. They will be doing the same thing for elected Executives as well. And they will extract commitments from officeholders and candidates to pass these agendas and will hold them accountable if they don’t. What is unclear about this and why is it unclear?

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      You’re just ignoring what the post says. First, the IVCS is like the Agora insofar as each voting bloc will certainly begin as a marketplace of ideas and also as each one grows it will only be able to successfully do that if it can get agreement on ideas held in common with other groups. So, the IVCS blocs looking to grow will have to maintain the marketplace of ideas in order to forge larger blocs and coalitions with others.

      In addition the single issue groups will not be able to grow very large, or if they do in the case of appearance of an over-riding dire issue, won’t be able to maintain their cohesion over time when the salience of the single issue decreases. The voting blocs and coalitions will learn that growth depends on developing consensus on policy options, priorities, and agendas, and the only electoral coalitions that will be able to grow large enough to influence and take over the parties or start one will be broad-based multiple issue coalitions coming together for the purpose of pushing broad agendas.

      Present-day political parties are primarily vehicles for organizing around candidates to put them into office. But that will not be the focus of IVCS voting blocs and coalitions. Their focus will be organizing around policy agendas, passing those, and holding officeholders accountable if they do not support the agenda they’ve promised to support.

      Nor will faux news propaganda influence this process, because faux news will not dominate the information world of the voting blocs and coalitions within IVCS. The reasons why not include:

      1. Faux news views when expressed inside of voting blocs will continuously encounter questioning and criticism, without the opporrtunity for faux news to be able to reinforce its world view within IVCS

      2. If faux news advertises within IVCS to push its positions, it will face strict and unforgiving fact checking before its ads are accepted for publication. Under those conditions we doubt that faux news will have much presence in the information/knowledge world of IVCS and

      3. Any voting blocs organized on the basis of faux news views will be extremely limited in their growth potential in the face of the continuous criticism they will face. They will only be able to grow by letting in other points of view and letting go of the faux news party line.

    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Power brokers will always bend the rules to their advantage; that is what has gone wrong with the US so a far simpler remedy would be to straighten them out again. For example:
      1. Campaign finance reform – impose limits, restrict television advertising to strictly limited publically-funded slots.
      2. Congressional districting reform – gerrymandered boundaries grant effective immunity to loosing to far to many.

      Sorry, neither of these things is likely to happen without IVCS, so they are not simpler solutions to our problems, but solutions that are necessarily more complex.

  10. Paul Tioxon

    If Buckminster Fuller were alive to day, he would have The World Game up and running on the WWW and a mobile app and who knows what else, and it would look an awful lot like your IVCS. This is technology enabling participatory democracy the way the modern battlefield is enabled by instant messaging, GPS and other communication breakthroughs. It is simply true that the culture uses technology for commercial, military and ideological purposes, now is the time for political organization to disrupt the less enhanced methods of organizing people. Of course, like all social change, the socialization process will be most diffused among the younger. It takes a while for people to get used to something new, to really comprehend its full value and extract the best and delete the worst. It can take a full generation or 2 of aging young advocates coming to power. Growing up right next the entrenched political system, as it becomes more enfeebled, this could be one of the social changes that has a chance of pushing through and surviving when the old system is on its last legs and takes power from it. It is a lot like the crumbling Nixon War on Drugs, falling by the wayside with each state that completely legalized marijuana and each city that reduces it to a parking ticket.

    Without someone proposing and pushing for alternatives, when the old ways simply fall by the wayside because their champions have long ago left center stage and entered the history books, there will be no hope of a new and better course. Concurrent with building a real participatory democracy with an IVCS type of technology is the political battle on the War Against Voting, conducted by the Republican Party on every level, federal, state and local. The voter participation rate, the low turnout, has been blamed on the apathy and anger and frustration with a do nothing system that produces the same results over and over again in favor of the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The culmination of a decades long plan to disenfranchise voters through direct suppression is not mention as a co-equal or even more important factor for low turnouts.


