Voting is a fundamental political right that preserves all rights.
U.S. Supreme Court, Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).
To counteract the global decline of democracy, it is literally a matter of life and death that voters in the U.S. and worldwide be empowered to fully exercise universally recognized voting rights so they can determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
Voters must be able to control their governments, elections, legislation, and political parties so they can mandate their elected representatives to pass legislation protecting them from life-threatening crises, conflicts, and emergencies. These include, first and foremost, the global coronavirus pandemic and climate disruption -- which most governments and legislative bodies are proving incapable of resolving.
Voters must be able to build consensus across partisan lines to resolve conflicts fueled by competing political parties that lead to legislative stalemates and failure to protect the well-being of the people they hold office to serve.
The root political causes of these crises, emergencies, and conflicts are so numerous and intertwined that piecemeal reform measures are unlikely to bring about significant change within the foreseeable future.
A major root cause is the incremental limiting by undemocratic political parties of the scope and impact of voters' participation and influence in elections and legislation. Such narrowing, which has been occurring for several decades in the U.S. and countries around the world, is rendering democratic self-government "of, by and for the people" virtually impossible in many countries. It is also fueling growing inequality of wealth and income, and increasing financial destitution and impoverishment of large segments of their populations.
A case in point is provided by parties' actions, inactions, and insertion of a host of mechanisms that limit the scope of voters' electoral and legislative participation and influence, including:
Consequences of these actions by political parties in the U.S. and elsewhere to limit the scope of voters' participation and influence in elections and legislation include:
The Global Social Network for Voters
To circumvent these interventions and obstructions, the advanced, interactive technology of the Global Social Network for Voters will enable voters worldwide to:
The network provides voters worldwide a unique and autonomous arena for online agenda-setting, consensus-building and political organizing that enables them to circumvent the obstacles they currently face when trying to overcome the obstacles that undemocratic political parties have inserted to weaken the scope and influence of their participation in electoral and legislative processes.
The network technologically expands the scope of voters' participation and influence in legislative consensus-building and determining the outcomes electoral and legislative processes. It does so by providing them tools derived from state-of-the-art, decision-assisting Artificial Intelligence-based technologies for autonomously building and managing voter-controlled online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions that democratically perform all the classic functions that traditional parties perform. This platform combines online crowdsourcing, social networking, and the capabilities of decision-assisting Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that augments (rather than replaces) human problem-solving abilities.
The Global Social Network for Voters eliminates the "disconnects" between voters and lawmakers. It is well known that groups of individuals working together in autonomous, self-organizing groups are capable of devising more effective solutions to problems than the solutions of any of the individuals working alone. Their solutions are also more effective and situationally appropriate than the solutions of individuals and groups working under the control of supervisors in formal, hierarchical organizations, such as corporations, political parties, and legislative bodies. It has long been recognized that self-selecting "crowdsourced" groups of individuals interacting autonomously can devise more effective solutions to problems and challenges than hierarchically organized and controlled individuals and groups.
This phenomenon is especially relevant to representative forms of government that have been reconfigured by political parties, especially the "disconnects" between voters and undemocratically elected, party-backed representatives in legislative bodies, such as the U.S. Congress. The legislative priorities of voters and lawmaker diverge, due in large measure to lawmakers' and political parties' failure to enable voters to define their legislative priorities and preferences across the board, in writing, update them regularly, and use them to transmit legislative mandates to parties and their representatives. In order for voters to protect and promote their well-being and protect their lives from global crises and emergencies, such as those caused by global pandemics and climate disruption catastrophes, they must be able to circumvent these obstructions so they can control their governments, elections, and legislation.
The Global Social Network for Voters empowers voters to “crowdsource” voters across the ideological and partisan spectrum to build the consensus they need to set common legislative agendas that meet voters’ needs as they define them — rather than be compelled to vote for candidates and support lawmakers who have adopted legislative agendas largely determined by hierarchically organized political parties with scant voter input, if any.
An historical perspective. The agenda-setting, consensus-building, and political organizing tools and services provided by the network have been devised to counteract the ahistorical and divisive role played by political parties and special interests, particularly in the U.S., that contrive polarizing conflicts even though voters, on the whole, have been shown to be largely in agreement regarding priorities. As noted, research indicates U.S. voters are willing to compromise in order to prevent political parties from engaging in legislative stalemates and paralyzing government. (See Fiorina (2008); Stern (2017).
