More political articles on the Silent Majority

I believe the third time anyone writes an article on the same creepy topic, it is time either to cease and desist, or to make this into an ongoing series, embracing the concept whole.

Twice before, I have written with a straight face about how the dead participate in all parts of the electoral process, being both the voters, and those being voted on. And I have written more than once, that dead people have often won elections against their living opponents. While all this sounds both creepy and hilarious, these stories are utterly true. And before you think this is a liberal or conservative conspiracy, I also reiterate, that the dead benefit both sides of American politics. Since there are more dead people than living, we call them the real Silent Majority in this blog. We ought to root for them, since many of these are hard-working dead people who have never committed crimes, and don’t bother anyone.

After paying $1.50 for this issue of The Sun yesterday, I find that the cover story is an opinion piece.

Just yesterday in The Toronto Sun, the front page — yes, the front page, in the biggest screaming headlines you have ever seen in your life, decried the Liberal practice of leaving dead people on the voter rolls. So, now the silent majority have invaded the Canadian Liberal party, according to The Sun. While I understand that the Sun takes every opportunity to attack the Liberals, and have never met a politician to the right of Atilla the Hun they didn’t like, I have to say, the dead are not a voting block. I am certain that the list contains conservatives and liberals in fairly equal numbers. Regardless, no one can control the voting preferences of the Silent Majority, since you can’t speak to them, and they can’t speak to you. Even if you could speak to them, the Silent Majority will just vote as they damn well please. Or, do anything else they damn well please. You may have your perceptions and illusions about the Silent Majority, but we can both agree that you can’t tell them who to vote for. They just won’t listen, and you can’t change that.

You can call me a leading authority on the voting behavior of the Silent Majority. I have been observing them for quite a while now. And a good many years from now, I too will some day go to the Majority. To be honest, it’s pretty boring watching them, because I never see them move. I guess that’s part of their mystique.

The voting Survey: a lesson in sampling bias part II

So far, in the last post, I had revealed an example of sampling bias as being the fact that the questions only hint at particular alternative voting systems without coming out and suggesting one and how it has been implemented elsewhere, so that a more intelligent response to the questionnaire could be made possible. A casual questionnaire participant would look at these questions on offer and probably say “sounds like a great idea” without understanding the details of the proposed voting system that would make him or her think otherwise.

It is also my understanding that certain groups of people (i.e, government and industry) are often breathless in their praise of computers. Now mind you, computers are a great technology (my blog runs on one), but the most trustworthy technology have been voting with physical paper ballots. It is hard evidence that a vote took place. Pushing a button or pulling a lever or interacting with a computer sends electrons through conductors that have no memory and leave no trace of themselves behind. The “memory” on a computer would then only be as effective as the program running that is counting my vote. On the other hand, a pen mark on a paper ballot will last a hundred years.

This is to say nothing about our experiences with federal elections south of the border. Since the voting machines came in, there have been accusations, not without merit, of corruption in the American voting system, due to the way the machines counted the votes, leading to people ask how they were programmed. But when called upon to surrender their source code, companies like Diebold refused, citing patent infringement. If this were government-owned source code, they could make a clear case for public accountability, and demand that the feds surrender the code and make it public. But Diebold is a private company, so they can’t make that demand. This in effect gives companies like Diebold unaccountable power over election turnout in the United States.

On the “Cooperation” scenario is that allowing opposition parties to participate in developing policy places the Prime Minister as the lone president of “Canada, Inc.”, thus Americanizing the Candian system (I know you all want that), since this also allows the PM to be elected on a separate ballot (not a bad idea in some ways). Of course this proposal of separate ballots for the PM is nowhere on this questionnaire. Everything is just hinted at, hoping the participant doesn’t think any bit deeper.

We would have to say farewell to the bloodletting of Question Period, and if we ever hated big governnment before, it would be worse this way, with no effective opposition, and no avenue for citizen input in the lower chamber. The government would have 338 elected employees (formerly called MPs) working for it, rather than some of them in opposition. That would only leave the upper chamber, the senate, to speak for anyone with an opposing view.

