by: Dan Genduso [Website Link]
Our voting system is the backbone of our representative democracy, so it seems like a logical place to look when so many people feel like they are no longer represented within our government. People feel like their voice is not heard — like the issues that are being voted on and the decisions that are being made are not ones that are addressing the biggest problems in their life. When people’s voices go unheard — when they feel that they do not have an equal say in what happens in their community — they lose the drive to participate in our most important and sacred civic responsibility: voting.
An increasing number of people are starting to view voting through a valuation lens. People are starting to notice the lack of impact their voice is having on the decision-making process in the community. Decisions are being made to the benefit of a few, rather than the benefit of the larger community. It is hard to argue that the value of a vote is diminishing for most people. In fact, some might equate the value of their vote to a penny, which is then weighed against the opportunity cost of spending time on things that are more valuable. At a penny, there is essentially no incentive to vote.
In the United States, 1) we are all supposed to be equal and 2) we are all supposed to have a vote (adults at least). So how have we ended up in a system where one person’s vote — a person with money — can have so much more value than the vote of the person standing next to them on the street? How have we ended up in a system where, when it comes to voting, each person is no longer equal? We don’t have to look any further than the voting process to prove that equality does not exist in our society. So why, when we talk about inequality, are we not starting by demanding widespread changes to our voting system?
A vote multiplier exists when one person’s voice — their vote — is being weighted more heavily than another person in the community. Why would you want to be a part of a community where your vote is weighted less than the vote of the person sitting next to you at work? At school? At the doctor’s office? On the bus?
Electoral College: Why does a person’s vote in Florida have a weight of 0.78 per vote while a person’s vote in Wyoming is weighted at 2.97? Why do citizens living in Puerto Rico (including citizens who may have relocated from one of the 50 states to work in the American territory) have a vote weighted at 0? Shouldn’t all US citizens have a vote? These citizens aren’t living in another country.
- We have a problem with improperly aligned voter incentives, which turns voting into a game of golf, “handicapping voting scores” in certain areas where participation might be lower, while completely devaluing votes in other areas. This leads to voter inequality.
Political Action Committees (PACs): While there are limits on how much a person can contribute directly to a campaign, those limits are overridden by donations made to PACs and dark money nonprofits. When a person of wealth donates to a political candidate and spreads money through Political Action Committees (PACs), that person’s vote — their influence on the voting process that is supposed to be representative of the whole community — is being multiplied. When politicians make decisions, are they more likely to support the interests of people who donated the most money, regardless of the channel through which that money was donated? Probably.
- We have an issue with the incentive model for politicians, who are always chasing money from the wealthiest people in society. Even if their decisions aren’t purposely being made to only support the interests of these donors, the fact is that the only conversations most politicians have each day involve the issues faced by these people — the wealthy donors. This leads to a sub-conscious bias. How many conversations is the average person having each day with their “representative” so that their interests are top of mind? The only people represented are the shareholders in the candidate, and the people who invest more money in a candidate are being given more shares in that candidate. In the current system, the people with more shares are being given more voting power. Their vote is being multiplied.
Corporate Donations: When a person uses their influence (and money) as a company owner/leader to shape legislation as a non-elected official, that person is multiplying their vote. When these companies (through their leaders) are donating money to PACs and politicians, along with donations from the non-profits that these corporate leaders set up, votes are being multiplied for the individual(s) that runs the company.
- Here’s one example. When you combine the money contributed by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands casino (almost $28 million) and the nonprofit Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research ($27 million) run by his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, their $55.7 million in campaign contributions for the 2018 cycle alone makes the Adelson family one of the biggest political donors.  What is the incentive for the representative to vote with the average person’s interest in mind (assuming the average person gives closer to a penny), when people like the Adelsons are spending nearly $56 million a year to multiply their vote? The incentive model for politicians to equally consider the needs of all shareholders — all members of the community — is broken.
Associations: When a person is a member of an association, like the National Rifle Association or United Automobile Workers, which gives money to politicians to influence legislation, the members of that group are having their votes multiplied. Each of these individuals already has an individual vote to tell representatives what they want, so why are we allowing them to amplify their voice — their vote- through these associations? Why is their vote worth anything more than the person next to them on the bus, who might not be able to afford an amplified vote or might not have a union to join?
