Primary Elections in Palermo: A Case Study
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Primary Elections in Palermo: A Case Study

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Case Study presented first at the eChallenges 2003 conference in Bologna and then at the 16th Bled (SI) Conference on 10 June 2003

Case Study presented first at the eChallenges 2003 conference in Bologna and then at the 16th Bled (SI) Conference on 10 June 2003

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Primary Elections in Palermo: A Case Study Primary Elections in Palermo: A Case Study Presentation Transcript

  • Primary Elections in Palermo: a Case Study Jesse Marsh Atelier Studio Associato [email_address]
  • eDemocracy?
    • Top-down approaches
      • Technical applications
        • Improvements of existing voting procedures
        • Objectives: increase turnout, save money
      • Theoretical elaborations
        • Dynamics of participation, debate, access to information
        • Objectives: develop new models of IST-based democracy
    • Hands-on, case-study approach
      • Link up with actual political processes
        • Political commitment and involvement in local debate
        • Objective: provide on-demand technical support
      • Generalise outcomes
        • Link up with similar initiatives, share results
        • Objective: spread best practice
  • Political Situation ELECTORAL DEFEATS, SPONTANEOUS CITIZENS’ MOVEMENTS, HISTORICAL ANTI-MAFIA GROUPS, MULTI-PARTY COALITION DYNAMICS
  • Primary Elections?
    • A novelty
      • Much discussed in Italy, rarely implemented
      • Result of shift from proportional to majority system
      • Key question of selection of candidates
    • Who?
      • Reference model (USA) holds primaries within one party
      • What about an 8-10 party coalition?
      • A “coordination of citizen movements” proposes to organize
    • New criteria
      • Low cost, speed of implementation, flexibility of rules
      • Political “believability” more than technical reliability
  • Province of Palermo ELECTIONS FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE PROVINCE, 25-26 MAY 2003 POPULATION: 1.233.768 (PALERMO, 679.290); ELIGIBLE VOTERS: 1.075.462 DENSITY: 247,14 Pop/Km2 (PALERMO, 4.275,49) 82 MUNICIPALITIES (POPULATION CONCENTRATED ALONG THE COAST)
  • An Opportunity?
    • Promote the unity of the centre-left coalition
      • Work together towards a common objective
      • Increase citizen participation, overcome political divisions
    • Contribute to the debate on primary elections
      • Beyond theoretical essays: “Just do it”
      • Gain attention of national and European observers
    • Experiment with old and new tools
      • Simplify communication: redundancy of mail-lists, web sites
      • Prototype “cheap and quick” voting systems
      • Explore acceptability for people and politicians
  • Approach Adopted
    • Set up a network of “Democracy Points”
      • Existing structures: party or union seat, voluntary association, professional office, etc.
      • Future nodes in a stable network for democratic participation
    • Web service
      • Supporting democracy point activities
      • Allowing for distributed voting throughout the territory
    • Special challenges
      • Unique voter registration, anonymity of vote
      • Security of Internet environment, trust in administrators
      • Defense against attempts at political manipulation
  • Operational Proposal
    • The Democracy Point
      • Self-registration (open to all) via Web
      • Cross-control among randomly selected proponents; approval and authorisation with 5 out of 7 approvals
      • Three options for voting procedures: on-line, batch entry, squad support
    • The Candidate
      • Self-registration (open to all) with any Democracy Point
      • 500 voter approvals to become official candidate
    • The Voter
      • Registration with any Democracy Point
      • Subsequent access to documents, profiles, voting etc.
  • Debate REACHING AGREEMENT BETWEEN MOVEMENTS AND PARTIES
  • Negotiation
    • Estimated turonout: 20,000 voters
      • 200 Democracy Points x 100 registrees each
      • Numerical strength and open system: shock to parties
    • Parties’ counter-proposal for a “convention”
      • 450 Elected representatives of the coalition
      • 450 Selected by parties with representational division
      • 450 Members of “civil society” (e.g. unions, associations, movements)
    • Compromise solution
      • Democracy Points register voters (paying € 3 each) for a set period (one week)
      • Parties provide lists of an equal total, plus the elected
      • Debate on platform and voting occurs in a 2-day convention
  • Active Democracy Points THE RANGE OF STRUCTURES AND PLACES ALREADY REGISTERED
  • What Happened
    • Democracy Points register over 1.700 delegates in one week
      • Parties scramble to match number, providing (and changing) lists until the last moment
    • Coalition parties agree on a single “unitary” candidate the night before the Convention
      • Movements forced to propose leading figure as alternative
      • Less than half of registrees actually vote
      • Woman candidate gains 300 signatures, to then withdraw
    • Party choice wins by only 5% margin
      • Party candidate called into question on political background
      • Movements decide to procede anyway
      • Movements’ candidate becomes Vice-Presidential nominee
  • Aftermath
    • Elections lost
      • Centre-left candidate takes 36,5% vs. 60,3% of centre-right
      • Improvement over previous elections, gains better in Palermo city centre than in outlying province
      • Centre-left parties sing victory, hail method of primaries
    • “ Coordination of Movements” integrated
      • Key players now engaged in parties’ political processes
      • “ Convention” accepted as end solution, not just first step
    • “ Potential energy of Movements” remains
      • Regrouping of original participants
      • Commitment to carry forward distributed and open eDemocracy solution for primaries
  • Conclusions
    • Specific nature of primary elections with a multi-party coalition
    • Work with political processes provides structurally new alternatives
    • Specific technical challenges addressable within time and money constraints
    • Significant political implications: new role of citizen in eDemocracy processes
    • Resistance to change by parties hampers political innovation
  • Open Questions
    • The nature of political credibility
      • Mixture between human trust and technical reliability
      • “ Believability” of systems that people can not understand
    • Citizens, ICT and democracy
      • Are people actually willing to invest in learning to use tools?
      • How to address the local “digital divide”; is it technical or cultural?
      • How many people actually vote freely anyway?
    • Political movements and political parties
      • Can citizens’ movements do without political organisation?
      • How can we make / help political parties really address and overcome their crisis of representation?