Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Should I publish voters’ names?

Should I publish on www.votermedia.org the names of people who vote in the UBC and Langara blog contests? (This wouldn’t apply to the Vancouver blog awards, where I don’t know the voters’ names.)

My goal is to increase voter turnout, which is terribly low so far. Would it work?

Voting is a community service. It benefits the democratic community of all students at UBC or Langara. The benefit of your vote to yourself is minuscule, perhaps not enough to make it worth spending the time. That’s why many people don’t bother voting.

But the benefit of your vote to the community is significant. Maybe letting everyone know who voted would enhance their reputations enough to motivate more people to vote. People may encourage their friends to vote.

The confidentiality of voting is an important democratic principle, but what needs to be confidential is which way you voted, not the fact that you voted. So I’m proposing to list who voted, not the voting decisions.

I wouldn’t start doing this without warning. I’d let everyone know about it and give them the option not to be listed. I’d show who registered to vote, then who voted each week, perhaps with cumulative statistics e.g. how many weeks they voted in so far.

What do you think of this idea?


vincent_gornall said...

I'm of two minds on naming voters in the contests. On one hand, some people might feel leery of being named online for exercising their democratic rights; part of the "confidentiality of voting" is the perceived anonymity of doing so. On the other hand, democracy has to be seen to be done for it to truly work, which is why I've always been a fan of small scale democracy (town hall meetings, the Greek polis, etc.). I'm having trouble making up my mind on this subject, but I would have no objections to either decision being made.

Mark Latham said...

Thanks Vincent plus others who commented via email. Feedback overall was cautiously positive, so I'm going ahead with this proposal.