The software utility, eVote and the eVote clerk, injects true democracy and deliberation into our real-world landscape.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

e-Democracy: The UK's Largest E-Democracy Conference

9 November 2005, CBI Conference Centre, London

e-Democracy '05, hosted by Headstar, VoxPolitics and the Hansard Society, is set to be the UK's largest ever dedicated e-democracy conference and exhibition, with 200 delegates and one of the strongest speaker line-ups ever assembled. Speakers include MPs, representatives from the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, and thought leaders from the BBC, Live8 and the National Project for Local E-Democracy, among many others. Topics to be covered include e-voting, e-campaigning and e-consultation, and much more including interactive workshops.

Attendance fee is 145 pounds for public sector and 195 pounds for private sector delegates. - New voter database has rolled out, but questions about its viability linger - New voter database has rolled out, but questions about its viability linger: "Pennsylvania's computerized statewide voter registration database is finally ready for use in nearly every corner of the state.

Not that some local election officials are happy about it."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Call: (Book) Globalization & Communicative Democracy

Call for contributions. Please circulate and apologies for cross-posting.

Globalization and Communicative Democracy: Community Media in the 21st Century

Editor: Kevin Howley, DePauw University

Combining seminal work on community and alternative media with new essays written by academics, activists, and community media workers, this volume offers new insights into the global struggle for communicative democracy from the perspective of local communities. Organized thematically, this anthology examines the intersection between community media and issues of democratic theory and the public sphere, cultural politics and social movement theory, neoliberalism and media reform efforts, as well as media activism and international solidarity building.

This collection seeks to bring together scholars, activists and cultural critics from the fields of media and cultural studies, development communication, political economy, sociology, anthropology, community informatics, and media literacy, among others, to examine community media from theoretical, empirical, and practitioner perspectives. Historical and contemporary case studies are especially welcome. Possible topics include, but are not limited to the following:

* Community Media and Social Movements
* Media Activism and International Solidarity Efforts
* Community Media and/as Cultural Politics
* Media and Community Development
* Innovative Cultural Forms & Practices in Community Media
* Community Media & New Technologies
* Indigenous Peoples¹ Media
* Communication Policy and the Public Interest
* Media Literacy, Pre-professional training and Community Media
* Tactical/Autonomous/Community Media
* Community Journalism And Investigative Reporting
* Community Media and Civil Society
* NGOs and Community Media
* Community Media & Local Cultural Production
* Media Reform, Media Activism and Community Media
* Community Media and Collective Memory
* Production and Distribution through Global Networks

Potential contributors should send a biographical sketch along with an extended abstract (800-1000 words) in a Word attachment to by January 31, 2006. Inquiries regarding submissions should be sent to Dr. Kevin Howley at the same address.

Kevin Howley is author of Community Media: People, Places, and Communication Technologies (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Dr. Howley¹s work has appeared in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, Transformations, the Journal of Radio Studies, Ecumene, Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, and Social Movement Studies.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

E-democracy Takes Off with Inaugural Online Election Forum & Webcast, InternetNZ

An e-democracy question: What specific policies or ideas does your party have for supporting e-democracy, enabling direct policy input from citizens to the government of the day? was asked in a national debate in New Zealand. This is probably the first time that a question about e-democracy has been asked publicly in a national election debate. We need more in other countries.

Hat tip to Steven Clift,

InternetNZ is pleased to have hosted an Election Forum on Thursday 1 September
from 7 pm, for political parties to present and defend their policies relating
to information and communications technology policy.

David Cunliffe (Labour), Maurice Williamson (National) and Mikaere Curtis (Greens) engaged in two hours' conversation chaired by Peter Dengate Thrush, with questions from the audience channeled through journalists Paul Brislen (IDG / Computerworld) and Kate McLaughlin (NBR). Wellington and Auckland sites were linked together via video and audio for shared audience participation. A chat channel was also run.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ramping up -- The National Conversation

I have a lot of respect for Phil. This might be interesting.

