t byfield on 27 Oct 2000 00:40:45 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> vote action

pit@klubradio.de (Thu 10/26/00 at 09:46 AM +0200):

> {piggyback on}
> just recently there has been one of the first larger e-votes in the
> history of net.politics. even if non-profit the company who ran it,
> was overwhelmed by the requests. only those with access to the proper
> tools (speak voting-bots) had a good chance to get their own id-number
> and later the right to put a candidate into the seat.
> in the future (speak next election), the decision if you
> can vote or can't will depend very much on a number of other
> 'technical' circumstances. like, having an internet connection at all,
> or a social security number, or at least an intact media immunity system,
> like perceptional spam filters etc.  voting in times of interactivity,
> is something much nearer to gaming, the demographics of consumer
> studies, or the gambling at wall street. Pepsi or Coke? Vote now!
> in the meanwhile let's switch over to:

the election was for ICANN, but ICANN outsourced the election itself
to election.com, which is for-profit and uses proprietary systems.
from what i hear, which is reasonably detailed, their system is shit:
translating the processes involved in registering and voting into
protocols is incredibly complex and surprisingly metaphysical; another
company, safevote, is rumored to have done an excellent job of parsing
the processes and reconstructing them in terms of network prootocols.
safevote's staff includes people who've been working as activists and
watchdogs in the computerization of elections for decades. (safevote
publishes a newsletter, and they give out one free sample issue:
www.safevote.com. i wish they all were free, but they're not.)

election.com's process seems to have gone pretty well for the most
part; the system that broke down was an interface ICANN's pet geek had
written, which ICANN itself was maintaining, to prevent election.com
from having access to voter names (they didn't even give the
candidates the voter rolls). election.com promises to release a 'white
paper' about the whole thing; the CEO said he'd never do an election
again unless they controlled it, ergo they'll never work with ICANN
again--so the paper could be interesting. could be.

there were lots of problems with the enrollment process (which wasn't
run by election.com), but not so many with the election itself. the
biggest problems had to do with 'voter education' (hence the
incredibly low turnout compared to registration) and the failure to
clearly explain the voting system that was being used. i haven't heard
a word about voting bots, and i've done a *lot* of research into the
ICANN election. it wasn't just another 'hank, the angry drunken
dwarf' or 'man of the century = ataturk' process at all: those were
overrun by bots, but had no out-of-band authentication systems, which
the ICANN election did. but that's not to defend it: there were a lot
of hijinks and lies, though in the signup process, not the election
itself--and that's a real distinction.

the 'right candidate' is a problematic way to put it, because ICANN's
board-appointed Nominating Committee picked, i think, slightly over
half of the candidates.  the process is much more than just technical,
there are countless hours of negotiations and maneuvering underlying
the technical and bureaucratic implementation of the vote. two good
(user-nominated) candidates won, auerbach and mueller-maguhn; the rest
are just a bunch of sops and yes-men, one of whom--the asian rep who
lives in the US--believes that ICANN is a model for twnety-first
century governance.

the issue of internet access is a non-issue in this context: all you
needed was an email address and access to some form of net access,
even temporary or public.  that doesn't seem especially unreasonable
given that the election was for ICANN. it *is* unreasonable in the
case of a properly governmental election, such as one in arizona which
election.com partly handled (election.com was sued for this, but the
suit got thrown out of court).

i suppose the fact that you could use a joystick as a voting 'inter-
face' might make electronic voting 'nearer' to gaming, but you could
say the same of writing a novel, too. what was and remains at issue
in this election was very precisely *not* some pepsi/coke pseudo-
choice; rather, it is the preservation of the historical norm of a 
pre-'public' common culture against that kind of vanguardist model in 
which commercial interests reign supreme over any dialogism, hetero-
geneity, and multiplicity of reference. and, beyond that, whether 
spectacular fascination with the 'technical implementations' of these 
systems, in all their myriad detail and complexity, will be privileged 
over the social and material processes that give rise to them. 'inter-
face culture' is a cute phrase thought up by some glib american cyber-
writer, but it's hardly adequate for describing what's going on.


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