This page is http://nfirc.weebly.com/philocracy-p-3.html .
Table of contents of this page:
1. Barefoot elections! Fair election campaigning without private money! In this example, civic elections in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
2. Support a pro-rep ward system! Finally bringing democracy back to Vancouver (or anywhere else).
Fair election campaigning without private money!
In this example, civic elections in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
by Korky Day, 2011 November 21 & 29.
In the 1970s I remember reading about China's "barefoot doctors". That name meant that the physicians were hardly richer than the people they healed.
Inspired by that ideal, I conceived this plan for barefoot elections.
In 2008, I campaigned in a system which actually attempted to minimize the corrupting effect of private money in elections. That was under Arizona's "Clean Elections" law, considered one of the best in the USA.
My opinion of it is that it's better than no campaign finance restrictions at all, but it has serious drawbacks: It is voluntary for candidates, it neglects voter education, and too few people see the debates.
Also, I've read about many elections, including in Cuba and Nicaragua, from which we should learn, too, though their systems have many faults.
I've studied the lukewarm, partisan attempts in Canada to restrict the corruption of money on federal elections.
This plan alone would not achieve fair and democratic government, which Canada and the USA have never had. For that larger goal, we also need a fair (proportional) ballot, more direct democracy, to break up the private media monopolies, etc.
Nevertheless, we focus in this proposal on the financing aspect of election campaigns.
Voter tax rebate
For this (or any) plan to work, it must raise the voter turn-out to 95% or more. Australia has done so for generations! The Aussies fine you for failing to show up at the polls. People there are united on the concept.
My "voter tax rebate" (VTR) plan (published 2003) is similar to the Australian plan, except that it uses "a carrot instead of a stick".
The "stick" is the penalty fine. The "carrot" would be a "voter tax rebate" of maybe 50 or 100$ per election. You submit your ballot, you are handed your cheque.
Financially and administratively, rebates are easy, fair, and don't affect the rest of the budget at all. That is because the rebating is completely revenue-neutral: we raise taxes by the amount we give out. We collect it, we pay it out. It's even. (Of course, taxes should be more fair, but that's a separate question.)
I predict that the VTR would raise the turn-out to at least 95%, but if it doesn't, it just means that we need to raise the amount of the rebate a bit more.
More intelligent campaigning
So the "voter tax rebate" is the first part of campaign finance reform. One result of such rebates is that campaigns can save a huge amount of money that they must now raise simply to "get out the vote".
You see, a huge part of campaign money (and volunteering) now is spent on identifying one's supporters so that those voters (not the opposing or undecided voters) can be reminded and harangued to vote. If, instead, 95% of people voted without reminding, the campaigns could focus instead, as they should, on voter education, discussion--and even negotiation--on the issues.
No private $
With this plan, we ban private donations. So who's going to fund the campaigns? Will the government give money directly to the candidates? They do in Arizona, though each candidate has the choice of that funding or private funding.
The main problem with that programme, even if all the candidates would choose public funding, is that the voters still don't have very good opportunities or enough incentives to inform themselves. They are still mostly "educated" by paid election advertising. The candidates, however they get their money, still spend it in the old-fashioned ways, such as signs; private polling; slick, shallow ads in the media--often unhelpful "attack ads"; etc.
There is little emphasis on thoughtful debates and candidate-public interaction.
So this plan starts with the idea that candidates can campaign effectively without any private or public money if nearly all the voters vote (without prodding by the candidates' campaigns) and if the government funds enough other fair, neutral, attractive, and popular avenues for campaigning.
What could those other avenues be?
Let's start each election with hiring committees: mandatory for candidates. Committees, composed of maybe 12 members each, would be picked at random from the voters' list, somewhat like jury duty, though anyone could decline to serve on such a committee.
Each committee member is paid a reasonable honorarium by the city: at least minimum wage.