The two major U.S political parties are not alone in exhibiting these tendencies, which characterize many political parties around the world. One of the primary reasons for this dysfunctional pattern, according to the work of the noted European sociologist Robert Michels at the opening of the 20th century, is that traditional political party structures, as generically conceived and operated, are inherently undemocratic.
While parties’ original function was claimed to be that of empowering voters to convey through their party support and votes the “will of the people”, Michels’s in-depth research showed that most parties tend to evolve into organizations controlled from the “top down’ by party, economic and financial elites, and special interests that use parties to advance their interests rather than voters’ interests. In the process, they usurp voters’ power and influence within the party and thereafter in party-controlled elections and governing institutions, using party rules and activities to increase their own power, influence and wealth.
Cooperation versus competition. The Global Social Network for Voters is also distinguished by its capacity and potential to further social progress worldwide by leveraging evolutionary transformations of social norms and human capabilities that foster cooperative social interaction. These evolved norms and transformations include greater egalitarianism, cooperation, consensus-building, and “bottom-up” power-sharing. (See Keltner (2015),“Survival of the Kindest.”)
From infancy through adulthood, self-determining individuals in egalitarian groups are more likely to cooperate, build consensus, share power and reduce inequities, rather than compete, spawn divisive factions, concentrate power and exacerbate inequities -- behavior patterns that typify many political parties’ modus operandi. (See Keltner (2017),“The Power Paradox: The Promise and Peril of 21st Century Power.”)
These egalitarian norms will be fostered by the consensus-building features of the network, along with compromise and tolerance, because these evolved norms will not be counteracted by the competitive behaviors of traditional political parties run from the "top down" and special interests that fuel intolerance, divisive conflicts, and inequities in their quest for various forms of power, influence and status.
It should be noted that the polarizing stances characteristic of U.S. parties and politicians are also characteristic of many parties and politicians worldwide as well. They are due to the fundamental social dynamics and authoritarian tendencies of certain types of groups and their leaders and followers to “go to extremes” in the stances they and their members adopt and the confrontations they engender. (See Sunstein (2008),“Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide.”)
These tendencies can be deliberately accentuated and exploited by aggressive political parties, special interests, politicians, and elected officials seeking to create electoral bases of support for their efforts to get into office and remain there term after term. The Global Social Network for Voters that will be accessible on VotersUnited.Global provides a six step platform empowering voters to counter these trends by creating and democratically managing online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions through which they can control their governments, elections, legislation, and political parties.
These six steps enable voters worldwide to determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed, by using unprecedented agenda-setting, consensus-building, and political organizing tools and services accessible on VotersUnited.Global. They are described below and illustrated in this infographic:
These six types of activities enable unprecedented horizontal, “bottom-up”connections among voters by enabling them to freely communicate and collaborate with each other, autonomously articulate their legislative priorities, and take collection to implement them. These activities enable voters to circumvent limitations placed by vertically organized, “top down” groups and parties on voters' articulation of their priorities, and ability to connect to each other at any time to share and debate their priorities, reconcile divergent priorities, and build consensus to resolve conflicts.
Voters worldwide can initiate and manage their own interactive, online dialogues framed by their own values, concepts, and knowledge bases. The network's computer question-answering learning machine enables voters to fact-check the information on which their priorities and political stances are based, and correct those found to be inaccurate or biased.
The network performs this critical service by providing voters access to a corpus of data comprising a distributed network of databases that voters can access through its decision-assisting Artificial Intelligence technology, computer question-answering machine, and patented web-based agenda-setting, consensus-building, and political organizing tools.
Interactive question-answering dialogues initiated by voters and technologically mediated by the network's platform, enable voters to set legislative agendas, and seek and obtain a plurality of fact-checked options for their consideration for solving common problems, crises, emergencies and conflicts requiring legislative action.
Agenda-setting tools enable individual voters to define their legislative priorities and connect with voters with similar priorities to collaboratively evaluate a range of preferred options for solving common problems. Voters can build consensus across partisan lines and form online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions that can create sufficient cross-partisan voting strength to endorse and elect lawmakers to enact voters’ agendas.
The network's crowdsourcing capabilities enable voters to form and manage self-seecting and self-organizing blocs, parties, and coalitions that can operate within and across the boundaries of election districts and nation-states simultaneously to solve complex problems, crises, emergencies and conflicts requiring domestic and cross-national cooperation. In addition, these voter-controlled online entities can pressure elected representatives to enact their agendas by conducting petition drives, referenda, initiatives, and anticipatory recall votes, and publicizing results they transmit to lawmakers as legislative mandates.
Given the globalization of many inter-connected challenges and crises, such as the contemporary global Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather catastrophes, accompanied by the legislative gridlock that typically paralyzes many legislative bodies, transformative, breakthrough technology, such as that provided by the network, is urgently needed. It gives voters around the world access to a unique online collaborative platform that enables unprecedented numbers of voters worldwide to collaboratively engage in online problem-solving to collectively devise legislative solutions to interdependent domestic and cross-national crises. Voters can implement their solutions by joining with existing blocs, parties, and coalitions hosted on the network, or by starting their own and operating them globally and in specific election jurisdictions of their choice where their members can register to vote to elect representatives to enact common agendas.
Consensus-building across partisan lines is an inherent feature of the network because its agenda-setting features motivate voters and their blocs, parties, and coalitions to reach out to voters across the partisan spectrum to reconcile divergent legislative priorities into common legislative agendas. By so doing, they can build electoral bases large enough to elect candidates of their choice to legislative bodies to enact their agendas.
Step 1. Social Networking.
To protect the privacy of individual users, the network enables individuals intending to vote (they do not have to be registered to vote or indicate where they intend to vote) to obtain verified, encrypted identities to gain authorization to access VotersUnited.Global's social networking website to specify and implement their legislative priorities, individually and collectively, using the site’s online agenda setting, consensus building, and political organizing tools and services.
This encryption option prevents access to the network by unidentified and disguised social media users, such as trolls, bots, and foreign entities, which might mislead, confuse, distort and bias voters' perceptions in order to sway their political alignments.
King, Julian. 2018. "Democracy is under threat from the malicious use of technology. The EU is fighting back." The Guardian.
The network's decision-assisting Artificial Intelligence technology and computer machine learning capabilities enable voters to create and control access to their own intra-network communication channels and customized, self-managed knowledge bases. They can initiate and manage their own online dialogues to share, discuss, and debate voters’ views about possible solutions to problems requiring legislative action. The network enables voters to correct the biases of mass media and social media users in instances in which voters find they mislead and distort voters’ views. They can do so because voters can use the network's technology to fact check the information on which their own priorities are based, individually and collectively. They can also publicize, if they choose to do so, the legislative priorities of large numbers of voters that are based on fact-checked, unbiased information.
Oxford University scientist Polonski describes as follows advantages, disadvantages, and dilemmas associated with AI and machine learning technology, such as that utilized by VotersUnited.Global:
“A representative democracy depends on free and fair elections in which citizens can vote with their conscience, free of intimidation or manipulation. Yet for the first time ever, we are in real danger of undermining fair elections – if this technology continues to be used to manipulate voters and promote extremist narratives.
"Towards human-centred AI"
"It is easy to blame AI technology for the world’s wrongs (or for lost elections), but there’s the rub: the underlying technology is not inherently harmful in itself. The same algorithmic tools used to mislead, misinform and confuse can be repurposed to support democracy and increase civic engagement. After all, human-centred AI in politics needs to work for the people with solutions that serve the electorate.
Polonski, Vyacheslav. 2017. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Uses of Machine Learning in Election Campaigns.” Centre for Public Impact (CPI).
To circumvent biased social media communications, voters who join or create voting blocs, parties, and coalitions hosted on the network can collectively gather, evaluate, share, discuss, and debate information culled from the network's decision-assisting Artificial Intelligence technology and its computer-based question-answering learning machine. This includes information obtained from the network's distributed databases comprising repositories of laws, legislative proposals, deliberations, and votes; evaluations of the outcomes of legislatively enacted policies and programs; and legally accessible, curated content from social media, newspapers and journals.
Step 2. Collaborative Problem-Solving.
Voters can use VotersUnited.Global's technology to identify and connect to voters with similar priorities to solve common problems, crises, emergencies, and conflicts requiring legislative solutions. They can query the platform's computer question-answering learning machine in natural language to gather fact checked information and receive responses describing a plurality of options for voters' evaluation with respect to collectively resolving common problems, crises, emergencies, and conflicts requiring legislative solutions.
