Hacking and Elections

An article on Deutsche Welle assures us that all is well in the Land of the Free (Elections):

Why hacking the US elections is extremely difficult

The hacking into the Democratic Party’s server has sparked a debate about the security of the US voting system. But experts are less worried about hackers breaking into election systems than about a political issue.

As if a presidential race unlike any other in recent memory, featuring the two most unpopular candidates ever, needed any additional suspense, it was amply provided by the fear that the election outcome could be altered by hackers.
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Graham Smith: The problem with politicians and democracy…

I would complete the headline of Alex Sakalis’s interview with Graham Smith on openDemocracy with “… is that they are mutually exclusive” (at least if by “politicians” it is meant “elected politicians”). Smith, however, strikes a more tentative note:

Citizens’ priorities are not necessarily the same as those of their political representatives. […] What is clear is that citizens are willing and able to deliberate on complex and contested political issues. The question is whether they will be listened to by local and national political leaders. The evidence is not promising.
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Democracy talk – Episode 4

Patrick and I discuss the upcoming U.S. elections, diminishing candidate favorability, electoral crisis, the principle of distinction and other matters.

“[W]e usually end up where we need to be.”

Hillary Clinton, from the recent Wikileaks release:

You just have to sort of figure out how to — getting back to that word, “balance” — how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today. That, I think, has probably been true for all of our history, and if you saw the Spielberg movie, Lincoln, and how he was maneuvering and working to get the 13th Amendment passed, and he called one of my favorite predecessors, Secretary Seward, who had been the governor and senator from New York, ran against Lincoln for president, and he told Seward, I need your help to get this done. And Seward called some of his lobbyist friends who knew how to make a deal, and they just kept going at it. I mean, politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position. And finally, I think — I believe in evidence-based decision making. I want to know what the facts are. I mean, it’s like when you guys go into some kind of a deal, you know, are you going to do that development or not, are you going to do that renovation or not, you know, you look at the numbers. You try to figure out what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. [Clinton Speech For National Multi-Housing Council, 4/24/13]

Vincent Azoulay: An electoral campaign in reverse

An article by Vincent Azoulay, professor of ancient history in the University of Paris-Est/Marne-la-Vallée, in france culture (original in French, my translation [corrections welcome]):

An electoral campaign in reverse: the ostracism

Let us start from a finding that is at first surprising. We possess no detailed record of an electoral campaign in Athens – despite it being history’s first democracy! There are multiple reasons for this: first, elections may not have necessarily been important events, being considered an aristocratic selection mechanism, being the opposite of the more egalitarian mechanism of sortition. Most importantly, when elections were held – when selecting generals, for example – they were most often if not unanimous then at least less-contentious: because it was never for selecting a single individual, a bitterly competitive affair, but a board of ten magistrates, which made the competition not as harsh.

To find the real electoral campaigns in Athens, with their maneuvers and intrigue, we have to turn to a celebrated institution, the ostracism, which may be considered as an election in reverse, as it was for politicians who would definitely not be elected!
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A Graphical Illustration of Representation

How accurate will representation be with sortition? To illustrate this I wrote a short program to mimic choosing assemblies at random, and to show how members of a particular group or class are represented. In this example each assembly has 500 members, and the group forms 50% of the population. Typical output looks like this (I have left out twelve pretty boring lines):

Total number of assemblies drawn 400
Population 10 000 000
Assembly size 500
Proportion of class in population 0.500
Expected no of class members in assembly 250.0

251 242 244 251 263 237 257 241 239 232 256 235 244 253 229 241 257 256 250 268
276 241 222 267 270 256 247 …
… 238 244 243 259 263 245 216 260 235 250 240 241 245
227 271 249 263 224 237 251 238 249 263 260 238 247 255 239 243 255 254 237 249
242 246
265 232 252 249 241 259 239 268 252 247 242 227 246 240 237 245 240 241
263 250 241 247 257 278 248 257 257 244 236 256 233 257 243 260 263 250 238 235
251 246 260 267 257 250 258 254 247 242 250 255 250 235 273 255 247 252 260 240
261 235 250 248 247 252 233 266 252 252 257 261 253 258 272 252 249 234 261 235
270 249 251 244 247 256 253 248 239 258 256 250 245 273 253 246 253 247 259 234

Greatest deviation from the expected number of class members = 34.0 or 6.8% of assembly.
Standard Deviation (sigma) = 10.7.
Mean no of class members for all assemblies = 249.60.
2 × sigma = 21.4 or 4.3% of assembly. 95.5% of deviations will be less than this.
3 × sigma = 32.1 or 6.4% of assembly. 99.7% of deviations will be less than this.
Number of over-representations = 182.
Number of under-representations = 198.
Greatest number of consecutive over- or under-representations = 9 (in 400 assemblies).

Some explanations are necessary here. For simplicity, the results in the table above are presented as if all members were drawn at the same time, but there is no such assumption in the program code, and we might regard the results above as a series of snapshots of the assembly composition taken every time its membership is completely renewed. In this case I have taken the proportion of the class in the total population as 0.5.
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Against elections, the video

A surprisingly militant video from David Van Reybrouck.