[E-voting] Abstention - an accuracy issue?

Mark Dennehy Mark.Dennehy at cs.tcd.ie
Fri Mar 19 12:53:09 GMT 2004

I suppose we are debating it here then.

Ref:[Fergal Daly, Fri, 19/03/04 @ 10:51 +0000]
> 1 - It is undemocratic to force someone to choose a number 1 preference if
> they disagree with all of the choices (more relevant in a presidential
> election or a referendum than a general election). So there must be an
> option to not express a preference.

No, there must be an option to express a preference for none
of the available choices. Otherwise you're giving the voter a
"pick one or shut the hell up" choice, which is as democratic
as an election under Saddam...

> This is what we currently have. This is not what we will get with the
> proposed system.

This is *not* what we currently have. We do not have the
right to choose none of the available candidates at present,
nor any avenue to point out that none of the available
candidates are preferable. You can stay home and abstain, or
you can spoil your vote - but neither is taken into account
by the electoral process. Stay at home and the decision
is made by those who show up. This is acceptable, because
it's how abstention is meant to be handled. But spoil your
vote deliberately because you disagree with none of the
candidates available and your vote is discarded and has no
influence on the outcome. This means that if there was an
election with 100% voter turnout and 99% of the votes had
"None of the Above" stamped on them by the voters, that the
election would be decided by the remaining 1%. How this is
supposed to be a good thing escapes me, I'm afraid.

> Do you disagree with 1 or 2? Or do you disagree that 1 and 2 together
> implies "we need an abstain/none of the above button"?

Please don't say we need one button for both choices. They
are very different in meaning.

And on the suggestion that people who vote "none of the
above" should run for public office themselves, let me point
out that a NOTA vote means you don't trust the people on the
list to do the job either competently or to your satisfaction
- a sentiment which will not, for most rational people,
convince them to give up years or even decades of working
towards their own careers before they are financially secure,
accepting financial costs and the loss of a private life, all
because the only choices are a group perceived as a gang of
crooks, incompetents and liars. 

Speaking personally, I can say that I would, if it had
been possible, not have voted for any of the available
candidates the last time round on the basis of their records
and policies - in the end I had to pick someone I judged not
competent at the job because the other choices were so much
worse. It was _not_ sufficient, however, to convince me to
give up the job I have, the result of a decade of hard work,
simply to do the job better than the current shower. It
was more an incentive to finish my PhD and get out of this
country as soon as possible - and if that's the result of
our "participative democratic system" in it's current form,
it is well past needing change.

Mark Dennehy,
Computer Vision and Robotics Research Group,
Computer Science Dept., Trinity College Dublin		
email:	Mark.Dennehy at cs.tcd.ie
www:	http://www.cs.tcd.ie/Mark.Dennehy

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