    The stripping of supposedly inalienable right to vote of convicted criminals and other voter suppression methods has produced up to 7 million lost votes, all of this favoring the Republican Party. And the bulk of convicts are non-violent drug offenders. Since the formation of the DEA by the executive order of President Nixon, without an act of the US Congress, the prison population of the USA has gone from about 500,000 to over 2 million, and the increase is almost entirely due to drug laws and their fanatical enforcement. In all but 2 states, people in prison and even people released on parole in many, many states are barred from registration to vote or are regularly culled from the voting rolls. Additionally, this law is used as an excuse for witch hunting the voter rolls and throwing perfectly legal registered voters off the list who have never been arrested much less convicted. You can easily google prisoner voting rights to see the work being done on this issue.

    Voter ID laws in important large states such as Texas and Pennsylvania, among others, is the result of Republican controlled legislatures trying to prevent a problem that does not exist, voter fraud. At polling places, provocateurs who simple come to challenge voters who stand in long lines are also frequently used. The purpose is to create frustration and obstacles to turn voters off to the entire process and devalue the trust in government’s most basic function, filling government posts with the consent of the governed. If shopping malls set up security check points in front of their parking lot driveways, asked for credit cards, sniffed for drugs and bombs in order to vet the best shoppers, you would not have many people shopping as they do with free, abundant, well lit, well shoveled in the winter, secure and convenient parking which packs people in by welcoming them.

    For IVCS to have any meaning and to break the log jam of the 2 party monopoly, congressional districts need to go, in place of state wide voting for each congressperson. Senators are not broken up into their personal district, why should congresspeople? These districts are always changing due to population census reports, so there is no such thing as a sacred or traditional voting district. In Pennsylvania alone where the total votes for Democrats exceed the votes for Republican congressional races, 13 of the 18 congresspeople are Rs and only 5, mostly in Philly and Pittsburgh are D’s. Without districts, with one vote for one office, I would be getting a full say in who is representing me from my state, as it is now, I get only a 1 / 18th say, because all of the other congresspeople are chosen without my consent, even though the basis for their inclusion is their statehood status, not their temporary district assignment. This would mean that the top 18 vote getters would go to Congress. Smaller parties would then have a capacity to get into the ballot with a base from across the entire state, instead instead of scattered support across 18 districts that can dilute support.

    Without attacking the War on Voting, no system will do much to change the results, because these structural features eliminate millions of potential voters and dilutes the power of consent of every American that lives in a state with more than one congressperson. There are real reasons why the results are same over and over again, I have pointed out 2 structural features that were deliberately legislated to produce the system that we have today. The mechanism of decision making can be described and then appropriately altered to allow for participatory democracy.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      There are no steps that are a requisite for IVCS success except building the platform Your ideas here are ones I agree with, however, to get them done you’ll need the IVCS. Otherwise they won’t get done in our current political context.

    2. Nancy Bordier

      Dear Paul Tioxon,

      I really want to thank you and express my appreciation for your comment, your knowledge of history, and your taking the time to share your knowledge and perspectives as they relate to the Interactive Voter Choice System.

      It is extremely disconcerting to realize how cumbersome, complicated and rigged our electoral system has become. I know of no other government that has a structure of laws and institutions that has been deliberately re-engineered to become as counter-productive and self-defeating as the dysfunctional U.S. democracy.

      I can understand statements you make in your section above entitled “THE WAR ON VOTING: VOTER SUPPRESSION AND GERRYMANDERED VOTING DISTRICTS” and conclusions you reach such as “congressional districts need to go, in place of state wide voting for each congressperson”.

      But there is no way to un-gerrymander voting districts or dismantle voting districts without passing laws that lawmakers are highly unlikely to agree to pass in the foreseeable future, if ever.

      That is why I put my thinking cap on back in the mid-2000s to think of a way to use digital technology to enable voters and other well-intentioned democracy stakeholders to bring about systems level change that does not require passage of laws or rescinding of laws or court decisions.