CHARLESTON, SC – CivisOnline, a new division of sector-leading Internet tools and strategies provider PoliticsOnline, today announced the beta launch of its latest web project, The National Conversation,, with a unique conversation on Sept 11: 4 Years Later and Hurricane Katrina.

“Think of it as a national water cooler,” says PoliticsOnline president Phil Noble, “a place where regular people can ‘share and compare’ their thoughts and feelings about the biggest stories of the day in any format they choose – in words, in pictures, on video, or simply by rating the comments and content they find on the site. Once they share their ideas and opinions, users can then compare their responses to others in real time by region of the country, age, or sex. This ‘share and compare’ is a powerful idea, and one that our media partners have been interested in pursuing with us for some time now.”

Any media company, blog, or other public affairs site can become a Partner in the National Conversation simply by cutting and pasting an icon and a few lines of code available at at no cost or obligation. “The National Conversation is a unique new concept, and our free and open distribution and partner system is a part of this spirit of innovation and experimentation,” said Noble. “We’re anxious to see what happens.”

The National Conversation is built on the latest version of the same secure platform and unique technology that powered the United Nations’ first- ever Online Global Poll, the e-Vote of the European Union and numerous projects for the BBC. It has been used with over 50 different media partners in over 20 different languages.

Currently in beta release, The National Conversation will officially begin in mid-October with a planned focus on The New Iraqi Constitution – What Now?

“Imagine the possibilities,” Noble said. “Video from, say, an ordinary Iraqi citizen side-by-side with traditional reporting from our media partners, additional perspective from academics and experts and regular folks like you and me, and all of it linked to the larger discussion that’s always taking place in online communities and on the blogs. Before you know it, you’ve got a real conversation going, a National Conversation, you might even say. And that’s really something to talk about.”

For more information on The National Conversation, or to learn more about media partnership opportunities, contact by phone 1 (843) 853-8190 or

Phil Noble -- Laura Hammond

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lack of options to battle lawmakers' pay raise frustrates some

By Alison Hawkes, Herald-Standard Correspondent

HARRISBURG - If Pennsylvania were California, citizens upset about the pay raise could float a ballot initiative to scale back salaries and benefits, set term limits, or even ax the size of the Legislature.

If Pennsylvania were Colorado, or Missouri, or Maryland, or Massachusetts, the angry public could take legislation giving a 16 to 34 percent pay hike to lawmakers and put it up to a popular vote.

If Pennsylvania were Minnesota, ticked off constituents wouldn't have to wait for a regular election to throw out incumbents; they could have a recall, right then and there.

Over half the American states allow some form of direct democracy outside the normal election process, whereby citizens can seize an issue being ignored or promulgated by state lawmakers and give it their own imprimatur.

Citizen initiatives have forced lobbyist disclosure rules in Montana, banned billboards in Alaska, outlawed cockfighting in Arizona, and last year banned same-sex marriage in six states.

Pennsylvania, and a handful of mostly Eastern states take on a more conservative approach by funneling all laws through the state legislature. Voters here do have a chance to rule on referenda - such as the $625 million environmental bond which passed in May - but the decision to put a state issue to a vote is made by the Legislature and the governor.

It's a system that legal scholars say allows for continuity and stability in government, and avoids the brash and populist upheavals seen in states like California, which had 16 ballot referenda last year with 12 of them petitioned by citizens.

That state memorably tossed out a governor two years ago to replace him with movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who now faces a similar budget crisis that provoked the recall.

"It means Pennsylvania is well run and California is chaos," said Bruce Ledewitz, a constitutional law professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. "The reason why it's a disaster is because it's a fake form of majority control because the people don't get to vote on everything. So you cut taxes but you have [high] spending."

Still, it's times like these that leave angry Pennsylvania voters wishing they had more tools at their disposal. No one's really talking about changing the state constitution to allow more citizen participation. But some are frustrated that what is permitted - a battle in court, a battle against incumbents, and popular pressure - simply doesn't seem like enough to swiftly wrestle back control.

