Voting is a fundamental political right that preserves all rights.
U.S. Supreme Court, Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).
The Global Social Network for Voters
Global Democratic Decline, Popular Protests
Until the 21st century, democracy was proclaimed to be on the march around the world. But in the past two decades, voting rights have been dramatically hollowed out, and global opposition to undemocratic elections and unresponsive elected governments is burgeoning worldwide.
Weakened voting rights is accompanied by widespread popular distrust of governments, electoral and legislative processes, and political parties, indicating traditional representative forms of self-governance have not withstood the test of time. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit 2019, only 5.7% of the world's population resides in a “full democracy”. Forty-two percent live in 'flawed democracies'. One-third of the world’s population live under authoritarian rule.
In addition, weakened voting rights and impediments to their exercise in free and fair elections have led majorities of voters around the world to conclude that democracy is not working in their countries, especially their systems of representation. (Pew Research 2019). They think elected representatives are corrupt and do not care what their constituents think. Voters' electoral experiences convince them most elections maintain the status quo no matter who wins and which party controls legislative bodies.
In the U.S., the civil and political rights of American citizens and voters seeking to exercise their sovereignty over their governments have been steadily eroded by political parties and special interests, joining forces to supplant voters' control over who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed, with their own undemocratic control of these vital functions of traditional democratic forms of government.
One of the most egregious and consequential erosion mechanisms in the U.S. is the long-standing practice utilized by the nation's two major political parties of changing the election district boundaries in states where they control the state legislature.
These boundary changes concentrate voters likely to vote for their candidates into districts in which they will be a majority, and scatter voters likely to vote against their candidates into districts where they will be a minority. They also restrict voters' choices on election day to voting for candidates that the parties have placed on their ballots and are funded by special interests. The result is that there are only a few election districts in the U.S. that have competitive races in them that give voters real choices between candidates pursuing divergent agendas. The majority of districts enable the dominant party's candidates and incumbents to stay in office term after term, decade after decade.
The consequences are dire with respect to rendering self-government virtually impossible in many areas. In the U.S., post-election polls following the 2018 mid-term elections indicate half of registered voters did not think Congress represents their political views, including Democrats, Independents and Republicans. (See: "Most Americans Don’t Feel Well-Represented By Congress (2018).")
Another consequence of widespread voter disillusionment is declining voter turnout in the U.S. and worldwide. Only about half of all voting age adults turn out to vote in the U.S. While this phenomenon has many causes, the chronically low rate of voter turnout in U.S. elections puts the U.S. at the bottom of the ladder compared to other highly-developed democratic states. (Pew Research (2018), "U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout").
Streets Versus Ballots
Global decline of democratic forms of government is accompanied by alternative forms of political engagement, such as demonstrations, protests, boycotts, and even extra-legal actions. A case in point is the global proliferation of climate protest strikes led by school students, and more recent protests against widespread police brutality and racism in the U.S.
The age of the young climate protestors is significant, because they see their lives and futures jeopardized by climate catastrophes. The duration of their repeated protests attests to the difficulties of getting unresponsive, intransigeant lawmakers to take legislative action -- even in the face of widespread popular demonstrations about the growing threats to the planet's capacity to sustain life.
They can be flagrantly intransigeant due to many factors, but a key factor, cited above, is that even unpopular incumbent lawmakers can remain in elective office term after term if they are supported by established political parties and the special interests that fund the parties and candidates. Another key factor, cited above, is that the two major U.S. political parties parties choose their voters, instead of vice versa, by inducing state legislatures to change the boundaries of election districts to create "safe seats" for party-backed candidates, by excluding voters likely to vote against them.
By so doing, the two parties have made it difficult, and often impossible, for voters to determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. They have inserted into election laws and practices a variety of obstructions that interfere with voters' exercise of their voting rights and suppress the vote. Eligible voters are purged from voting lists. Other voters are subjected to burdensome ID requirements. Yet others are denied accessible polling places, and a sufficient number of polling places. Their votes are not accurately tallied by faulty e-voting technologies that can be tampered to falsify results.
