Today has been one of those days.
Not only have I not had time to write something, but I haven’t even had the time to think about what to write.
As I am still up to my eyes in various things, I shall pass you over to a guest post.
I give you….. John Mallon! Ta Daaaa!
We are finally going to get an election, but there is a sneaking feeling, even a creeping feeling, that one lot of politicians is the same as the next and no matter who takes power, not much will change. They will say publicly for our benefit, “The people have spoken”, while quietly thinking to themselves, “And we don’t want to hear from them again for at least four more years”.
It is supposed to be a democracy where the will of the people rules. So the question is, how can the people have a direct input into the everyday decisions that directly affect their lives. The answer is stunningly simple, but I suspect it would prove highly unpopular with politicians of every hue. It is technology, or more correctly, the kind of technology that powers the Lotto.
Two to three times a week, a couple million of us get our sets of Lotto numbers keyed into the machine in our local supermarket or wherever, and a unique identity is created for that single transaction and is stored in a central database. Within a couple of hours of the draw being made, The database can tell us there has been a winner and can even tell us where the ticket was bought, when and at what time. It can track multiple games running concurrently in multiple locations. Magic, you might think, but it is simple for a computer to search millions of number sequences and match them against a single sequence, and it can do this in seconds. It was what they were originally designed to do before graphics arrived.
Imagine then, these machines just where they are. They would have a small keyboard where you type in your PPS number to authenticate who you are. The database in Dublin (or wherever), checks the number is valid, gives the OK to the machine you are standing in front of, and it flashes up the current question on screen. All this might take two seconds. The question could be anything, like “Should political expenses be vouched”, or “Do you want us to stay in the Euro”, or “Will we shut down Anglo Irish Bank” etc. The machine will have two large on-screen buttons, one for yes and one for no. Just push one to cast your vote.
The questions can be posed daily, twice a week or even weekly. They (the questions), would have a ‘go live’ time, and would become inactive after a certain set time. The PPS authentication process would ensure that the same number could not be used to vote twice on any one question.
From the citizen/voter perspective, the system is inclusive. You get to give your opinion in vote form, several times a week if you want to. You don’t have to vote on anything if you don’t want to, but you can’t say you were not asked. Multiple questions could appear on a scrollable list and as you go to each one, would press yes or no. The software will grey out any question that your PPS number has already answered.
And the answers (results of the poll), can be determined in seconds when the question time is up. The computer would offer the Dail the total number of voters and the percentages for yes and no. For example, the speaker of the house can inform the members present that, “The people were asked if they wanted Queen Elizabeth invited on a state visit next year. 1,203,431 voted in total, with 54% in favour of the visit and 46% against”. The House, on all sides would know immediately what their voters wanted. A low poll might signal a low interest, but either way, that is valuable information for our legislators also.
But, how hard would this be to do and how much would it cost. About the same or less than it cost the Lotto to set up, and at a fraction of what the useless voting machines cost. Indeed Lotto profits could be used to fund it. I would suggest an independent group of the wiser ex-members of the Seanad would formulate the questions based on the important issues of the day. A single operator could post them on the machines, and a panel could verify the results percentages before forwarded these to the Dail. Hell, Joe Duffy was able to take a phone poll and counted 10,000 answers given in five minutes of voting.
We would then have the incredible situation where the people would be telling the Politicians what to do, on a daily basis if necessary. They would know what we think and want on the spot, while the issues are still relevant. For the first time ever, a Western Democracy would become truly inclusive.
Why not ???