      I have a high degree of confidence that IVCS-empowered voters can defeat the propagators of what you label the “WAR ON VOTING” in the very near future once we get the IVCS platform up and running.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment!

  11. dingusansich

    Does a patent application for a principal tool of an organization advocating open democratic processes not profoundly beholden to money seem somehow, I don’t know, cognitively dissonant?

    That said, I like the gamification gambit. Parallel implementation, per Lambert’s introduction, seems a smart path for what you might call a fantasy league of voters. Blue skies are pretty, if somewhat monotonous, and sad though the reality may be, these PowerPointed notions are unlikely at best to replace anytime soon the current system of studio-lot elections. The Reinvent Democracy folks surely recognize that. The game conceit in all likelihood arose because of that understanding.

    And who knows, it could turn into a postmodern version of a workers movement, another exercise in parallel legitimacy. However unions grew out of a sphere even less egalitarian than that of a Potemkin democracy, the sphere of big business, and without empowerment, governance claims, and wealth-sharing there, citizenship rights can seem rather hollow. It seems unduly optimistic to imagine that once the IVCS comes online, concentrated capital will become irrelevant. To reinvent public governance (to say nothing of financing), it will be necessary to reinvent corporate governance. Without that a vast swathe of life remains closer to feudal than democratic. How about a game for that?

    Ditto liking the anti-provincialism of the similarly ambitious proposed global database of legislation, if it isn’t too terrible a blow to a childlike faith in exceptionalism for segments of the American public to withstand. Even better, again following Lambert (following Sharp), might be a global database of activism.

    Final thought: Lose the already dated “interactive” from the name. It is naive or inept, especially socially. In other words, lame. On that I vote no.

    1. Ulysses

      “It seems unduly optimistic to imagine that once the IVCS comes online, concentrated capital will become irrelevant. To reinvent public governance (to say nothing of financing), it will be necessary to reinvent corporate governance. Without that a vast swathe of life remains closer to feudal than democratic.”

      Very well said! I do think that these sort of proposals do have a positive value. Just like proposing that criminal banksters be punished for their crimes, innovative ideas for making politics more responsive force us to recognize that we need to dislodge the tiny handful of kleptocrats, who currently rule the world, before any sot of better world can emerge.

      1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

        It’s not a matter of optimism, it’s a matter of analyzing how the IVCS will work because the activity it enables. Concentrated capital is now relevant for democracy because the people and corporations who have it buy our representatives to legislate for their benefit and not ours. Why and how do our representatives get bought? They do so because they need the money of concentrated capital to compete in electoral campaigns and they also find themselves in an environment where the mass media are restricting discussion to the issues and solutions the moneyed elites want discussed. But what happens if candidates no longer need money to get their views out? And what if no one pays attention to the mass media any longer because one has the IVCS information and knowledge worlds to rely upon? Then how will concentrated capital control the electoral and legislative processes? You need to explain that because IVCS does plan to make these channels of influence unavailable to concentrated capital.

    2. bmeisen

      some enthralling writing there – I agree that “interactive” is lame. and it’s definitely dissonant if the author indeed seeks a patent for an ivcs, or shall I say “gamified vcs”.

      on the other hand, what is “Potemkin democracy”? and unions did not grow out of the sphere of big business, they grew out of the guilds’ stuggle with pre-captialistic industrialist accumulation. And there’s no need to re-invent corporate governance – a successful alternative exists in Germany where many major corporations are required by law to include labor representatives on oversight boards, usually proportionate to the representatives of capital. arguably the immunity of the banksters stems from the fact that corp governance in the US is effectively the private domain of capital.

    3. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      Why is patent dissonant? If one has an idea to strengthen democracy, and that’s what you want to do, but you also know that if you make it freely available to everyone, then someone else who wants to weaken it, and who has more financial resources than yourself might patent it and then use it to weaken democracies, what do you do?

      Answer: patent it yourself first!

