The Open Party project is conducted within the the Public Knowledge Workshop, an Israeli non-profit NGO. All our discussions are conducted in Hebrew. All our documents are online, accessible via the discussion group.
Our goal is to develop a software platform to support the entire life-cycle of an open party based on participatory, or liquid, democracy.
Liquid Feedback as a foundation
After a period of deliberations and study, we concluded that Liquid Feedback provides us with an excellent foundations. We translated the software to Hebrew and experimented with it, and also studied the M.Sc. thesis of Sebastian Jabbusch, Liquid Democracy in der Piratenpartei.
Here are some of our conclusions:
- We believe, together with Liquid Feedback developers, that there is a “watershed line” separating systems for discussion and deliberation, of which there are plenty, and a system for democratic decision making whose outcome is binding. One can use Liquid Feedback for reaching decisions democratically (although we think there is room for improvements, see below), but the German Pirate Party has yet to cross this watershed line.
- One of the main concerns in incorporating Liquid Feedback in the German Pirate Party was the potential conflict between the formal elected power structure of the Party and the informal power structure reached via delegations in Liquid Feedback.
- For these two reasons we believe that for a system like Liquid Feedback to serve its purpose — be used for democratic decision making — it must be part of the Party’s DNA to begin with.
- In addition, to avoid conflict between the Party’s formal power structure and the delegations power structure, they should be — ideally– as similar as possible.
- Instead of using the standard and well-founded method of public-key cryptography, the developers of LQFB resolved the need for confidential yet verifiable elections using pseudonyms, which resulted in anonymous users making proposals and participating in discussions, and in a very cumbersome operational method (three independent entities need to collaborate to register a new user).
- The user interface leaves much to be desired.
Our operative conclusions based on the above are:
- We would like to replace the current method of ensuring confidentiality and verifiability by a method based on public keys, following the footsteps of Helios Voting.
- Instead of the choice between pseudonyms and real names, we want to offer party members a choice between regular (private) members and public members, all registered with their true identities. The votes of private members are confidential, however they can participate in discussion and make proposals only using their true identity. Public members are like the public voters proposed by James Green-Armytage. Only public members can be the target of vote delegations, and their votes are public.
- We would like to support voting for people, e.g. Executive Board or Parliament candidates, not only voting on proposals.
- We would like to synchronize between voting for people and delegating votes to them, so that the elected power structure of the party and the delegations-based power structure be as similar as possible, to avoid conflict between the two.
Based on all these considerations, we propose the following design. Clearly the constitution/by-laws of the Party and the software operating system for the party must be synchronized, hence our design explains both.
Open Party Design Principles
Public – All party members (Base).
Public Representative – Any party member elected for a position within the party (e.g. Executive Board or internal committees) or outside the party (e.g. Parliament, Government).
He, Him, His – She, Her, Hers.
2. Party Members
Regular member – Can make, discuss and vote on proposals. Can elect Public Representatives.
Public member – In addition, must disclose any conflict of interests. Can receive vote delegations. Can be a candidate for election as a Public Representative.
Public Representative – In addition, undertakes to operate transparently, in good faith, and according to the public’s will, inasmuch as this will is known or can be identified.
3. Election of Public Representatives and their discharge, vote delegation and withdrawal.
- Public Representative are elected in online confidential elections according to the mechanism of Liquid Feedback adapted to elections.
- A vote for a candidate to a position also means delegating the vote to that candidate for all votes on proposals made by the elected candidate to that position.
- A Public Representative must present every decision to be taken by him in his position as a proposal for public vote. In such a vote both the Representative and the un-elected candidates vote on behalf of all votes delegated to them during that election.
- Nevertheless, a voter can choose to vote in person in a specific vote and override the delegation, or withdraw the delegation completely if he lost faith in the candidate he elected.
- When electing a committee, e.g. the Executive Board, or an ad-hoc committee, the winner in the election will chair the committee, and the rest of the committee will be those ranked below him in the elections. Committee decisions are by simple majority, with each member having one vote, independently of how many votes were received during the elections.
- A committee will have an even number of members between 3 and 9. The size of the committee will be the minimal number of member which together have support of more than 50% of the votes, on condition that the following two candidates received no more than 15% of the votes. (quorum needed?)
- An elected Public Representative or committee, of which more than 50% of their delegated votes have been withdrawn are candidates for discharge, in a mechanism to be specified. In addition, the same mechanism should be used to discharge Public Representative who betrayed public faith by failing to disclose conflict of interests, not operating transparently, or not operating against the public’s will.
3. Party decision making process
- Elections of Public Representatives are confidential and without delegation.
- Votes by regular party members are confidential, and by public members public. The identity of delegated votes is confidential, but their quantity is public.
- Making proposals and discussing them is public.
- Proposals made by an elected committee do not need a quorum.
- An additional LQFB Policy (timeline) for proposals is added, timed policy, with an externally given deadline. Such a Policy is used by Public Representatives to ask for public vote on an issue with an external deadline (e.g. vote in Parliament or in a parliamentary committee). It can also be used to raise important issues timed with the Annual Party Convention, so that the discussion and vote will be synchronized with the discussions and votes in the Convention, so that Convention participants and non-participants can discuss and vote together.