Much has been made of various politicians' use of new media, but Professor Jeremy Hansen hopes to incorporate direct internet-based democracy into a run for the Vermont State Senate. Hansen, who will announce his independent run for a seat representing Washington County on Thursday, is proposing an online and physical system of representation that will "allow for easy and ongoing participation by all citizens." If elected, he says he would implement a system he calls "direct representational democracy," which would include monthly public meetings and a "recall contract" that would require him to step down if his constituents felt he was not accurately representing them.
Most interesting, though, is Hansen's proposal for internet-based polling. If elected, he would create an "online voting platform to allow discussion and voting on bills, the results of which he will carry to the State Senate." Hansen doesn't elaborate on his system, raising questions about how feedback would be counted and how much sway it would hold. We're genuinely curious, however, if it's possible to balance the potential for mischief and misrepresentation with the benefits that might come with easier political participation, and whether online interaction with government can go beyond a simple increase in political transparency.
Hansen has yet to even formally announce his run, of course. But similar internet-based political solutions have been proposed before. The idea of using technology to implement the direct will of the people, for example, was the basis of Americans Elect, which hoped to enter a presidential candidate who achieved an online polling-based majority. That idea died on the vine in mid-May, having failed to find any candidate with sufficient national support.