      1. dingusansich

        Two words: open source. Any implementation will call for iterative and debugging processes. (The U.S. constitution is seriously weak on those scores.) Why not anticipate them with broad-based, grass-roots development of platforms and tools? Then you’ve got less to worry about vis-à-vis deep-pocketed bogeymen. Promote participation, not ownership. After all, if it’s good enough for a next-gen democracy, shouldn’t it be good enough for the (I)VCS?

        Some good ideas nonetheless. Let’s not lose the forest here.

        1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

          Your focusing on technical details. Those are not what has been patented. Of course we’ll reply on open source for much of the technical inputs. But it’s the broader business methods that are patented. Read the patents. You’ll see. Also note that the web site will address and engage the open source and international democracy communities.

        2. Nancy Bordier

          Hello Dingusansich,

          I heartily agree with this comment you make:

          Why not anticipate them with broad-based, grass-roots development of platforms and tools? Then you’ve got less to worry about vis-à-vis deep-pocketed bogeymen. Promote participation, not ownership. After all, if it’s good enough for a next-gen democracy, shouldn’t it be good enough for the (I)VCS?

          You do well to remind us of the advantages of open source and grassroots development of platforms and tools, and I can assure you that we will leverage them as much as we can. As noted in other comments, encryption and privacy are essential, which makes it imperative that we figure out how to optimally combine open source and non-open source technologies and software.

  12. JEHR

    There was a time when I would have claimed that Canada has a functional democracy but with our neoliberal PM making many changes that help his party, such as the (Un)fair Elections Act, the Robocalls that misdirected voters to polling stations, the requirement for ID when voting (which will unfairly affect the elderly and aboriginals), and the elimination of the government per-vote subsidy given to parties during elections (See: ), I now am not so sure. Harper is tweaking the electorate and the election rules for his own purposes as well as giving out goodies to carefully selected portions of the electorate in order to increase his chances of re-election.

    However, if he is roundly defeated in the October 2015 election, then I will claim that we still have a functional democracy.

  13. susan the other

    I usually like Joe Firestone. But designing an interactive voter choice system to circumvent our present state of manipulation and propaganda passing for democracy is an infinite task. I’m totally overwhelmed by the list of particulars. Anything that complex is doomed to fail. So our choices shouldn’t be sidelined to propaganda vs. an interactive electronic forum to air our views. It should not be an either-or choice for us. I think it would be more successful to do an open forum to design a New American Manifesto. What do we really want and how do we want to get there? But let’s not kid ourselves that it is some kind of voting machine. Because your choice is always controlled by the definition of the thing you want to achieve and that definition is a moveable feast. It is a losing game unless everyone recognizes the benefit of cooperation and the undeniable usefulness of certain social goals. In Amerika, that might never happen.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      But the IVCS itself isn’t a voting machine. It’s not a machine at all. It’s an environment for fostering continuous self-organization and bottom-up democracy. It’s then up to the emergent voter blocs and coalitions to determine the outcome of voting in primaries, general elections, and legislative bodies.

      1. Code Name D

        You’re making a grate many assumptions here.

        A former myself, I learned the hard way that people simply do not spontaneously organize themselves. You’re proposing a model of direct democracy here which has a number of intrinsic flaws backed into the foundation itself. Direct democracy models are nothing new and have been experimented with for centuries, and the problems they present are not flaws that can be addressed with by technology of any means.

        How do you propose to deal with information overload, social in-grouping, verbal noise, or the fallacy of populism? How do you propose to deal with hostile intrusion or propaganda?

        As it has already been noted by others, this system is a solution in search of a problem. You’re assuming that people are not participating in the system because they feel powerless within the current system. This isn’t consistent with evidence on the ground; it’s never been easier to participate in the system than before. The problem is that it’s so easy that any moron can crowed out more competent voices.

        I suspect that most people do not participate for the simple reason that they do not have time to do so. And that is not just about going to the voting box. To make an informed decision means researching the issues and doing so from a verity of perspectives. This is a challenge for academics who work at it full time. How is a single mom with two jobs going to even figure out what the issues are?

        And if you can get them plugged in, how do you know they will not simply operate from a misinformed platform rather than an informed one as is already the case for most districts?

        There is a myth at work here that all voices are to be treated equal and should have an equal say in the system. I agree that all should have one vote, and all have a right to participate in the system. That is they are to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law and have the same rights and privileges. But not all voices are the same, not all opinions are the same, and not all ideas are equal.

        Creationism is not equal to evolution. One is based on a rigorous examination of the evidence and results in useful tools with reliable results. The other is a bronzed age dogma that would have us wave around decapitated birds to ward of evil spirits. The corridors of power should treat such ideas appropriate with creationists being laughed out of office while those who vigorously practices skepticism and capable of conducting independent research should be given greater influence. We have the opposite because there are no gate keepers in the existing system, safe those who have or those who do not have money.

        Sorry, but this system doesn’t impress me in the least.

        1. Nancy Bordier

          Hello Code Name D,

          I hear you and understand where you are coming from. We obviously have different perspectives on a number of the issues you raise, such as the following:

          This system is a solution in search of a problem. You’re assuming that people are not participating in the system because they feel powerless within the current system. This isn’t consistent with evidence on the ground; it’s never been easier to participate in the system than before.

          Here are factors I consider convincing that it is quite difficult to participate in the system in a manner that influences who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed:

          1. Laws passed by the U.S. Congress in the name of the American people as a whole are enacted by elected representatives who typically represent a minority of eligible voters and a minority of voters who cast votes. Consequently, the laws these lawmakers enact do not represent the will of a majority of the people, and the votes, priorities and preferences of those who do vote are not determining factors with respect to legislative outcomes.

          2. Most voters live in election districts that have been gerrymandered by the party in control of the state legislature, to ensure that voters unlikely to vote for party candidates are scattered among several districts to prevent them from electing candidates who are running against officially-sponsored party candidates.

          3. Research has shown that elected representatives tend to vote in favor of the legislation advocated not by their constituents but by campaign contributors and organized special interests that do not reside in the district in which they are elected.

          4. The pervasive skewing of voting results due to faulty and hackable electronic technology results in the election of lawmakers that did not receive a majority of votes cast.

          Given the proliferation of laws, regulations and practices that enable minority rule rather than majority rule, and the difficulty if not impossibility of getting lawmakers to change them because they depend on them to get elected, I would argue that the Interactive Voter Choice System is a solution to fundamental problems that cannot be resolved otherwise.

  14. Collin

    At first pass this looks like it would face substantial security and verification problems.

    Voting is genrally conducted as an anonymous process with irrevocable real-world consequences. Any online system that allows for dynamic participation risks being hijacked either by motivated attackers. Domestic pilots such as the one conducted in DC and Canadian party elections have already been attacked and other places that conduct online voting such as Estonia, lack a meaningful mechanism to detect and correct fraud or mitigate attacks (see:

    This also raises a second issue, that of voter identification. If people are to form blocs across national lines then they must have a relaible mechanism to identify themselves and to guard against either astroturfing or identity theft. If this system relied on identifying supporters publicly it would also complicate matters for contentious issues (e.g. Gay Rights) where participants might face substantial risks for going public.

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      It doesn’t rely on identifying voters online. Members will be able to remain anonymous and to use handles. IVCS security technology will be the most advanced available. One of its requirements is that it will be able to guarantee the anonymity of our members.

  15. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    How about something simpler – a ratio of representatives to constituents similar to that of when the Constitution was enacted. IIRC, that was about 1:60,000. Modern technology would allow those ~5,200 representatives to a) live in and amongst their constituents yet still transact necessary business and b) make it a heck of a lot harder for special interests to purchase a majority consideration. Going to a bunch of offices in DC, in one building, makes for easy lobbying. Going to offices spread out over the nation is a whole lot harder….