In the U.S., unfair elections take place throughout the country when candidates who win fewer votes than their opponents are declared winners, election campaigns are won because of virtually unlimited campaign financing by special interests, and undemocratic legislative bodies are controlled by parties that represent only a fraction of eligible and registered voters. Such anomalies have led experts to conclude that minority rule rather than majority rule most aptly describes governance in the U.S. (See Markovits and Ayres (2018), "The U.S. is in a state of perpetual minority rule. ".
Hacker and Pierson (2010) and Gilens and Page (2014) add to these "democratic deficits" findings that "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."
Another major cause of the "disconnect" between electorates and lawmakers is the technological obsolescence of many representative forms of government and their institutions and processes. Most U.S. electoral and legislative institutions and processes, for example, typically fail to utilize modern technologies to ensure the following requisites of democracy:
Technologically obsolete and undemocratic institutions and processes not only lower public trust of government and lower turnout. They also open the door to violations of constitutionally and legislatively accorded voting rights that erode voters’ power to exercise their political sovereignty. In the U.S. these violations enable political parties to engage in practices that prevent voters from using elections to express the "popular will" -- but allow special interests to buy the legislative votes of party candidates and incumbent lawmakers through excessive and disproportionate campaign contributions.
Lacking modern technology and unabridged and unimpeded voting rights, electorates lose control of their governments when they cannot define their legislative priorities and those of legislative bodies and elected representatives, or control the legislation lawmakers enact. Global democratic decline is a matter of life and death when voters are unable to induce unresponsive lawmakers to resolve major life-threatening conflicts and crises of our times, including:
The 21st Century voter empowerment technology provided by the Global Social Network for Voters is the most promising solution -- and possibly the only global solution -- for halting the global decline of democracy and erosion of fundamental voting rights. Only if voters can live in fully functioning democracies in which they can freely exercise their voting rights will they be able to elect lawmakers mandated to resolve these life-threatening conflicts and crises.
Empowering Voters to Stop Climate Disruption and End Legislative Deadlocks
The consensus-building and social networking Global Social Network for Voters empowers voters to control their governments, elected officials, legislation, and the political parties and special interests that control elections and legislation. It connects voters across the ideological and political spectrum so they can build voter-controlled voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions around common legislative agendas, and elect common slates of candidates in primary and general elections to enact their agendas.
The network provides voters a unique, autonomous, political organizing platform they can use to grow electoral bases large enough to win elections. It enables them to circumvent the obstacles parties use to weaken voters’ political participation and electoral influence, such vote suppression, unfair campaign financing laws, and gerrymandering. Voters can use the network to reach out to build consensus with voters across the ideological and partisan spectrum, and build winning electoral bases large enough to elect their candidates and defeat those of highly partisan political parties.
With this organizing platform, voters can control their governments and lawmakers so they can then overcome two interdependent crises among the four listed above: climate disruption and legislative deadlocks fueled by dueling political parties. Voters, particularly U.S. voters, tend to place higher priority than lawmakers on enacting legislation curbing human actions causing global warming. This discrepancy stems in large part from the undue influence over election outcomes exercised by special interests funding campaigns and parties, and the determining influence of U.S. political parties, candidates, and their elected representatives over who runs for office on party ballots, with scant voter input. They set their own priorities and legislative agendas, with scant voter input, and typically align them with the priorities of special interests financing their campaigns, including climate deniers.
In addition to constantly seeking to raise money from special interest donors, a major goal of political parties, their candidates, and incumbent lawmakers is to find ways and means to gain electoral and legislative advantages over other parties, candidates and lawmakers. One preferred strategy is to polarize voters by means of contrived, inflammatory stances on "hot button" issues, so they can use polarized electoral bases to win elections that give them control of legislative bodies and the distribution of benefits conferred by laws they enact.