We would have one committee to interview the possible mayoral candidates. Three committees (maybe 24 members each) would interview the possible candidates for the 3 boards in Vancouver (council, school, park).
All the interviewing would be done in public, preferably in a stadium or arena. The candidates can submit resumes. The committees then talk among themselves and then (on secret ballots) score the candidates on various criteria. Each candidate would be told their scores.
Parties can nominate people before or after this process, as they want.
Then the candidates who still want to stand for election then can register as candidates, and their scores and resumes are published on the city's election Web publication.
Next the city gives and lends each candidate some non-monetary help. That could include printed calling cards, badges, office space (the city owns many vacant buildings), basic office equipment, a small printing credit for position papers to be handed out person-to-person (not mailed or delivered without knocking), and nearly unlimited e-pages at the city's Web site, along with computer advice.
Banned are billboards, mass-produced lawn signs, etc. Such signs are hardly educational, as they rely instead on the "bandwagon effect" and naively voting by "name recognition" and on the candidates' physical appearances.
Likewise banned is advertising in the media. The city instead will publish a vast array of voter-education materials, mostly on the Internet, open to input by all the candidates, parties, and the public.
In addition to the mandatory campaigning (mentioned above and below), candidates and their supporters are encouraged to work the streets, knock on doors, attend their campaign offices, telephone those who say they want to be phoned, e-mail those who say they want to be e-mailed, etc. The city should compile lists for the candidates--of those willing people.
Voters' guides (paper) & Internet info
Vancouver publishes a nice little voters' guide now, which includes statements from each candidate at no charge to them. However, the guide needs an engaging front cover which tells the reader that issues and controversies are discussed inside. (The cover now mentions only "profiles", which sound boring.)
Also, a second edition should be published a week before the election, more spiced up, with colour pictures, charts, graphs, and more candidates' statements and other information from the city's election Web pages, such as endorsements, promises, and debate results. Each person should have the option of getting the guide by e-mail instead of paper.
The city's Internet information about the election should be greatly expanded. It should include all information and links about the election from all public sources, with links to all known private-media election coverage, too. Let the public help add them. Then let the public discuss it all on city-provided discussion e-pages, etc.
On those election pages can be all the videos of all the public meetings, with written summaries, and links that candidates want to add.
All information on the city's Web pages should be as user-friendly and interactive as possible. For instance, a handy chart should show which candidates and parties are endorsed by which groups.
The complete voting records (and summaries and charts thereof) should be posted for each candidate who has been elected previously to any office. That means how they voted on each motion and law. Let them post their reasons and comments for each. Likewise, we'll post their expense and attendance records, along with any explanations they want to add.
For all candidates, post which public elections they ever voted in. The criminal records, if any, should be posted, too. Likewise, financial statements showing any potential conflict of interest.
Even if at one time the media could be relied on to publish enough of all that, they are now declining in their ability or willingness to do so (besides the Internet).
Candidate questionnaires &
Do you remember the "Voter Compass" that the CBC offered on the Internet in the federal election in 2011? You, the reader, could answer a few political questions and a computer would calculate which party answered those same questions closest to your answers. Great idea.
Let's expand on that, though. Let's make it mandatory for the candidates to answer a set of questions--and voluntary for the parties.
We should remove any possible bias in the writing of the questions. We do that by getting the questions from no one but the candidates themselves. Any one question might be biased, but overall they would be balanced.
We get maybe 3 questions from each candidate (after eliminating duplicates) to add to the question lists. That would total 159 questions from the candidates for mayor and council--if it's 53 candidates, as in 2011. Similarly, for school board, 60 questions; park board, 63 questions.
Questionnaires like that already are circulated regularly by private groups, but the questions are sometimes biased, few candidates answer them, and few voters ever learn the results.
We should limit each question to maybe 50 words.
Candidates can answer "Yes", "No", multiple choice, "Don't know", or "Other __________ ."