    1. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      We’ve now had a number of proposals for simpler alternative to the IVCS. First, they are not alternatives, because they don’t address the problem of creating a metalayer for modern democracies that will repeal “the iron law of oligarchy.” But second, and more importantly, I think that anyone who proposes a law or a small number of laws to fix the democracy problem has an obligation to tell us how they propose to get those measures passed by legislatures whose members are benefiting from the present system and stand to lose a great deal from the reforms being advocated. The IVCS solution has the inestimable value that it doesn’t require further legislation and that also if the IVCS platform is put in place it then will be far easier to pass the variety of legislation you and other commenters are proposing.

      1. Ulysses

        This new metalayer sounds wonderful, yet I’m not certain why it would allow people to force the elites and political classes to do their bidding without any legislative changes. Would getting people to participate in this platform be compulsory? No, because that would require legislation. So only the inherent attractiveness of discussing public issues and “forming blocs” outside of the two-party system to enact agendas would make it work.

        There are already many thousands of earnest, diligent people discussing public issues, trying to form coalitions, sharing non-MSM approved information every single days on internet forums.

        If simply providing an easy to use internet forum would revolutionize everything, and make the power of concentrated capital irrelevant, then we would already be in Nirvana today. This very comments section at NC is a wonderful metalayer of sorts, yet by itself is unlikely to actually produce the radical changes necessary to compel, without any formal legislative changes, our political classes to suddenly fulfill all the demands of the Skunk Party Manifesto.

        Any improvement in the ability of ordinary people to empower themselves politically should be warmly encouraged. This new proposed metalayer is a welcome step in the right direction. There is no magic technological box, however, powerful enough to remedy the ills we face today. The invention of the printing press, the telephone, the internet, etc. were all revolutionary developments. Revolutionary technology may facilitate revolutionary social and political change, yet it can also be used by the forces of reaction.

        A good metalayer may well help us to confront TPTB with evidence of our determination, and the popularity of our positions. Yet we know today that TPTB routinely ignore the results of scientific polls, even when widely reported in the MSM, that clearly show hundreds of millions of people oppose what they want to do– like cut Social Security. If doing something blatantly against the clearly stated wishes of the vast majority of Americans was difficult, than giving tax breaks to corporations that send jobs offshore would never happen.

        By all means let’s use new technologies to amplify our 1st amendment powers to petition for the redress of our grievances. Let’s also keep struggling in the real world to help real workers, and to break the real power of concentrated capital. Let’s please not ever fall into the trap of believing that establishing true democracy is little harder than inventing a new app for ordering pizza!

        1. Nancy Bordier

          The Interactive Voter Choice System is basically a political organizing platform that connects like-minded voters to each other horizontally and by geographic location so they can set common agendas; build online voting blocs, parties and coalitions that can adopt common slates of candidates, and forge electoral bases large enough to elect them.

          The agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools provided by the platform enable them to set agendas that cross partisan and ideological lines, and nominate and run candidates on any ballot lines they choose (provided they recruit enough party members to sign the nominating petitions). The tools also enable them to create transpartisan electoral bases comprised of broad cross-sections of voters — electoral bases that can outflank and outnumber the electoral base of any single party.

          So without changing any existing laws, regulations or practices, IVCS-enabled blocs, parties and coalitions can defeat opposing party candidates and elect candidates to enact their agendas.

          It’s a voter-controlled, technology-based, system-changing solution that can be implemented above and beyond the reach of the current powers-that-be.

  16. Gaianne

    If you aren’t hand-counting and tallying the ballots in public, it’s not democracy.

    Incisive video here:

    Certainly discussion and debate can be done on the internet, why not?

    Democracy will have to be rebuilt in small groups. There are no fixes whatever.


    1. Nancy Bordier

      I agree with you that the tallying of ballots is subject to rigging without direct, real time public scrutiny.

      I also agree that democracy will be rebuilt in small groups.

      The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) enables voters to create small groups that they can grow into winning voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions. However, the IVCS platform is not a platform for casting votes in actual elections.

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