A premise of the network is that a major cause of the decline reported by the The Economist Intelligence Unit 2019 in the number of fully functioning democracies worldwide, derives from the lack of an effective online mechanism through which voters can specify their legislative priorities across the board, update them at will, and transmit their legislative agendas to their elected representatives as legislative mandates to direct their legislative decisions and actions.
Contemporary voters, especially in the U.S., play relatively passive roles in terms of determining legislative priorities and reconciling divergent priorities. Voters are unable to directly nominate their own candidates to run on electoral ballot lines. Instead they are constrained to choosing among party candidates who are already on party ballot lines, who have already set their own legislative agendas -- with virtually no input from voters -- and who enact laws in legislative bodies over which voters exert little influence or recourse.
A transformative alternative to this externally imposed passivity is provided by the network's technology-based capabilities that enable voters to collectively increase their influence over who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. In particular, these capabilities enable voters to autonomously determine their own legislative priorities, rather than being restricted to endorsing priorities set by others. It connects voters horizontally, within and across election district boundaries, and provides them tools for solving common problems by collaboratively building consensus online across partisan lines to find common solutions through dialogue and interaction with voters across the political spectrum.
3. Crowdsourcing Legislative Consensus-Building.
It has long been known that self-selecting groups of people whose members come together to solve problems can exhibit greater problem-solving capabilities than those of their individual members acting alone. Such groups also tend to be more effective in solving problems than hierarchical organizations in which superordinates intervene to influence and control the problem-solving activities of subordinates.
These dynamics have also been found to operate in online "crowdsourcing" of self-selecting, self-organizing groups in a wide range of activities worldwide, including the governmental sphere where citizens "crowdsource" to improve government services and participate in budgetary decision-making along the lines of the Port Alegro model. VotersUnited.Global and its Global Social Network for Voters amplifies and extends such crowdsourcing phenomena by enabling self-selecting, self-organizing groups of voters to participate more broadly and deeply in determining the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes. The network enables them to to solve problems that stymy lawmakers in hierarchically organized, politically polarized legislative bodies, by building consensus across partisan lines, setting common legislative agendas, and building voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions to solve complex problems, crises, and solutions that surmount roadblocks to effective legislative action.
Step 4. Bloc, Party, and Coalition Agenda Setting.
Voters can use the network to circumvent the recognized, well-documented tendency of members of many groups to “go to extremes” in opposing other groups with whom they disagree. The positions they adopt can be based on inaccurate and biased information, deliberately contrived falsehoods, and negatively impact the well-being of others. This conflict-producing tendency is particularly evident on the part of groups participating in electoral and legislative processes. It can lead to legislative paralysis even in dire emergencies, particularly when opposing, partisan groups are competing with each other for influence and control of legislative bodies.
To counteract these group dynamics when they exist, voters can use the network's online voting utility to create consensus across partisan lines, via their online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions, around collectively set, common legislative agendas. These blocs, parties, and coalitions can fluidly interact with each other to seek common ground among ever greater numbers of voters across the spectrum, and acquire the voting strength they need to elect candidates of their choice to legislative bodies to enact their agendas.
In this regard, the network is distinguished by its capacity to further social progress worldwide by furthering evolutionary transformations of social norms and human interactional capabilities that foster cooperative social interaction. According to academicians, such as University of California/Berkeley Professor Dacher Keltner, these norms and capabilities favor greater egalitarianism, cooperation, consensus-building, and “bottom-up” power-sharing.
The network enables voters to increase the responsiveness of political parties to their legislative priorities, needs and demands because they can use its political organizing tools to win elections for candidates of their choice. Unlike traditional political parties, voters will be able to devise their own rules for managing their blocs, parties, and coalitions hosted on the system. If any of their members disagree with the rules they set or aspects of their operational practices, the priorities they specify, or the candidates they select, dissatisfied voters can seek to change them by scheduling online votes for their membership using the network's online voting utility. If unsuccessful in winning enough votes to change the rules, these dissatisfied voters can exit unresponsive blocs, parties and coalitions to create their own, or join others already in existence on the network.
Once the membership of their blocs, parties, and coalitions attains the voting strength needed to win elections in specific election districts of their choice, they can use the network's tools and services to create sub-aggregates of voters who are eligible to vote, already registered to vote in such districts, or willing to register to vote. These sub-aggregates of voters can join already established political parties that have already acquired official ballot lines, or create new parties to elect candidates of their choice to legislative bodies representing these jurisdictions.