Candidates would have maybe 100 words to explain "Other" or to comment further otherwise on each question, but the computer will not match those elaborations.
Candidates could change their answers publicly after they are first published, but a message would then be sent to each voter who has indicated that they want to be informed of changed answers.
Public questioning of the candidates
Next, the city stages several campaign fora at which the public can question the candidates directly. These are mandatory for the candidates. They can refuse to answer any question, but they must do so in person.
The questions are written by the audience, with maybe a 50-word limit each. Questions are picked at random from a barrel. A couple of city lawyers can cross out the rare libelous phrases. Then each picked question is read to the candidates and audience. More questions are read and answered until the time is up.
The candidates can choose which questions they want to answer and how much time to spend on each. They are guaranteed equal time opportunity overall, but they each also have a strict time-limit overall. Every candidate may answer every question they want until they use up their time allotment. After that, they can answer on the Internet or in news interviews. During a forum, city employees time them with stop-watches, etc.
Mandatory debate tournament
Next, each candidate must publicly debate 3 other candidates picked at random in one-on-one debates (not debating someone of the same party). Also in this tournament, candidates may agree to debate as many other willing candidates as they want (who are standing for the same position).
We should allow no interrupting or interjecting! That's enforced with isolation booths after one warning. "Equal time" overall is strictly enforced. The moderators may not ask questions or add unnecessary comments. Such questions tend to be biased or boring, anyway.
Instead, the debaters say what they want, taking turns. As always, they are subject to slander (and other) laws.
The public in the live audience and watching on television and/or the Internet can score the debaters in a straw vote (not binding) to determine who scores the most in each debate. If a candidate refuses a challenge to debate another candidate (not of the same party), then the challenger scores a win.
Candidates of the same party may debate each other, but no points would be awarded in those cases. Those debates should be held when fewer audience are watching.
Debate juries (random, but voluntary, with hororaria, as before) score the various debates and publish their scores, too.
Campaign promise registry
Transcripts and translations of the job interviews, public question fora, and debates are published by the city.
From all of them, and from submissions, and from the media, and from elsewhere, the city compiles and publishes a list of each candidate's promises, if any.
Any candidate may publicly deny or withdraw any promise at any time, up until 2 days before the election. However, if a candidate does not deny or withdraw a promise, and if that candidate then wins and takes office, they are required to try to keep those promises, if legal.
If a petition then alleges a broken promise and is signed by 500 registered voters plus any single elected official in Vancouver (any level of government, including First Nations), the accused is tried for their alleged violation. That is in a special court in front of their choice of the judge or a random jury.
Anyone convicted may be expelled from office, suspended, fined, admonished, ordered to pay compensation, etc., as determined by the judge or 2/3 of the jury.
Non-candidate, non-party campaign $
Many individuals, lobbyists, and groups will want to influence an election, some for altruistic reasons and some for selfish reasons. Since we are banning donations to candidates and parties, some will want to spend money instead to appeal directly to the voters, mostly with advertising. Those with much money, then, could corrupt and spoil this whole plan.
Some of those people already own parts of the media and will want to slant their reportage of the election. Others will want to produce pamphlets, billboards, television ads, etc. to try to avoid all government restrictions and still influence the outcome.
Trying to stop them creates an apparent principled conflict between their rights to a free press and freedom of expression, compared to the public's right to a clean election.
In Canada there have been a few attempts to restrict such publishing and advertising, and we can try some of those methods at the civic level, too, relying on the courts to tell us if we impinge too much on freedom of expression.
At the same time, we can try something else, too. City staff can identify and publish a list of all known and alleged attempts (good or bad) to influence the election, with the public submitting accusations. The city Web pages then will state how much was spent, and to give free prominent space on the Internet to all the candidates and to the public who want to try to counter or defend those monied efforts.
Let the public e-vote on the city Web pages whether they think the ad is fair comment or not, and whether they think the proposal is good or not.