- Unions and associations should be used to create community around an issue so that it can be solved, but they shouldn’t be used to multiply a person’s vote. They have turned into money machines, and that money is lining the pockets of politicians and community leaders who are no longer making decisions that represent of the interests of the larger community (instead making decisions that only represent the interest of a smaller sub-community). What happens when the leaders these associations are no longer representing the interests of all their members? What happens when new sub-communities are created within these associations that only consist of a few people (like less than 1% of the association’s population), thereby diluting the votes of other members in the association? Does this lead to a trickle-down effect, where the previously devalued votes of the larger community — the general population that isn’t receiving the vote multiplier that the association provides its members — are diluted even further?
The Petition Process
The way in which we surface issues to get them on the ballot is manual, slow, and expensive. It is so costly, in fact, that the average person can never have their issue made available for a vote. Instead, we end up voting on the issues that people, companies, or organizations with money have paid to get on the ballot. There are major issues with this process, which keep the average person on the outside looking in.
Signature Requirements: Getting something on a local, city ballot can require 25,000 valid signatures, while getting something on a state-wide ballot can require well over 250,000 signatures (depending on the state). Each signature must be validated and belong to a registered voter. This process usually has deadlines for completion as well, meaning in many places the signatures must be gathered in under 180 days. In short, a significant amount of money and resources are required to meet the signature thresholds and deadlines.
- When the signatures are (in)validated, approximately 30% of the signatures are thrown out. That means that 1 in 3 community members who think that they are participating in the voting process are being silenced without knowing.
Signature Gatherers: In order to get enough signatures, signature gatherers stand on street corners and in the entryways of grocery stores. Some of these people are volunteers, but many of them are paid. Do you know who is paying these people? If you did, you might have a better understanding of who really benefits from the issue landing on the ballot. Regardless, paying people to perform this manual process of gathering signatures adds significant cost to the petition process.
- The average cost per signature on a petition is $6.50, which means it can cost $150k-$300k to get something on a local ballot, while costing between $1m-$4m to get an issue on a statewide ballot in places like California.
Follow-On Petitions: Once you finally agree to sign the “lead petition” that drew you in as a voter, the signature gatherers then throw one — sometimes 4–5 — more petitions in front of you to sign in rapid succession. Many people quickly sign these follow-on petitions — these contracts — without reading any of the fine print — the terms and conditions.
- Community members are contractually agreeing to terms of conditions without having the necessary education and/or conversation to fully understand the issue (and the terms) on the petition (the contract).
An Issue with Issues
When building technology, most companies use an agile methodology, which requires engineers to size epics and stories for development. Without going through this process, the project team will have no idea about the number and type of required resources, as well as the amount of time and money needed to complete development. An epic is typically quite large in scope (a project or set of functionalities), and that epic is made up of many stories (jobs that might be composed of tasks and activities). Sometimes, there might even be “uber epics,” which are massive programs composed of several epics (projects). The stories that make up and epic can range from very small (something that can be completed in an hour) to extremely large (something that takes months or even years to complete), but the philosophy is that an engineer should not be working on developing a story that cannot be completed in 1–2 sprints (2–4 weeks).
- Issue Sizes: In government, politicians run on promises to solve “uber issues,” like healthcare, student loans, immigration, homelessness, mental health, cancer, and violence or terrorism. These “uber issues” are so large that it can take decades before any noticeable progress is seen (if progress is ever seen at all). As a result, we keep throwing taxpayer money into a black hole where there is no demonstrable ROI for the work that is being completed. Huge amounts of money — our tax dollars — are lost in overhead, while we rarely see any noticeable change in our community. Often, things in the community appear to be getting worse by the day, as opposed to getting incrementally better with each passing day of work. That’s not how progress is supposed to feel.
- We need to start breaking “uber issues” down into “issue epics” and then “issue stories” (a single, LEGO-sized block of work), where clearly defined tasks and activities can be completed, signed off on, and immediately leveraged by other workers in the community to build the next block in the sequence. This allows progress to be measured and tracked, while establishing a clear plan with defined data points for voters to analyze and make community funding decisions.
- We do not have clear visibility into the common “issue stories” across all the “issue epics” or “uber issues,” which is a requirement for voters and community leaders to prioritize what work will have the greatest impact on the community — the work that shows the largest amount of overall progress. By taking this approach, community leaders can start to play a game of Tetris, knocking out the most meaningful blocks of work (stories) that remove epics (lines) or uber epics (groups of lines) at the fastest rate possible. This is how we get the highest score for the community — the highest valuation. This is how we determine the optimal Tetris shape for each move.