"Even with the Legislature itself, members are so controlled by the leadership they can barely make a dent on the agenda, let alone the citizens," said Gene Stilp, a citizen activist who is suing over the allowance for lawmakers to take their pay immediately in the form of unvouchered expenses. "If there were an initiative process in Pennsylvania to recall a piece of legislation, this legislation would be overturned immediately."

Stilp is hosting a citizen's constitutional convention in the Capitol rotunda Sept. 18 to explore options under the state constitution.

John Matsusaka, president of the Los Angeles-based Initiative and Referendum Institute and a professor of business and law at University of Southern California, said a closer form of direct democracy can work.

Legislation that works against the self-interests of lawmakers has a better chance of passing, he said. Take, for example, the fact that all but one of the states with citizen-petitioned initiatives has passed term limits on state lawmakers. But only one of the states barring citizen initiatives has passed term limits.

"We know initiative states have smaller government, spend less and tax less because of initiatives, and seem to be more responsive to public opinion," Matsusaka said. "The legislators realize they better accommodate the people; if they don't, an initiative is going to pop up and force the matter."

He said ballot initiatives have been exploding in popularity in recent years, with 62 citizen petitioned requests appearing on state ballots last November. Matsusaka attributed the increase to a better educated citizenry, with more access to information and better confidence in their own abilities to evoke change.

Pennsylvania has been unable to pass a comprehensive lobbyist disclosure rule or a Right-to-Know Act governing public documents in the Legislature.

Sen. Gerald LaValle, D-Beaver, has signed his name at least four times to bills reducing the number of members in the Legislature, a move he said would improve efficiency. That proposal is unlikely to ever succeed, LaValle admits, because what lawmaker would willingly vote himself out of a job? Still, he said he wouldn't turn to amending the state constitution in order to hand the reigns over to a public that's been long asleep at the wheel.

"I believe we have a representative form of government in Pennsylvania, and I always go back and say, the public over the years has not participated as they should in elections," LaValle said.

That's about to change, according to Russ Diamond, the leader of Operation Clean Sweep, a citizen effort to throw every incumbent out of office in next year's election. Diamond said he's not keen on handing initiative power to citizens just yet, even though incumbency protection measures, such as redistricting, means his job is harder. Diamond said the state constitution, as a document, already prescribes against the abuses seen in the pay raise.

"Our first effort should be focused on fixing what we currently have and seeing what we can do with it," he said. "If something happens that, that is not able to occur, then I would be more inclined to go with the referendum and recall options."

Diamond pointed out one never used provision in the state constitution, which has no known means of implementation but is nonetheless there as a guidepost: Article 1 Section 2.

It states: "All power is inherent in the people ... they have at all times an inalienable and indefensible right to alter, reform, or abolish their government in such a manner as they may think proper."

Alison Hawkes can be reached at 717-705-6330 or ahawkes -at-

E-voting plans shelved

Steven Clift and Democracies Online Newswire is reporting that e-voting transaction are taking a break in the UK.

Local governments should pursue aggressive "informed voting" strategies online like
South Korea. The scarcity of locally relevant candidate and position information is something that should be addressed. I've always felt that regardless of how someone casts a ballot, the real benefits will come from the information and interactive environment placed around the voting experience.

P.S. I also want to endorse the concept from the "Involve" effort in the UK that notes:

Political legitimacy and active citizenry should both be supported through better use of the internet. But not simply through e-voting. Indeed the current emphasis on e-voting detracts from the much more important notion of e-democracy, between elections. E-voting is dead, long live e-democracy. Hopefully... More:



E-voting plans shelved
By John Deane, PA
Published: 06 September 2005

Ministers have shelved plans to test electronic voting in local elections next year, it emerged today.

The Government's move to drop trials for pilot schemes in next May's local elections was revealed in a written Parliamentary answer, published last week during the Parliamentary recess, from constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman.

"The Government has decided not to invite applications from local authorities to conduct electronic voting pilots in the May 2006 local elections," said Ms Harman.

A spokesman for her department said today: "The Government believes that the time is not yet right to take forward the piloting of e-voting.

"We are not ruling out piloting e-voting in the future and any future plans will be taken....