FOR IMMEDIATE REALEASE
On Wednesday, August 8th at 12PM Eastern, Jeremy Hansen, a candidate for Vermont’s State Senate and Philip Dodds, a candidate for the US House of Representatives in Florida’s 3rd District will demonstrate their bold new Direct Representative Democracy website http://directrep.us on the Internet at http://bit.ly/DirectrepDemo. The candidates have proposed a system of direct democracy in combination with the current system of representative democracy. Hansen suggests that, “A representative should be elected who would work strictly as an advisor and make all policy and voting decisions based on the will of his or her constituents, regardless of personal opinion.”
Dodds and Hansen have, in collaboration with computer scientist Dr. Travis Kriplean, developer of the software platform ConsiderIt, built the site to fulfill campaign promises to provide an accessible Internet platform to poll their constituents. “I wanted to provide an easy-to-use site for citizens to weigh in on issues, so that I can take their guidance to Washington DC. I believe we are delivering that with Directrep,” says Dodds.
The Directrep site presents a number of proposals, each of which has a dedicated page for discussion and voting on whether a citizen supports or opposes the proposal (and how much they support or oppose it). Citizens can add and comment on each proposal’s pros and cons, which ensures that the feedback is more relevant and interactive than a simple poll. The pros and cons also feed into a rich results page, which allows anyone to see the reasons why citizens support or oppose each issue. Representatives like Hansen and Dodds can then dig deeper and have a more focused discussion with their constituents. Dodds explains how he intends to act upon the information that his constituents provide him: “If I see that a large majority of my neighbors in North Florida believe strongly in some issue, I guarantee that I will fight for that position in Congress. I challenge any candidate running for election in the United States in 2012 at any level to make a claim to represent their constituents in this way.”
“The other candidates we’re running against promise the same thing they promise every time and never seem to deliver - change for the better. I’m excited to be working with Jeremy and Travis to actually bring change, not just promise it,” said Dodds. Social computing expert Kriplean agrees. “I see us in a cycle of cynicism right now, where we have lost the ability to think great thoughts and act on them. The Directrep project fits right into that, because it very explicitly forces citizens to start taking responsibility for public decisions and to see government not as an alien entity, but as a vehicle for addressing public concerns.”
Hansen addresses a common concern about online democracy: “High-speed Internet access is definitely not a given for everyone in Vermont. So that we don’t leave out those without Internet access, I will be hosting monthly in-person meetings in the spirit of Vermont’s (annual) town meeting where we will sit down, discuss, and vote on these items. We’re taking the strengths of town meeting and combining it with modern communications to change how citizens are represented in our government.” Hansen says that the opinions presented by the attendees at these meetings can be combined with the results from the Internet site to provide a clear idea of public sentiment. He expects to host the first meeting of this sort, which will include a demonstration of the Directrep software at the end of August.
Dodds adds, “It's 2012. Social media allows us to share everything. It's time that the Internet gives us the ability to share more responsibility for our laws. http://directrep.us does that."
Jeremy Hansen is an assistant professor of computer science at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He teaches a variety of topics in computer science and information security, and conducts research in cryptology, privacy in social networks, and security of medical systems. He lives with his wife and two young children in Berlin, Vermont.
Philip Dodds works as a product manager for a computer software company that sells electronic medical record software to doctors. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1995 with a degree in Mathematics and lives in Alachua, Florida with his wife and three children.