Issue Sequencing: When we vote on issues in the community, how do we know that we are addressing an issue that doesn’t have pre-requisites or core-requisites? If we start to throw money at issues that can’t be worked on until another issue is completed — and that issue hasn’t been previously voted on, funded, and addressed — all allocated taxpayer money will be lost in overhead while people sit around unable to work. When this happens, do we have a fallback plan to re-allocate funding and resources to the issues that need to be completed first in the sequence, while hitting pause on the improperly sequenced “issue epic” — the previous program we voted to fund? Or do we have to continue funding this program, which continually drains our community’s money and resources as we wait for a new “issue epic” to get through the petition process, receive votes and funding, and complete all pieces of related work — the “issue stories”? In this scenario, we may end up funding a program with taxpayer dollars for years before any work is even started.
- We lack the process and capabilities to identify dependencies and prioritize work correctly, while quickly shifting and reallocating resources when necessary. Would it be possible to use AI to start to predict what the next sequence of Tetris shapes should be, helping us to prioritize work in the most efficient way possible, while improving the quality and accuracy of voter decisions?
The Voter Experience
As voters, we are oftentimes overwhelmed by the number of things that are on a ballot — both candidates and issues. It is difficult to figure out how to best contribute within a community. With all the sub-communities that are created, it becomes increasingly hard for an individual to navigate a path that presents meaningful and tailored participation options. That confusion adds stress, reduces voter engagement, and, ultimately, keeps community members from voting.
Community Building: Once people sign petitions — once the registered voter declares an interest in an issue or person — what happens? Is that person invited into a sub-community where they can start collaborating with people who have the same issue? Many people that sign petitions continue walking down the street, never to be engaged again to help build and grow a sub-community around that issue.
- When a person freely declares that they have a shared issue (or that they “like” a candidate but haven’t decided who to endorse or support), that is a high-quality lead. Community members are expensive to acquire. In fact, we already know that they cost $6.50 on average to acquire for issues (probably a lot more for a political candidate). Why are we not funneling these leads — these registered voters — further into sub-communities where they can engage and move towards conversion as donors, workers, and voters? Nothing in this process matters if these registered voters don’t end up voting. We need more consistent interactions that keep the voter engaged, while guiding them through a unique democratic journey that ends in a vote.
Participation Options: Not everyone has money to donate, but that doesn’t mean those individuals are not valuable members of the community. There a many other ways in which a person can contribute towards getting issues or people on the ballot, including time and influence donations. Are we properly leveraging and acknowledging these contribution options when assigning value to community members — candidate or issue shareholders? Are these individuals recognized as top contributors in the same way that people with money are recognized? Are their votes being weighted equally?
- Community members — for candidates and issues — are not presented with clear contribution options with aligned incentives, which opens access to becoming a shareholder.
Community Curation: The discovery process for political parties, candidates, and issues is not designed with the voter in mind — it is not voter-centric. We are presented with a couple options for political parties (or candidates), and those parties (or candidates) have created a bundle of issues within their platform that feels a bit like how cable TV & internet providers operate. The average person only cares about a few channels, but they are forced to accept this massive bundle that is nearly impossible for the average person to sort through and assign true value to the bundle. Even with the limited options, how can a person be sure that the selected bundle is the optimal bundle to meet their needs? Can people even prioritize and make decisions effectively when the high-level names for these channels are the only thing that are visible, while the building blocks (the programming and segments) are hidden from view for the consumer? We are voting without having any visibility into the programming.
- We are not building voter identity with small enough building blocks (sub-issues) in order to match people to issues, candidates, and political parties. We are using the big, clunky LEGOs that large gaps in structures, as opposed to using the small tiny LEGOs that can fill in the smallest of spaces. Each space — each small, square LEGO block with a single stud — is a critical component of the voter identity, and when we skip over or ignore those spaces, we are lessening the degree to which that individual is represented in their democracy. When we skip over and ignore those spaces when it comes to structuring issues, we are missing key pieces in the build sequence, which stall progress and keep us from completing development. It keeps us from ever solving the larger issue.
Once issues and candidates do make their way through our democratic process to receive a spot on the ballot — issues and candidates that may only truly align with and represent a select few members of the community — we have another problem. Huge amounts of people in the community either a) can’t vote or b) have had their vote devalued to the point that they no longer want to participate. Is this happening by design? If we have less people voting and the people left out are likely to vote against a person or issue that doesn’t align with their needs, isn’t that improving the odds that a person or issue that isn’t representative of the wider community will receive a passing vote? Shouldn’t the only requirement to vote be that you are a member of the community — a citizen? Since we have essentially pushed these people out of the democratic process — essentially removing them as members of the community — will people and issues that represent them ever appear on the ballot in their lifetime? Will they ever be able to rejoin the community? Is the proper incentive model in place to get them re-engaged with the community? This will eventually lead to the destruction of our democracy.