Step 5. Electing Consensus-Building Lawmakers.
Currently, small numbers of elected representatives, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand, make legislative decisions and enact laws governing populations comprising millions of people. Often the laws they enact are piecemeal, ill-coordinated, and superficially researched to take account of antecedents and recognized consequences. Their legislative decision-making is not guided by the results of large scale consultation with lawmakers' constituents, because lawmakers lack large scale mechanisms for consulting them or inviting them to specify their legislative priorities in their own words, across the board. The result is that the majority of voters often espouse legislative priorities that diverge from those of the elected lawmakers who are supposed to represent them.
To reverse this undemocratic phenomenon that undermines representative forms of government, voters’ blocs, parties, and coalitions can use the network's political organizing tools to plan and conduct online campaigns to endorse and elect consensus-building lawmakers of their choice to enact their legislative agendas.
Step 6. Continuously Advocating Legislative Mandates
Voters can use the network's online voting utility to continuously conduct online petition drives, referendums, initiatives, and anticipatory recall votes and transmit their results to lawmakers at any time to pressure them to enact voters agendas. They do not have to wait for periodic elections to express their needs and voice their demands, but intervene in real time, especially in emergencies and during crises, to inform lawmakers that they may risk defeat in forthcoming elections if they ignore voters' needs and demands.
Authorized voters belonging to voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions hosted on the network can use its tools to plan and implement advocacy campaigns to get their priorities enacted into law by electing candidates of their choice to legislative bodies in election districts and nations of their choice, which have representative forms of government in which their citizens are entitled to vote to elect their representatives. Voters can also pressure elected representatives in these jurisdictions to enact their agendas by using network tools to conduct online petition drives, referenda, initiatives, and anticipatory recall votes. They can use the results, in conjunction with evaluation of their representatives’ legislative actions, to decide whether to support their re-election in upcoming elections.
Rationale for the Six Steps
The six types of activities in which authorized voters engage using the network are pivotal for increasing voters' electoral and legislative influence because they enable voters to circumvent obstacles weakening their influence and obstructing democratic representative government. One of the most consequential obstacles is political parties' gerrymandering of election district boundaries, which enables many U.S. elected representatives to stay in office for multiple terms, and even decades and most of their entire adult lives, despite lacking widespread support from their constituents in electoral districts these lawmakers represent.
All too often these lawmakers enact legislation that voters do not support but lack influence and levers to prevent before the legislation is enacted, or alter after it is implemented. Voters' influence is further weakened by impediments rooted in gerrymandering but not limited to gerrymandering, such as campaign finance laws, which obstruct voters' efforts to replace in future elections lawmakers whose legislative actions voters deem unsatisfactory.
The Center for American Progress describes the influence of gerrymandering as follows:
“Currently, districts in most states are drawn in ways that are gerrymandered—meaning the lines are manipulated to favor one group over another—because the process allows elected representatives to choose their voters rather than allowing voters to choose their representatives.
“Intentional gerrymandering—purposeful manipulation of district lines by incumbent politicians: After each decennial census, when new population numbers are released, and new districts are drawn, incumbent politicians interfere with the map-drawing process in order to create districts that protect them from competition and that favor their political party. In fact, many states explicitly put incumbent legislators in charge of the map-drawing process. Intentional gerrymanders have gotten worse with the advent of modern redistricting software, which allows political operatives to pinpoint specific types of voters and more effectively draw districts that will serve their partisan ends.
“Biased districts are widespread–about two-thirds of all state House, state Senate, and U.S. House delegations are biased in favor of one party or the other by a rate of at least 5 percent.
“An alternative approach to fixing gerrymandering: affirmatively harnessing political data and using that data to draw districts so that legislators’ views reflect the views of the voters they represent. . ."
Tausanovitch, Alex. (2019) “Voter-Determined Districts.” Center for American Progress.
The infographic below encapsulates how voters can use VotersUnited.Global's unique agenda-setting, consensus-building, and political organizing tools to democratically control their governments, elections, legislation, and political parties.
They will be able to familiarize themselves with these tools, and increase their know-how for using them in actual elections, by playing a multiparty online game of electoral strategy, the Citizens Winning Hands Game, which will also be accessible on VotersUnited.Global's website.