[E-voting] Notes on DemCom submission/Questionaire

Cian pooka at redbrick.dcu.ie
Thu Mar 25 15:24:23 GMT 2004

Hi everyone,

I've done a little work on the Democracy Commission submission over lunch.
Find attached the DemCom's Terms of Reference, my notes on what sort of 
submission we might make, and a brief questionaire I'd like people to have
a look at. Everything is explained in more detail in the files themselves.

We've got 'till next Wednesday to get this done, so we're in a slight but
not insane hurry. :o)


       "Metaphors are wondrous candles which illuminate the hidden
             connections between things." -- Jonah Goldberg

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Democracy Commission Terms of Reference (from http://www.democracycommission.ie)


The setting-up of the Democracy Commission is a response to widespread concerns

about the nature of democracy in Ireland and in particular its capacity to be

inclusive and egalitarian. A strong democracy relies on participation in public

decision making, if citizens cannot and/or will not participate in this

decision making then democracy is weakened. 

The Commission is asked to undertake the following: 

1. Generate processes, tools and language in its inquiries which will create

   excitement/interest about democracy. Particular emphasis will be given to

   reaching those under 25 and to working with people from disadvantaged


2. Consider how we define democracy, what it could mean and by redefining

   democracy what the implications are for the reform of constitutional,

   institutional and cultural processes.

   To do this the Commission will focus on one or more of the following areas:

   * The reasons for disconnection from the political process with particular

     reference to social inclusion and gender equality

   * The debate surrounding rights-based culture which hinges on extending

     rights from the political and civil sphere to encompass the social,

     economic and cultural

   * The role of "civil society" - concept of engagement to effect change

     outside formal political involvement

   * The media as a channel for and a creator of the values shaping our

     political participation 

3. Propose alternative options for constitutional and institutional

   arrangements which would take into account the findings to emerge from the

   above inquiries.

   To do this the Commission could inquire into one or more of the following:

   * Issues of multi-level governance, including local, regional and


   * The place for non-governmental organisations and partnership agreements

   * The potential for North-South co-operation and mutual lesson-learning

   * The capacity of democratic structures North and South to promote

     inter-cultural dialogue and multi-ethnic life

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Initial notes for Democracy Commission submission from ICTE


I think that ICTE can most constructively contribute to the commission in two

major ways:

1. A discussion of what should 'drive' the introduction of technology

   in democracy, with particular reference to electronic voting and other forms

   of e-participation.

2. A discussion of how ICTE has been a success as a group using technology in

   effecting change outside formal policital processes. Could this be used as

   a model for government-driven e-participation projects?

Here are some notes from reading the commission's ToR, as they relate to our

experiences as an effective e-participation group. I'll mark which "topic" each

falls under as I go. Maybe some of this will have to go, though I do think that

as a group using technology in democratic involvement, we may have some useful

things to say on the following points:

* Our campaign is a good example of "civil society" mentioned in 2.3 of the ToR.

  We have members from academia, industry, the legal profession, etc. Some have

  formal party-political ties, though many have had no previous political

  involvement. (2)

* The introduction of technology into democratic processes must be driven

  primarily by social utility rather than by an overarching idea of "progress".

  Need a reference for this. O'Baoil's paper? Probably others also. (1)

* What tools and processes have we used to effectively participate in the

  political process as a geographically distributed group operating via the

  Internet? (2)

* Can technlogy really strengthen inclusion and egalitarianism in a democracy,

  at present? How much should we take into account social inclusion in

  e-participation processes? A reference on Internet usage broken down by

  social grouping would be useful here. (1)

* What about participation in government decision-making? In the electronic

  age, are current processes regarding transparency enough? Particularly

  reference FoI and the difficulty of accumulating information on the electronic

  voting issue. Reference Joe McCarthy's work. Can technology make government

  more transparent and accountable? (2)

* Rather than redefining democracy, perhaps technology can allow us to get

  closer to the original definition? Maybe use some of Margaret McGaley's

  research report and the references therein here. (1)

* What place to NGOs have in a strong democracy? How can government facilitate

  them? (2)

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Questionaire to support the ICTE Democracy Commission submission


I think a short questionaire could be a useful way of gathering ICTE's opinions

on some of the topics mentioned in my initial notes. While we've battled out

questions regarding the reliability of the e-voting system again and again,

we've never really had a conversation about "what we've been doing here", what

has worked and what has not, or what part technology can play in democracy.

I don't mean to kick off a massive debate (if we have an interest in pursuing

this, it might be nice to make a separate list to discuss e-participation).

Rather, what I'm looking for is a quick overview of how people see our

campaign. I'd be especially interested to hear responses from 'lurkers'.

If you have some time, please fill this out and return it by private email.

I'll hold everything received confidential, though I may quote anonymously

from answers; let me know if you want to be anonymous or referenced directly.

Basically, rather than kicking off debating over points on-list, I'd just like

to post an amalgamation of opinions received by Saturday. We have very little

time, so I'll keep this short & sweet.

The questions are pretty general. I'm no expert. Feel free to add extra

commentary stirred up by these questions. :o)



Q 1. What do you work at/study? How old are you?

Q 2. Have you previously been involved in politics in any way? If so, how? If

     not, why not?

Q 3. How long have you been using computers/the Internet? Have you previously

     used technology to participate in groups like this one? Do you consider

     yourself a 'member' of ICTE, or an interested observer?

Technology and Democracy


Q 4. Where do you see the role of technology in democracy? How do you see it

     helping or hindering democratic participation?

Q 5. Can technology strengthen inclusion and equality in democracy? How?

     How could it fail?

e-voting at lists.stdlib.net


Q 6. Do you think this list has 'worked' as a way of organising a geographically

     distributed group? What are its strong points? What are its weak points?

Q 7. What tools do you think have worked well here? What further tools and

     processes would be useful to us or a similar group?

Q 8. Does the government have a role to play in facilitating groups like this

     one? Could this model be used in government organisations?

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