For instance, suppose a billboard put up a month before election day says "Let's have more casinos!", but without mentioning any election or candidates, and whether or not they favour more casinos.
Then the city can post on its election e-pages a photograph of the billboard, who bought it and for how much, and let everyone post how they think that this is or is not an attempt to sway the election toward candidates who support more casinos, and whether more casinos would be good or not.
Maybe we can come up with some other remedies, too.
Increase public participation
Low voter turn-out is a huge problem for which I have suggested a remedy, as described at the top (above): voter tax rebates.
However, even if we provide a multitude of opportunities for the public to become involved in the campaign, as proposed in detail above, the voters still might remain apathetic, alienated, and uninvolved.
Luckily, we already have a likely motivator of people: tax rebates. Unless somebody comes up with some better remedy, let's expand the use it. So, in addition to the "voter tax rebate" mentioned above, let's pay voters the following.
Campaign tax rebate
Let's pay a campaign tax rebate to each voter who attends one of the 3 main public events proposed above: hiring committees, question fora, and debates. (Each of those is over several days.)
We would pay one "campaign tax rebate" per election per voter. Let each voter choose which to attend and then make a reservation(s).
If that doesn't generate enough attendance, we can give out 2 or more rebates per election per voter. It's just a gimmick, true, but it will work better than anything tried so far.
Let's aim to fill some of the local stadia and arenas for democratic elections, not just for pro sport.
Let's engage in democracy our people who are too young to vote. Let the city hire them to staff the public campaign meetings and even the polls themselves. That could include them being scrutineers, since the candidates rarely provide enough of those.
I read that in Nicaragua, youth aged 14 and 15 staff the polls. Their voting age is 16.
End of article Barefoot elections.
Support a pro-rep ward
Finally bringing democracy back to Vancouver (or anywhere else)
by Korky Day, revised 2011 December 10.
Summary: We could use STV or MMP. I propose increasing from 10 to 15 councillors. With STV, 5 councillors from each of 3 wards. With MMP, 1 councillor from each of 10 wards, plus 5 councillors from a party list ballot, to make the council as proportional as possible overall. All ballots would be ranked, and give independents a fair chance.
In Vancouver, as in all cities in Canada, our 3 main democratic deficits are low voter turn-out, money buying the elections, and unfair ballot types. I've studied this for decades.
To solve the first problem, see my proposal for Voter Tax Rebate (below and Philocracy p 2).
For the second, see my proposal for Barefoot Elections (above).
For the third, I here propose we unite the wards supporters and the pro-rep supporters, who, together, would constitute a solid majority, I think, for what we'd call "pro-rep wards".
To accomplish that, we would establish either an STV system or an MMP system. Probably we'd have to challenge the province to allow such a change.
Some Vancouver civic parties would back a democratic ballot using "pro-rep wards".
The problem with the Vision and COPE parties (list below) is that, so far, they usually push for a disproportional, undemocratic version of a ward system, not caring for fairness, even though they have been asked to support a pro-rep ward system.
The problem with the NPA is that, so far, they want to keep our plurality at-large system, though that system is disproportional and undemocratic. It isn't really helping the NPA lately, either, as they must have noticed!
The usual disproportional ward system (one councillor elected per ward) uses the same unfair ballot that we have at the provincial and federal levels. It almost certainly would lead to a 2-party system, or a 2 1/2 party system, which basically would disenfranchise about half the voters. At the federal level we have a 3 or 4 party system because Quebec feels separate.
How could pro-rep work in Vancouver?
First, let's consider STV.
Single Transferable Voting (STV)
I propose STV to elect 5 councillors from each of 3 wards: in total, 15. Each voter could rank in order of preference as many or few candidates as they wanted.
Why 5 councillors per ward? Because of the math of ballots, that would give almost everyone a chance to be represented. A segment of the population with a point of view shared by about 1/6 or 1/5 or more of the people likely would elect one or more councillors.
