Transparency of government has been heavily pushed, but when it comes to voting… it seems governments may need secret ballots in order to have the ability to act upon our behalf.
James D’Angelo (Winner 2014 MIT Climate CoLab, ex-NASA scientist) uncovers a crucial flaw in American democracy. Incredibly, the solution – which lays at the heart of all current social concerns (inequality, the recession, political division, government disapproval, Citizens United, civil rights and corruption) – costs under 5 dollars.
Welcome to the world of Martin Gilens’ 2014 paper and flatline graph. Also welcome to the world created by electronic voting machines and the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (passed on October 26, 1970). Unheard of in any current political discussion, this act of Congress has produced endless avenues for lucrative lobbying of special interest groups.
This video is a new and shorter version of the 1 hour video “The Cardboard Box Reform”. So if you are looking for more in-depth analysis, data and research check out that video…especially the second half.
NEW: FAQ (lots of links, references, new data and questions answered) updated by James D’Angelo
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 - the bill that opened up voting and committees, particularly in committee of the whole.
Clayton Peoples 2013 Paper
Clayton Peoples great studies on Contributor Influence (Bribery via vote buying)
Chapter 5 from Fareed Zakaria’s great book "Future of Freedom"
Massive congressional vote buying rigged by speaker of the house Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff
D’Angelo has found the most unusual (indeed counterintuitive) source for our current explosion in inequality and campaign financing in a place that most economists would’t consider, the secret ballot.
Considered by many to have crushed the first gilded age, the secret ballot was introduced en masse in the US starting in 1890. By 1940 it was everywhere (all citizens voted privately and most bills in congress were decided by teller or voice vote). And then for 30 years life was pretty good. Inequality was dropping, so were a number of other metrics, partisanship, campaign finance, national debt etc. And then, October 26th, 1970 there was a crack in our air-tight democracy - The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 opened up the votes of Congress (the committee of the whole). Dubbed a ’sunshine law’, this bill has only ever been considered a good thing.
The trouble is, we vote in secret for a reason. Reasons most Americans forget. Every time votes are public we get massive explosion in two types of electoral fraud. They first form of Electoral Fraud is Vote Buying (Tammany Hall, etc), with as much as 20% of the electorate being paid to vote a specific way (often poor individuals being paid with a chicken wing or a beer). The second form is Voter Intimidation, often times people would vote in the local court house, and they would just announce their vote to the local staff. The trouble with voting publicly (stating your votes to a clerk) is that often citizens were voting on deputies and sheriffs who were sitting right there in the court house, listening. It is hard to vote against an evil Sheriff if he can see how you vote. It is easy to see the problem there.
Interestingly, this is exactly what now happens in our Congress. Inside of congress, Voter intimidation leads to massive partisanship and polarization, and the vote buying leads to what some congressmen call ‘legalized bribery’. The convictions, admissions and stories of this are common (Jack Abramoff, ABACAM, etc etc). And this change in 1970 has led to a feedback loop that responds to the ever increasing money in Washington. Indeed The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 is the cause for the phenomenal growth of K-street. And all the big firms were born just months after it passed. The trouble is no one has ever called it what it is, Electoral Fraud. And the beauty is, all these alarming trends can be reversed by re-instating the secret ballot.
Nixon’s Ghost Bill And The 24 Words That Changed History
On average, Congress votes 4,000 times a year. I’ve never met a single, ultra-informed citizen who was monitoring even 1% of those votes. I know this. You know this. And lobbyists REALLY know this. Most of the corruption happens on bills no one is watching.
It was actually Tip O’Neill who pushed the legislation and cosponsored by sad sap Republican Charles Gubser. In fact the amendment was called the Gubser-O’Neill amendment. Don’t bother looking it up, I’m the one who posted 99% of the stuff out there. So I’m not blaming Nixon individually, but his name does give it a catchy title. Still, he did sign it without comment or critique, so he’s as guilty as any.
And I would agree with all three if you were correct that it was impossible to make a secret ballot actually secret. Trouble is there are a number of ways to make a secret ballot actually secret in Congress, even ways that you would accept are impossible to rig.
And once the vote is secret and the lobbyist can’t see the vote, they pack up and leave. The lobby group is done. They lose all power in Washington. Unlike you, I don’t need to theorize about this, this is what happens every time. Every time you install secret ballots, bribery stops.
I agree 100000%. If the system is electronic it can be rigged and fudged and fiddled with to no end. But I never even considered an electronic vote. I hate the system they installed in 1973. But electronic is far from the only offering.
The Senate is 100 people and the House of Representatives is under 500. So this means that both chambers are small in number. Aristotle 2500 years ago proposed a solution that would work - two urns, one wood and one bronze. Each senator would put their hands deep in the urn placing a white ball in one and a black ball in the other. They could do this while the TV cameras are rolling, and no one on Earth would be able to know how they voted. Then at the end of the vote, flip over each urn and count. The bronze urn and wood urn should have the same number of balls representing the right vote count.
That’s perfect voting, perfectly secret.
No. Institutionalized coercion is bad. I believe that. Further, I don’t think anyone would suggest that a social contract is nothing but smiles and sunshine.
But the argument is, that governance is a major upgrade from a Hobbesian society, and the evidence is pretty clearly in favor of that. I mean I love Rousseau but, man, all of our archeology is suggesting that he was just a blinkered idealist.