There were then these binary questions asked, in the form of “which do I want more?”:

  1. A government where one party governs and can make decisions on its ownOR a government where several parties have to collectively agree before a decision is made?
    • I like how the question makes you want to answer in favour of cooperation. Cooperation leaves no voice of opposition, and no accountability. But if I favour the first option, am I supporting dictatorships? Also, was there ever a problem with “cooperation” and policy making in the past that would lead us to demand a total overhaul?
    • I don’t define governing with an opposition party on the other side of the house “governing on your own”.
  2. One party governs and is solely accountable for policy outcomesOR several parties must cooperate to govern and they share accountability for policy outcomes?
    • This question is really the same as the first, and makes no suggestion as to how accountability would be held in the second scenario. “Shared accountability” leaves open the question “to whom?”. There has to be an elected body that holds MPs accountable. Up until the last election, that role was filled by the MPs in opposition.
    • This brings up the murky topic about the senate being elected …? I like the senate and understand what they do. They are not just a rubber stamp on Parliament, they speak for minorities, and for the long term. That is why they don’t run for election. They are there to think of policy’s effect over decades and vote based on “sober second thought”. The lower chamber and elections have the problem of only thinking as far as the next election for the effect of policy. Senators do not have to do the bidding of the lower house or of their party or of the Prime Minister. Policy is something we must live with for decades into the future, and we need that additional deep thought by detached individuals to help the lower chamber change its policy so that things work into the future. It has served us well in the past, and again, the only complaints come from self-interested groups who want to see a more American system. Remeber, our senators right now have no committement to party loyalty whatsoever, and is thus detached from the lower house. The American system is still bound to party loyalty.
  3. Ballots should be as simple as possible so that everybody understands how to voteOR ballots should allow everybody to express their preferences in detail?
    • Simple is always better.
  4. Members of Parliament that do what their party promised, even if it means going against what their constituents wantOR members of Parliament that do what their constituents want, even if it means going against what their party promised?
    • Voters usually vote for their party and their platform. The local platform is far less publicized, even locally. So, I think party promises should come first, since that is likely what got their party into power. And to the extent that the party strays from the original platform, MPs should become the voice of their constituents.
  5. No further action needs to be taken to ensure that those elected to Parliament better reflect the diversity of the population they representOR further action needs to be taken to ensure that those elected to Parliament better reflect the diversity of the population they represent?
    • Diversity is determined by voters. What on Earth could the government do to change that? Telling some people they can’t run and saying that others can? The voters have to decide that. And if a under-represented member of a minority wants to run, then let him or her, and wish them the best of luck. Was there ever anything preventing this from happening?
  6. Canadians should have the option to cast their ballots online in federal elections, even if the security or privacy of online voting cannot be guaranteedOR Canadians should continue to vote using paper ballots at a polling station, even if it is less accessible for some voters?
    • Again, we have always accomodated disabled people at the voting station. I say that as the husband of a wife who has been in a wheelchair for over a decade. It is another non-problem. The huge problem is from the first choice: the lack of security in online voting. This is always the problem in improving convenience for people in computer software: security is always sacrificed. To make the voting system trustworthy, I believe it is worth a little discomfort for a few minutes at the voting station in filling out a paper ballot. Again, I have heard of no one complaining about not using computers. I have heard a whole lot more about us speaking of American elections as a laughingstock with their computer voting.
  7. Voting in federal elections is an obligationOR voting in federal elections is a choice?
    • Voting is our right. That includes a right not to vote. Sorry to say that, but that is the reality. If the candidates are all sub-optimal, then I should not be forced to cast a choice. The politicians must simply learn to be more in touch with the people who elect them. This is a simple human expectation.
  8. Having many small parties in Parliament representing many different viewsOR having a few big parties that try to appeal to a broad range of people?
    • I don’t think that can be answered with this questionnaire, nor is it the purview of our government to do anything about that. It should be up to the voters. It would help if the government lowered the official minimum seats for official party status from 6 down to 1.
    • And if the party was treated less as an extension of the PMO as it has been in recent decades, and more of a looser-knit set of politicians speaking for those who elected them, this idea of “representing many different views” would never have been a problem. Nobody asked for all party MPs to vote as a block on every possible legislation. Simply stop doing that, and we will be fine.
  9. Members of Parliament that spend more time in their constituency working with constituentsOR Members of Parliament that spend more time on Parliament Hill working on the issues that matter to their constituents?
    • I don’t see what problem this solves. If you are in your constituency office, you are spending less time voting on legislation in Ottawa, and less time in Question Period. If you are speding more time in Ottawa, you are spending less “face time” with your constituents. Wouldn’t we have already worked this problem out a long time ago? Why is this question being asked?
  10. Members of Parliament that always support policies that they think are best for their constituents, even if their constituents disagreeOR Members of Parliament that always support policies their constituents want, even if the MPs themselves personally disagree?
    • Also, wouldn’t an MP already know why they were elected and not let their personal opinions contaminate their support of policies? I would treat the voters as always being right, and would never be so paternalistic as to feel that I know better what my constituents need.

