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Election Integrity and Advisory Voting

There’s a way to use technology to make elections better and more inclusive.
May 17, 2021
Election Integrity and Advisory Voting

Arguments over election integrity all come down to who is being counted, where, and when. Our goal should be to ensure that everyone who can legally vote is able to do so and anyone who cannot legally vote isn’t. Both major parties agree on this point. That’s where the opportunity lies, and that’s where the idea for (non-binding) advisory voting comes in.

A new, advisory voting platform would provide unobstructed voter access to a secure, personal, online voting booth, as close as the mobile device in almost every pocket or purse, which can only be accessed by fully authenticated registered voters. It would be protected by the same banking-level security protocols that give the world confidence in online financial transactions across the globe. And the key is that it would take place on a rolling basis, between elections.

Advisory voting would not be a new social network. It would not collect any data about the voters, other than authentication, ZIP code location and advisory votes themselves. It would not monetize its participants. Without any information identifying voters by party, or by any other demographics or psychographics, all votes would be equal, and this approach would immediately transcend identity politics.

Advisory voting would happen year-round, not just every couple of years, as in general elections. These non-binding votes would tackle issues of any sort, at any level — from national to local. Operated as a non-governmental, non-corporate Public Trust, an advisory voting system would educate voters with fact-verified educational information about the issues being considered, while maintaining the integrity of the network itself. Its operation would be transparent and non-partisan, guided by a published Mission Statement and Operating Principles designed to ensure its enduring trustworthiness as a valuable support mechanism for a thriving democracy.

Better than polls (which we now know can be quite misleading), every voter would have a direct voice. Why extrapolate from a tiny polling sample, when it is possible to have a verifiably accurate counting of virtually all registered voters on any issue, throughout the year?

These are the key words that lead back to election integrity: verifiably accurate counting.

Capable of capturing not only how voters feel about issues, but how many of us feel that way, advisory voting would serve many purposes.

The first would be to provide a vehicle for ongoing citizen engagement in the democratic process, in-between elections. It would evolve the process of governing from something done exclusively by politicians to something we can all participate in. Every registered voter would immediately have an individual, verifiable advisory voice, and together We the People would have a coherent collective voice.

Think about the contrast between petitions and advisory voting. With a large-scale petition you might get a few million signatures, compared to the opportunity to count nearly every registered voter on any issue, quickly and easily. The possibility of participation levels approaching the total number of actual registered voters is not hyperbole. Ease of the process, importance of the issue(s) at hand, and the trustworthiness of this new form of civic engagement, would quickly reward a nation of newly minted advisory voters with an increasingly influential voice in our own democracy—the natural result of coherent civic engagement at scale.

Additionally, as the number of registered voters who also become “registered advisory voters” climbs, it will publicly expose fringe and radical elements as the relatively tiny percentage of the overall registered voter population that they actually represent. Our elected representatives (and everyone else) will know the actual number of registered voters that do or do not support their positions on any issue, by ZIP code.

Finally, the desire to have a voice on national, regional and local issues will motivate merely eligible voters to become registered voters, since only registered voters will be able to participate in advisory votes. This will immediately have a beneficial impact by increasing the overall number of registered voters nationwide, and will help restore confidence in the larger voting system itself. As overall civic engagement increases, its influence and resulting benefits will be evident.

Advisory voting can be implemented without passing any new laws and without needing to convince any politicians or political parties. And the technology is already available.

While there are plenty of important details to agree upon, support for advisory voting will translate to support for election integrity, on multiple levels. Both parties say they want that. The public says it wants the same thing. We all agree, so can we take “yes” for an answer? Or is it just talk? Advisory voting is the innovation we’ve been waiting for. It’s ready when we are.

Garry Kasparov and Richard Lang

Garry Kasparov is a Grandmaster world chess champion, democracy advocate, and founder of the Renew Democracy Initiative. Richard Lang is the CEO of Democrasoft, Inc., author of Virtual Country: Strategy for 21st Century Democracy, and co-founder of the Advisory Vote initiative. They are bringing their expertise and shared passion for democracy together with the introduction of Advisory Voting.