More than 5 councillors per ward, to represent even smaller minorities, too, would be even better, in my opinion. However, then we would run into too much opposition from those who think (against all logic) that it's a waste of money to pay more councillors.
Expanding council from 10 to 15 is about as much as the public is going to tolerate, I estimate.
Why 3 wards? Any fewer and we don't represent neighbourhood interests enough for those who want that; and the ballot would be longer for each voter (which is seen by some as a fault). More wards would be better in my opinion, but then we would be proposing a council too large to gain enough public support, as above.
Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)
The best other fair ballot, I think, would elect using an MMP system. I propose 10 wards each represented by a councillor elected with a ranked ballot. The other 5 councillors would be elected using a party ballot (including independents), also using ranked voting. The winners would automatically balance out the inevitable disproportions in the ward results.
To make it easy on the voters, they would not be required to vote for more than one. They could rank all the candidates and parties, but would not be forced to. If a voter voted for only a candidate or a party, their ballot would count as if they had voted for the same party on both parts.
Using either STV or MMP, we would have our first fair ballot in Canada in about 80 years, when we had a form of pro-rep in a few major western Canadian cities.
There is no mathematical way to calculate how the 2011 election would have ended up with a proportional system. However, just for fun, let's look for clues in the numbers.
Vancouver City Council election 2011
Registered voters 418,878 (some registered on voting day).
Ballots cast 144,823. That is only 34.57% turn-out!
The average ballot contained 8.36 votes for council, of a maximum 10 votes allowed per ballot.
candi- % of votes/ votes/
Party dates elected all votes votes candidate elected
Vision 7 7 413,879 34 59,126 59,126
NPA 10 2 456,258 38 45,625 228,129
Green 1 1 48,648 4 48,648 48,648
COPE 3 0 131,539 11 43,846 --
NSV 4 0 63,264 5 15,816 --
D-G 3 0 20,781 2 6,927 --
RICH 2 0 6,881 1 3,440 --
indies 13 0 70,104 6 5,393 --
8 43 10 1,211,354 100 28,171 91,879
In the above chart:
all votes = all the votes for all the party's candidates, elected or not (candidates in column 2).
% of votes = the percentage of the total votes received by the party's candidates, elected or not (column 2).
votes / candidate = the total number of votes for the party (column 4) divided by the number of candidates nominated (column 2).
votes / elected = the total number of votes for the party (column 4) divided by the number of candidates elected (column 3).
indies = independent candidates, those NOT nominated by a party (electoral group).
COPE (the Coalition of Progressive Electors).
D-G (De-Growth Vancouver).
Green (the Green Party of Vancouver).
NPA (the Non Partisan Association).
NSV (Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver).
Vision (Vision Vancouver).
RICH (Rent Is Crazy High, an unregistered party).
Calculations by me. Rounded off to nearest whole number.
Now suppose we get a little crazy and think about electing council based on column 5 or 6 in the chart above, which I'll call Method 5 (% of votes) and Method 6 (votes per candidate). Those results would be as shown in the chart below.
Of course, nobody is suggesting those, but we have no better figures to work with. Those 2 methods would be just as unfair, undemocratic, and disproportional as the method we actually use, which is column 2 below.
Party elected 5 6
Vision 7 3 2
NPA 2 4 2
Green 1 0 2
COPE 0 1 2
NSV 0 1 1
D-G 0 0 1
RICH 0 0 0
indies 0 1 0
totals 10 10 10
I'm pretty certain that none of you can justify our current system mathematically any more than the weird Methods 5 and 6.
So what WOULD the results be using a fair, proportional ballot? We'll never know until we use one.
Such guessing is a little easier for the federal and provincial elections, but they, too, defy certainty. That is because people vote differently in different systems. In a disproportional ward system they are afraid of "losing their votes" if they vote for their true favourites, so many of them don't.
End of page Philocracy p. 3