The voting survey: a lesson in sampling bias

Our feds came up with a survey that had some useful questions in it, but also had some questions that gave the overall impression of how they wanted the questions answered. They are asking me to agree or disagree with statements that have not been discussed a whole lot in the media, and really require complex answers. The “questions” usually came in the form of statements such as:

  1. Canadians should have the option to cast their vote online in federal elections, even if it is less secure.
    • How innovative! Are they thinking of repeating the mistakes in the American elections? Ballots may be low tech, but they are completely secure from hacking, which seems to occur too frequently in Europe and America to allow our democracy to be guided by it.
  2. There should be parties in Parliament that represent the views of all Canadians, even if some are radical or extreme.
    • The question is worded in such a way so as to make the repsentation of all Canadians itself a “radical” concept. The far left has had political parties for generations, but I am sure that the Marxist-Leninists and the Communists are completely out of the question. And the Greens are just slightly out of our consciousness. The far right is mentioned far more often in the media, and is what  most people might be thinking about in this survey, making this question sufficiently repulsive enough it its wording to encourage people to disagree with the statement.
    • “The views of all Canadians” is something that should be respected anyway. There have been, as of late too much corporate influence, but that can be changed by changing how parties are funded, not by changing how we vote. But for another thing, the number of seats for official party status should be lowered to 1, allowing Ms. Elizabeth May to represent the Green Party officially. The current minimum is 6, so the BQ would still have official party status.
  3. Governments should have to negotiate their policy decisions with other parties in Parliament, even if it is less clear who is accountable for the resulting policy.
    • The government elected should do the job it promised. “Negotiations” change the platform the parties were elected on into something else, making it harder for governing parties to fulfil their campaign promises, and be held accountable. Policies would be enacted that no voter ever agreed to. There is already a negotiation process anyway. That’s when MPs have “first reading” and “second reading” in the House of Commons. Policies can change to secure the votes on both sides of the house in that process. I don’t recall anyone complaining about that, except that it’s slow. The proposed measure sounds like it would be far slower.
    • Then there’s the question of “what if it works”? If it works, it clearly works in favour of the ruling party, since voters are likely to keep the same system operating, and opposition parties would be motivated to make the system fail on purpose in some way, so they can win the next election.
  4. A party that wins the most seats in an election should still have to compromise with other parties, even if it means reconsidering some of its policies.
    • No. You end up with a hybrid that neither the ruling party nor the opposition voted for. Doesn’t sound democratic.
  5. The voting age for federal elections should be lowered.
  6. Voters should be able to express multiple preferences on the ballot, even if this means that it takes longer to count the ballots and announce the election result.
    • I’ve heard of this before, it sounds good if the choices are structured as “first choice”, “second choice”, and so on. This hints at an electoral method that involves runoffs. Counting the votes means correlating who voted for X and Y. The lowest gets eliminated, so if X is eliminated, his votes are counted for Y. Mind you, this questionnaire never comes out and mentions a particular voting system. It just hints at things. So, what motivates these questions is itself an open question.
    • That being said, it doesn’t sound like a human can count this, since this means associating #1, #2, and #3 vote choices for each voter. My choice and your first choice might be the same, but if that person gets eliminated, your second choice might not be the same as my second, and we both need to be respected so that my vote then goes to my second choice as does your vote to yours.  It takes computers to make such fine-grained associations for millions of voters, and computers are corruptible. I would only trust it if the government hired programmers to write the code (so there is no patent infringement as Diebold so often cited in the States for its hacked voting computers), then make the source code public and free for anyone to download and examine, and compile to see that it runs the same way as the copies used in a voting kiosk.
  7. It is better for several parties to have to govern together than for one party to make all the decisions in government, even if it takes longer for government to get things done.
    • This call for multi-party “cooperation” in developing policy sounds like a jump into those school group activities where all children have some skill to bring to the group that causes the group to produce better results on a project than the sum of their individual efforts would have. I expect a huge generational difference in opinion here, depending on what kind of education you had, and what decades you attended school.
    • All fine. Wouldn’t we all want to see our members of parliament cooperate on both sides of the house for a change? But this has a problem of placing the opposition parties into the realm of accountability where there is nobody left in the house to hold the government accountable, since everyone is now a policymaker, and what would be the purpose of elections then? As much as I like Trudeau, we need the Conservatives and the NDP to ask him and the Liberal Party tough, pointed questions during Question Period. You can’t be a critic on the opposition side if you are also cooperating with the governing party. I need an opposition MP to complain to about policy as a citizen, and it doesn’t help if their party was consulted in drawing up the policy.
  8. Members of Parliament should always support the position of their party, even if it means going against the wishes of their constituents.
    • No, we have had enough of that. Constituents voted for the MP, they should matter more. But they should, out of loyalty, vote for policies that their party ran for on their platform. Loyalty should extend no further.