Voter ID: Why do we need so many different types of identification within our community? Why do we have to pay for identification that is required to participate and engage in our community? When the community assigns a cost to obtaining ID — and when the community does not open and utilize the desired channels for each person to request and obtain that ID — the community is putting a barrier between that person and their vote. The community is keeping that person from being a valued member.
If we were to vote on this issue today — this issue of Voter ID — would the individuals most impacted by these requirements even be voting? Do they have access to the polls? Have we devalued their vote so much over the years that we can safely assume they won’t participate? These individuals (like the homeless and people in low-income communities) no longer have any incentive to participate in the current system. None. Their voices — their votes — are locked out. How can we ever get them to re-engage?
- We lack a free, universal identity system that can be used for all areas of engagement within the community and sub-communities, including voting.
Residency: The rules for residency were created as a result of improper scoping and inclusion of all community members during the requirements process. This means that many people in the community are left without an ability to vote in the community where they reside. For example, students, the homeless, and people living abroad — some who simply live in a US territory, like Puerto Rico — lose their ability to vote due to residency requirements that are needlessly put in place — requirements that suppress their votes.
- By including residency restrictions (like exclusions of on-campus housing, where many students live the majority or all of the year), while requiring difficult-to-file residency documentation with high fines for improperly filled out forms (as is the case in New Hampshire), we are implementing a poll tax on certain groups of people within the community. We need to remove all poll taxes, while automatically logging an individual’s membership (their proof of residency) in each community to a universal identity.
Registration: The registration process is completely outdated and unnecessary. As citizens, we have the right to vote. This requirement brings little to no value, and, quite simply, it is a barrier to voting. Why are we not allowed to just show up the day of the vote — using our free universal voter ID — and participate in democracy — contribute to our community. Are we really going to take away someone’s right to vote just because they didn’t know about a deadline date for registration or didn’t have access to participate in the registration process? If a person is struggling to get through each day — fighting for survival — should we really be adding these extra tasks to their already impossible list of things to do? This barrier keeps people from being an active participant and providing value to the community.
- By requiring people to register to vote, we are suppressing voter turnout and devaluing the voices of community members. We need a universal voting identity that automatically registers us as voters in every community where we are a member.
Former Felons: Once a person has served their time and paid their debt to the community, why do we not welcome them back as active participants in the community? Why do we make it so they cannot provide value to the community and rebuild their life and reputation? These are people who have a voice and we are silencing them. We continue to punish them by completely devalued their vote even though they are supposed to be an equal member in the community again. If we do not allow their voice to be heard, how will we ever start to address the issues that led to them becoming imprisoned in the first place? Wouldn’t this help us spend less taxpayer money on prisons?
- Once people have paid their debt to the community, they should have their voting rights automatically reinstated to their universal ID so that they can become an active and valued participant within the community and sub-communities.
Access to Voting:
One of the biggest contributors to inequality in our communities is access. If people do not have access to engage, learn, and participate in the community, those individuals will never have the opportunity to deliver value. If they aren’t delivering value, we aren’t allowing them to generate value — wealth — within the community. We need to eliminate barriers that keep individuals from participating and contributing in the community.
Polling Locations: There are many issues with polling locations, including closures, manual processes, and insufficient staffing. In communities where polling locations get closed, commute times and wait times significantly increase. There have also been issues with polling locations not being ADA compliant, which is critical so that people with disabilities can vote. Depending on where the locations are that get shut down, residents who lack the proper transportation options might be shut out of the voting process. Furthermore, the hours of operation for polling locations do not account for the wide difference in work/life schedules that exist within the community. The largest issue with polling locations, however, is that there is not enough standardization from one community to the next, which leads to polling issues that are inconsistent and hard to fix. These polling issues devalue votes.
- We need a system that is accessible to all, while ensuring that everyone is operating under the same set of rules and leveraging the same voting platform across communities. The platform should be open source, and it should be vetted and verified as trusted/compliant by all members of the community.
Absentee Ballots: While absentee ballots make voting easier (at the expense of security), these ballots are not a blanket solution for every member of the community. These ballots can lead to people (like students or people who may have moved without updating their address on file) voting in communities where they no longer live, which makes it increasingly difficult for that person to be represented in their current community. Sometimes people use absentee ballots because they feel that their vote will be weighted more in one community (where they oftentimes no longer live), which creates a vote multiplier issue.
Regardless of residency issues, there are still some big questions to be answered around absentee ballots. What if someone steals a person’s blank ballot before it gets delivered in the mail? What if someone misplaces the ballot? What if a completed ballot gets lost while being returned in the mail? Do voters get a receipt to confirm delivery of the ballot, giving them peace of mind that their vote was counted? What if people forget to request an absentee ballot in time, eliminating any opportunity to vote remotely? Why do people have to request a ballot in the first place? Isn’t that along — that extra step on top of registration — keeping people from casting their vote? People need more options for participation, not more rules that restrict participation.
- We need to provide better tools for voting remotely, including the use of mobile devices and kiosks.
The reporting and audit process for voting creates significant challenges around elections, particularly when polling locations close at different times (due to time zones) and absentee ballots are still trickling in through the mail days or weeks after polls close. There are different rules about the type of ballot and what happens after the votes are counted, which can lead to mass confusion in tightly contested races. There are also issues with the accuracy and trustworthiness of results in polling leading up to elections, which tend to be inconsistent from one pollster to the next. There isn’t clear transparency into these polls, how they were distributed, and where people were engaged.
Vote Counting: It can take weeks or months before all votes have been received and counted, especially with the current absentee process. Oftentimes, the race is over before those votes are even counted. This sends a signal to people that their mail-in votes (and sometimes in-person votes) don’t matter, which starts to reduce voter turnout over time.
- The process we use for receiving and counting ballots is exclusive, inefficient, slow, and costly.
Storage: In many counties, the ballots are destroyed (physically and digitally) as soon as they are counted. This creates a big problem if members of the community decide that they want to audit the voting system. While there are likely reasons that this is done to maintain privacy for the voter, we should keep records — records that can be verified and authenticated — to ensure that trust in the system is not lost.
- We need a way to store vote records in a private and secure way, while allowing for vote audits without allowing any person or group of people to link an individual’s identity to their vote.
Reporting: Often, we see poll results all over the television from communities on another coast, while polls are still open in other communities. This tactic can lead to lower voter turnout, as people may feel that their vote no longer matters.
- We need a way to report on all votes in an anonymous way with roll-up reporting the instant that polls close for all communities.
Why do we continue to operate on a voting foundation that breeds inequality? Why are we allowing a vote to be devalued to the point that a person would no longer want to own it? Why would we want our democracy — our community — to be worth less? For democracy to work, we need everyone to participate. Those votes — everyone’s data in a single, decentralized data set that can be used for community automation and decision-making — have extreme value to the larger community — your community. When a person votes, the stock price of the community increases. We want everyone to vote to drive community stock prices up — to establish the highest possible valuation for every community where they are members. We want everyone to be an active participant in the community, voting on as many things as possible — adding as many data points around with automation and cost savings can occur. That is how we will create an economy that is truly thriving and booming — by building a community that works for everyone. By helping every person navigate the community in a unique way that allows them to provide and realize the greatest possible value in their lifetime.
In order to increase the value — in order to get everyone voting — we need to start valuing every individual’s vote the same. Every person’s voice matters. We need that data, and we need to capture it in a private and secure way so that nobody can be persecuted for telling the community what they want. Data — verified data — will allow us to automate the operations of our community to deliver the best possible outcomes at the lowest possible tax rate. Data will allow every person to maximize value and self-actualize within the communities (and sub-communities) where they are members.
APoll01 is an incentivized polling network that builds communities (and sub-communities) around issues (and sub-issues), while curating a unique polling experience for each person. We’re building a system where every individual receives an equal vote from a mobile device, while being compensated for their role in solving the biggest issues facing the communities where they are members. We’re building a community where every person’s voice is heard and used in the decision-making process, while activating each person become a participant in the solution for their own issues. We’re building a new, agile Foundation — APoll01 Nation — on which this new form of democracy can operate. A new foundation on top of which we can all build together. A foundation that is inclusive, transparent, and trusted by all community members.
We invite you to donate and become a member or sign up and receive launch updates. If you are interested in investing in the future of democracy, reach out to us. Our flagship product — APoll01 — is an investible opportunity and we’d be happy to provide more information. As we prepare for launch, join our community on Reddit and tell us what you want — we’re building this for you (and with you).