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Re: Re-thinking Debian membership

On Sat, Oct 25, 2008 at 09:46:13AM +1100, Helen Faulkner wrote:

> Voting is both a right and a responsibility of members in any kind of
> democracy.
>   How can it be a responsibility if people can simply not bother to vote,
> with no penalty?

I think that's a peculiarly Australian way of looking at the question.  As
an American, I consider it my civic duty to be an educated voter.  The
penalty for not being an educated voter is bad government.  (Whereas the
reward for being an educated voter is *knowing* that your government is
bad in spite of your efforts.)

Since you don't have a statutory penalty for voters not being
well-*informed*, why should there be a penalty for not voting, either?

> The first advantage is that people tend to consider voting as their
> responsibility.  It means they engage with and take more responsibility
> for the entire government process.  If something is wrong they are more
> likely to feel responsible for that and to want to fix it, rather than
> whinging about it without doing anything, because "it's not my fault, I
> didn't vote".

I voted.  Both times.  It's still not my fault.

> The second advantage is that when voter turnout is nearly 100% (always
> some people are sick or whatever), the result reflects the viewpoint of
> nearly the entire population.  This means that you aren't always just
> voting on the issues that polarise the community, and the voters aren't
> only the people who feel so strongly about those issues that they turn out
> to vote.  It results in more moderate, less extreme politics, in general,
> and less dramatic changes when governments change.  One only has to
> compare politics in the US and in Australia to see this effect in action.

Really?  John Howard is an example of "less extreme" politics?

In the US, we find it more efficient to elect fascist leaders to betray the
interests of the common people /without/ obliging everyone to go to the
polls in order to achieve this result.

> Given the low turnout for most Debian elections, I believe that making
> voting mandatory could only be a healthy thing for Debian.  In this case,
> the penalty would be very low, since there are usually several votes in a
> year, and skipping one wouldn't affect a person's membership in the
> democracy.  However skipping several would.  I think using this as a
> measure of involvement in and commitment to Debian would be a very
> sensible thing.

I think it would be more sensible to kick out the people who don't do
anything for the project *except* vote.

That's not to say that I'm altogether opposed to making voting mandatory in
Debian, but if we're really concerned that people are hanging onto their
status long after they should have stepped down of their own accord, the
last thing I think we should do is encourage these people to influence the
outcome of Debian votes.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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