Sunday, June 27, 2010

Internet Voting and the US Social Forum

Internet Voting and the US Social Forum
(First published in OpEdNews June 22, 2010
By William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.

The US Social Forum is taking place during the last week of this June in Detroit. It is a gathering of Progressives with the full spectrum of interests. One aim of the program is to discuss why our political efforts have produced so little results in what we all thought would be a favorable administration under Obama's lead. Our campaign of "health care, not warfare," for instance, was one big flop. Single payer never received a serious hearing in Congress or the White House. Our troops are still in Iraq, and their numbers in Afghanistan are multiplying, with no end in sight. Our hopes to nominate Progressive candidates in this year's Democratic primaries have also been dashed.

The murder rate in Mexico continues to sky-rocket as gangs fight for control over the illegal drug trade. Were these drugs to be de-criminalized, taxed, and regulated, business competition would replace murder, and the shameful number of non-violent folks in US prisons would dissipate. Tax revenues would increase, as they have in places where pot is legally sold for medical purposes, as in Los Angeles and other cities.

That Obama was slow to act on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill catastrophe is a direct result of our corrupt campaign financing laws. He and his aides firmly believe that wealthy corporations can be relied upon for advice in their areas of business. When BP lied, and told the president's advisers that they had it all under control, the advisers believed everything, and so the president delayed remedial action. This religious faith in corporate expertise is a defining factor throughout US policy. The need for corporate campaign contributions turns almost every US office-holder into a gullible sycophant of the super rich.

The US election system is a master of deception. It creates the illusion of democracy where none exists. The 2000 election is clear evidence of that. Gore received the popular majority vote, yet Bush took the presidency.

Further evidence of the lack of democracy in our presidential elections is the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars is needed to compete. Tens of millions are necessary to run in primaries. In 2008, Obama rejected money from public matching funds, because that includes limits on what candidates can spend. So, without those limits he could spend over $740,000,000 to win his election. Small donors are disregarded by his administration, while contributors of massive amounts determine policy in all branches of government.

Progressives are impotent in the policy making process precisely because we cannot out-contribute corporations in the campaign financing process. For this reason, the US election process is Public Enemy Number One from the Progressive point of view.

Our election power is weak because the money-dependent structure of the US election system favors the superrich, not the people. Election power is the key to success on all Progressive issues, like health care, peace, environment, education, employment, immigration, prisons, and others. But until the election system is re-structured, we will be doomed to frustration.

Fortunately, electronic technology, particularly the Internet, can give our side new leverage.

Internet voting presents a Great Opportunity for Progressives to have a fair chance at gaining significant political power.

Don't be fooled by the Great Security Scare, which is not based on science. The security technology refined by superrich banks and other corporations can be transferred to online voting systems. Ironically, we can use their technology to neutralize the power of Big Money in US elections.

Imagine yourself watching a series of debates between presidential candidates online, or on TV. Two debaters, in a real debate, have one hour to show their merit. Then you watch a second one hour debate between two more candidates.

At the end of that debate, the voters turn to their PC or cell phone and log on to their county's secure election server. After checking the registration, a ballot appears. The voter can then rate each debater from 0-9, not just cast one vote for one winner. Winning would depend on the ranking total.

In three evenings, the American people can sort through a dozen different candidates. Hearing all the ideas and arguments of those candidates would be far more of an education to the electorate than they now get from one Repub and one Dem.

Special interest advertising would have very little time or opportunity to interfere with the voter's decision making process. The voter will focus on the performance of the debaters, and base his or her ranking on that, rather than on some tricky ad that runs for a week on TV. The voter will decide long before advertising could work its manipulative schemes. Let the corporations spend all their shareholder's money. Internet voting, rightly organized, can neutralize all their pernicious efforts.

TV and online time for the debates can be free for the candidates. The people license the use of public air ways, and can require the time needed for debates from the broadcasting licensees. With that, the need for campaign contributions drops to nil.

Only 100 years ago the horse and carriage were the primary means of transportation in the US. The horseless carriage was an object of scorn and skepticism. Eventually, however, that new technology proved irresistible.

The same will happen with Internet voting. Hence, we can be sure that Internet voting is coming to the US!

The challenge for Progressives, then, is not how to stop the inevitable, but how to plan now to turn the emerging technology to our democratic advantage.

Remember what Einstein supposedly said about people who keep doing the same thing while expecting different results? So why do we keep trying to work within the money-dependent two-party system?

Let's break out of the crusty and corrupt old mold, and cast a new system from electronic technology.

Progressives have historically been the proponents of new ideas, aimed at enhancing the democratic quality of our political system. This is what we should keep trying to do!

Let us use this week's US Forum in Detroit, and the July Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas, to figure out how to focus our energy and organizing skills on wiping out Public Enemy Number One: the election process of the two party duopoly, controlled by a few superrich corporations and individuals.

For more information on Internet voting as a Progressive reform of our election process, watch the interviews of me on Blip TV, at - the special on Internet voting security at - and an update at

Also see me speaking on You Tube
For an excellent short introduction as to how Internet voting would work in practice, see the Young Republican interview of me at (It's only a five minute read. The first question is, "How would Internet voting have changed the 2008 election?")

Follow me on Twitter: wjkno1

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Political Scientist, author, speaker,
CEO for The Internet Voting Research and Education Fund, a CA Nonprofit Foundation

Author of Internet Voting Now!
Kindle edition:
In paper: