Citizen Innovation- Can We Count People’s Will?

“It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.” Tom Stoppard

It has been only four months since Rustavi Mayor officially launched the first local governance Innovations Hub in Georgia giving us, the group of civil servants working the City Hall, a space to seek the answers to our questions and translate them into urban solutions together with our citizens, entrepreneurs, educators, local and international partners.

We are on the learning by doing mode, when every new step is a new learning opportunity. As it was last week when we hosted Zurab Khrikadze , Member of the Central Election Commission of Georgia at Innovation Hub in Rustavi. What we wanted to know was how the co-created city projects could be voted by people at large.

It turns out that the way we calculate the results is as important as having good projects and good ideas, and even good systems for voting in place, e.g. the ones I learned about on citizen panel voting in the Cities conference 2050 in Lublin. My takeaways from these two very interesting gatherings, which was also personally engaging as I am Elections Systems Trainer, are quite simple:

Voting starts with gathering data

The way we gather data impacts the results of the voting. In some countries the data is collect on paper ballots and counted by hand, as it is the case in the nation-wide elections in Georgia; some countries ventured to employ electronic means of voting, e.g. USA; and the latest news came from Sierra Leone on the application of Blockchain technologies for elections.

Continues with counting data

There is nothing innovative about counting ballots, with various methods generated historically, Borda Count, Coombs Rule, Preference Voting to name the few. And in all cases however diligent we might be, it is impossible to achieve universally fair counting modality — or rather, it has not yet been achieved. The preference voting system, for example, allow for the voters to make a choice by listing them according to degree of priorities they assign, contrary to simple majority When a ’’vote taken by an organization where at least 51% of the members must vote yes to approve a bill before it is accepted”.

,,Before making decision on how they will be chosen, the first it is useful to decide, what is the aim of the vote — what would you like to see as its result? Would you like to see which option which has the biggest support of the community? Would you like to see where the consensus is or are you interested in checking only which option is the first preference of the biggest number of people? says Marcin Gerwin, PhD

Ends with presenting the data

Presenting peoples decision has to main aims, showing the result, the decision made by people, and proving that chosen counting method was suitable for this case.

How does related to Rustavi Hub?

These takeaways are the starting point for me my personal journey as Rustavi Hub member to contribute to the creation of the voting system for Rustavi innovation projects, which will be trusted by people, transparent for all parties involved, and easy to administer. In this difficult tasks we will reach out to all our partners that we have met from various cities in Lublin , working on the similar citizen-voting models, e.g. Citizen Juries presented by Citizens’ jury, Marcin Gerwin, PhD, Sopot’s Development Initiative, or Glasgow electronic voting board.

If you are knowledgeable in this area, have worked on similar initiative in your own cities, please get in touch! (lab gmail..)