One of the ways that parties control not only elections but legislation and ensure their outcomes serve their goals and those of their special interest donors, is to create financial reserves of dark money, often of unknown origin. They use these reserves to threaten, reward and punish individual legislators according to how closely their legislative priorities and actions adhere to party priorities and those of their donors. This practice explains in large part the gap that often occurs between the expressed priorities of majorities of Americans for particular policies and the priorities pursued and legislation enacted by Congressional lawmakers.
While it may appear that undemocratic political parties, unscrupulous politicians and self-serving special interests have the power to permanently wrest control of historically democratic forms of government, the technological revolution launched by the World Wide Web and its intrepid developers have unleashed countervailing forces that will enable voters to prevent them from doing so. The proliferation of popular protests around the world against undemocratic and unresponsive governments can only be halted by authentically democratic institutions and processes -- created and supported by autonomous, voter empowering technologies such as the political organizing and consensus-building platform of the Global Social Network for Voters.
Instead of being subjected to the downward push of political propaganda generated by political parties and their candidates and incumbent lawmakers, and disseminated by social media and mass media, voters at the grassroots across the political spectrum will be able to use the Global Social Network for Voters to collaborate online to generate an upward push of voter-generated, consensus-based legislative priorities. These priorities will be decided during continuous, confidential dialogues among the members of voters' online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions aimed at identifying, weighing, synthesizing, and voting on competing options discerned with their own online collections of objective information.
Blocs, parties, and coalitions that use this consensus-building strategy most effectively to build the largest possible electoral bases to vote for their candidates will be the most likely to win the most electoral races. Those that do not reach out to voters across the spectrum will tend to have smaller electoral bases more likely to lose electoral races. Those that do reach out to build winning electoral bases will be able to defeat the candidates of political parties that do not reach out to voters across the spectrum to set common agendas beyond the confines of their ideological and partisan commitments.
Subsequently, the winning blocs, parties, and coalitions can ensure their elected representatives exert their best efforts to enact voters' legislative agendas by conducting, publishing, and transmitting to lawmakers the results of online petition drives, referendums, initiatives and recall votes. They can hold unresponsive lawmakers accountable electorally by defeating and replacing them in forthcoming elections.
Only if voters worldwide can control their governments by means of the modern consensus-building and social networking technology provided by the Global Social Network for Voters, can they resolve the two intertwined crises of climate disruption and legislative deadlocks and governmental paralysis. The later crisis is as dangerous as the former because it must be resolved first in order to empower voters to compel lawmakers to enact climate control legislation.
Significantly, in contrast to dueling political parties and party lawmakers failing to take effective action on the climate control front, U.S. voters tend to be largely in agreement about major issues and crises such as climate disruption, and willing to compromise to avoid legislative stalemates. (See Fiorina (2008); Stern (2017)). But the two major U.S. political parties, their candidates, and elected representatives tend to disagree among themselves and hold highly divergent priorities that they are usually unwilling to compromise, creating deadlocks and governmental paralysis. Voters must be able to control legislative bodies by electing representatives of their choice mandated to enact voters' agendas, especially with respect to climate control and ensuring planetary sustainability.
In summary, any individuals intending to vote, even if not presently registered to vote, and regardless of national origin or current location, must have access to the Global Social Network for Voters and its consensus-building and social networking tools and services so they can join with other intending voters to:
Halting Social Media Manipulation of Public Opinion
The third crisis of the four global crises that the Global Social Network for Voters empowers voters to overcome is social media manipulation and distortion of public opinion by special interests. These include politicians, elected officials, and political parties seeking to increase their political influence by using social media to mobilize susceptible and often aggrieved voters in order to create highly partisan and uncompromising electoral bases.
Unscrupulous interests, both domestic and foreign, exploit social media to collect personal information about social media users and create massive databases comprising tens of millions of psychological profiles of social media users and their email addresses. (They store and sell this information even when it violates users' privacy and the confidentiality of their communications and actions.) They identify users' psychological susceptibilities to believe certain types of political disinformation and perception-distorting political propaganda. These manipulations have the potential to induce large numbers of unsuspecting people to adopt views they might not espouse otherwise, and support political parties, candidates, and lawmakers whose stances and actions while in office may diverge from voters' priorities and prove harmful to their well-being.
