What is Direct Digital Democracy?

Photo by Theresa Thompson - CC-BY

Direct Digital Democracy is a type of Direct Democracy, where citizens directly make the laws and govern themselves. It contrasts with Representative Democracy, where a country is run by a small number of people who may or may not be elected.

Direct Digital Democracy uses digital technology to enable universal participation. In practice, this means that everyone may vote using a computer or a phone. It is also known as Electronic Direct Democracy, and sometimes referred to as e-Democracy, although that term is also used to describe the use of digital technology by the government for communication and for service delivery.

DDD appeals to those who are disillusioned with the status quo, and who feel that direct participation by the public would benefit society. Opponents of DDD fear that it might lead to situations analogous to the classic “majority vote by two foxes and a lamb on what to eat for dinner”. They feel that an elected representative may be able to take a more balanced viewpoint than the majority of the public in cases such as this.

DDD may disadvantage older people who are not as comfortable with the use of computers. However, in its simplest form it uses voice prompts and a push-button telephone, and is likely to be accessible to almost everyone—and even more accessible than in-person voting for people with limited mobility. It is also possible to program automatic teller machines to double-up as polling machines.

There are concerns about the security and integrity of the system, but modern digital technology can reduce fraud to a level at least as low as in-person voting.

There are political parties in Sweden and Australia who support Digital Democracy (although Australia’s “Senator Online” party polled extremely poorly in the 2007 Federal elections, gaining less than one-tenth of one percent of the votes cast).

Direct Digital Democracy is advocated by some independent candidates, such as Denny de la Haye from the London suburb of Hackney. Denny explains:

Direct democracy takes ‘one person, one vote’ to its ultimate form.  For each issue that arises in Parliament, every person in the country should be allowed to vote on that issue…

If elected, he promises that he will use his parliamentary vote like this:

  • If a proposal would improve equality, improve civil liberties, or improve democracy, he will always vote for it
  • In all other cases he will poll his constituents, and vote in parliament according to their wishes

An alternative to Direct Digital Democracy is Liquid Democracy, where each individual may choose whether to vote individually or to delegate their vote to their chosen proxy. For example, a pensioner might delegate their vote to a group that represents the interests of retirees. A delegation can be changed or withdrawn at any time, which is what makes this form of democracy “liquid”.

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