The network enables voters worldwide to circumvent exploitive social media by providing them access to alternative sources of information, and by providing access to the network only to registered users who have obtained verified, encrypted identities from the network. Trolls, bots, and foreign agents will be barred from accessing the network, and thereby prevented from disseminating disinformation and subliminal messages that exploit users' susceptibilities in order to sway and distort their political judgments and priorities.
Ending Cr0ss-Border Conflicts: Voters Acting Locally and Globally Simultaneously
A fourth crisis the Global Social Network for Voters empowers voters to overcome are political obstacles to the resolution of cross-border conflicts involving nation-states as well as non-state actors. Electorates exert little influence, if any, over the policies advocated by their governments and chief executives regarding cross-border conflicts. Their influence is especially weak with respect to policies and conflicts that rely on the use of force rather than diplomacy and non-violent solutions -- even though it is violent conflicts that can bring injury and death to those who fight in them.
Here again, as with the 21st Century global decline of democracy, many contemporary cross-border conflicts reflect steps backward rather than forward in conflict resolution. After the end of the Cold War thirty years ago, and passage of non-proliferation agreements to forgo nuclear weapons, it was generally assumed diplomacy would prevail over the use of force by nation-states. Instead, global geopolitical conflicts involving nation-states, often intertwined with non-state actors, have resurged around the world without effective countervailing forces. The increasing number of authoritarian heads of state unabashedly threaten to use nuclear weapons and other instruments of mass destruction agains each other, while financing costly military build-ups at the expense of their civilian populations.
Conspicuously absent from these threats and conflicts is the voice of the constituents of warring governments and heads of state. Rarely, if ever, do these leaders systematically elicit the views of the people they represent before they announce and execute militant foreign policies that can and do lead to war — despite the fact that their constituents usually express preference for peace.
To reverse this life-threatening pattern, the Global Social Network for Voters provides voters worldwide a platform and immediate bully pulpit for speaking out on matters of war and peace -- in sufficient numbers to call into question how long their leaders will remain in office if they pursue policies opposed by their constituents. They can use this platform to collectively issue press releases endorsed by their voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions. They can collectively and consensually devise, guide, and oversee lawmakers' implementation of domestic and cross-national peace plans, as well as legislative agendas and policies for overcoming cross-border conflicts and crises.
To garner the political and legislative influence need to get their peace plans and policies implemented, the multinational members of cross-border voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions can register to vote in election districts in nation-states where they are eligible to vote. They can transmit their plans to lawmakers and pressure them to enact agendas that have been collectively set by the members of their multinational blocs, parties, and coalitions to bring about the cross-national cooperation needed to implement cross-national agendas. If and when necessary, they can use forthcoming elections to elect representatives to enact their agendas and peace plans — and defeat those who refuse to exert their best efforts to do so.
To summarize, the network will enable them to:
Voter Empowerment Technology for Re-Inventing Failed and Failing Democracies
It is literally a matter of life and death that voters be empowered technologically to democratically control their governments, elections, legislation, and political parties. Unless they can replace technologically obsolete and undemocratic electoral and legislative institutions and processes with 21st Century democratic institutions and processes, voters will not be able to induce lawmakers to solve the life-threatening crises and emergencies, such as climate disruption, which most governments and legislative bodies are proving incapable of resolving.
The root causes of voter disempowerment described above, electorally and legislatively, are so numerous and intertwined that piecemeal reform measures are unlikely to bring about significant change within the foreseeable future. The incremental, systemic crippling of electoral and legislative institutions and processes that 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.
Even if significant reforms of democracy crippling mechanisms could be enacted, e.g. in the U.S. to reverse election district gerrymandering in all 50 states, a major obstacle to voter empowerment would still remain in effect and prevent democratic self-governance by U.S. citizens and voters numbering in the hundreds of millions. This obstacle is the lack of effective consensus-building mechanisms enabling voters to bridge differences across ideological and partisan lines and unlock the legislative deadlocks caused by quarreling and uncompromising political parties causing governmental paralysis.
Nor will legislative reforms change yet another major cause of voter disempowerment -- undemocratic political party decision-making practices. It is the willful failure of political parties to empower their supporters and voters, rather than special interests and campaign financiers, to determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are enacted. This willful failure is reflected in their refusal to use modern technologies to provide supporters and voters effective mechanisms for defining and regularly updating their priorities and legislative agendas in writing, across the board, and transitting them to party officials, candidates and lawmakers to ensure they actually know what the constituents they are supposed to be serving are demanding they do when they hold elected legislative and executive offices.
In light of the fact that tens of millions of voters residing in U.S. election districts are represented by a few hundred political party-backed, special interest-funded, lawmakers holding office in the U.S. Congress that refuse to provide their constituents effective mechanisms for specifying their priorities and legislative agendas, it is difficult to argue that democratic self-government is in effect.
Fortunately, the Global Social Network for Voters provides a near-term global technological remedy for the crippling democratic deficits caused by political parties, special interests, undemocratic electoral and legislative institutions and processes, and obsolete technologies. The network is a 21st Century consensus-building and social networking technology empowering voters to re-invent failed and failing democracies to ensure that voters determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed, instead of unresponsive and unaccountable political parties, special interests, compromised politicians and elected officials.
The network provides voters worldwide a unique consensus-building arena in the form of an autonomous, online political organizing platform for consensus-building and agenda-setting that enables them to circumvent the obstacles they currently face when trying to participate politically in crippled institutions and processes that political parties and special interests have been re-engineering for several decades to diminish voters' electoral and legislative influence.
It enables them to circumvent the intertwined laws, regulations, court decisions, and legal and illegal practices enacted at the behest of political parties and special interests to prevent populations at large from controlling their governments, elections, legislation, and political parties. These interferences include gerrymandering, vote suppression, e-voting technologies that generate inaccurate results and can be used to falsify results, and unfair laws that enable special interests to buy lawmakers' voters by providing the lion's share of their campaign financing.
The network makes technological empowerment of voters feasible by using state-of-the-art technologies to empower voters to build and manage voter-controlled online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions to perform all the classic functions that traditional parties perform. It combines the unprecedented agenda-setting, political organizing, and consensus-building tools of the Interactive Voter Choice System and the Interactive Voter Choice Global Networking System with the capabilities of a revolutionary combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) group decision-assisting tools, social networking and crowdsourcing technology.
The foundations of the modernizing capabilities of the 21st Century social networking and online crowdsourcing technology of the Global Social Network for Voters are significant, especially with regard to their capacity to remedy the "disconnect" between voters and lawmakers. It is well known that groups of individuals working together in autonomous, self-organizing groups can devise 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. Corporations recognized several decades ago that autonomous, "crowdsourced" groups of individuals typically arrive at more effective solutions to problems and challenges than corporate-controlled individuals and groups of individual employees.
This phenomenon is especially relevant to democratic deficits that have been found to characterize representative forms of government, especially with respect to the troubled, discordant relationships between voters and elected representatives in legislative bodies, such as the U.S. Congress. The legislative priorities of voters and lawmaker tend to diverge as the result of lawmakers' and political parties' failure to allow voters to define and transmit their preferences across the board, in writing to parties and their representatives, and the skewing of representatives' priorities to reflect those of the special interests that finance the parties and their candidates campaigns. Voters, in order to protect and promote their well-being and protect their lives from global crises such as climate disruption, must be able to circumvent these obstructions to get control of their governments, elections, and legislation, and the political parties that have taken control of them.
The Global Social Network for Voters empowers voters to “crowdsource” voters across the ideological and partisan spectrum into their own self-organizing groups in the form of online voting blocs, parties, or electoral coalitions. By so doing, they can 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 provides a countervailing platform empowering voters to counter these patterns 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.
Voters worldwide will be able to access the Global Social Network for Voters via VotersUnited.Global to democratically control their governments, elections, legislation, and political parties, by using the network's unique political organizing, consensus-building, and agenda setting tools and services.
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 the website.