Techonology for democracy

>> Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ike Señeres

In the old days, there was no need for technology in order to practice democracy, because all that was needed then was a show of hands, and that was it. Another variation is for voters to stand to express their vote, which was in a way very symbolic, because it would really appear that the voters are standing for their rights, literally that is.
That simple method of showing hands and standing up must have worked for hundreds of years, until it became difficult for every citizen to vote directly, hence the practice of electing or selecting representatives came about, such as the Senators of ancient Greece. Even during these modern times however, the size of legislative bodies have become so large that simply showing hands and standing up would no longer suffice.
In many legislative bodies today, voting is already done via electronic means within the premises, but it seems that there are no precedents yet for remote voting or long distance voting. Another issue that is related to this is the question of whether or not members of legislative bodies could participate in the discussions if and when they could have voice or video access, even if they are not actually physically present.
Above everything else, the biggest issue here actually is whether or not a quorum could be established by also counting those who have logged in to a meeting that would be conducted online or via any other electronic means.
It is a well known fact that in the private sector, online meetings are already being conducted via video conferencing, using both desktop and mobile devices. As a matter of fact, these live video conferences are now being held with the participation of people who are located all over the world.
What that means is that members or voters could actually participate or vote regardless of where they are, anytime there is a meeting, for as long as they have access to a device, and for as long as there is a signal. Only a few months ago, I used to say that I could deliver content for as long as there is a signal. Nowadays, I no longer say that because it is now possible to have a signal everywhere, meaning that everyone could now be connected from everywhere.
In theory, the legal fiction that anyone who has logged in into a computerized system should already be considered as being virtually present, even if he is not really present. Of course it goes without saying that the person who claims who he is when he logged on is actually who he claims to be, or who he claims he is. This entire issue is actually premised on the security of a system, assuming that it could not be breached or hacked.
If it could be clearly established that the person who logged in is he who claims to be, then he should already be able to transact anything when he is online, including the ability to cast his vote in a virtual election, so to speak.
According to the Electronic Commerce Act (ECA), electronic evidence is already admissible. The law seems to be clear as far as images, text and data are concerned, but it is rather vague when it comes to live voice and voice clips. Technically, a voice clip or recording is an electronic file that should already be admissible.
Technically as well, there is only a few seconds of difference before live voice becomes a recording. In this regard, what seems to be more important is the validity of the virtual attendance and along with that, the determination of a quorum. In theory, virtual attendance could actually be determined if someone is able to log in and authenticate his person. However, the question of determining a quorum is more of a legal matter.
As provided for in the Local Government Code (LGC), each and every barangay is supposed to hold a Barangay Assembly at least twice a year. Technically, a Barangay Assembly is the equivalent of a Stockholder’s Meeting in a private corporation. The comparison is not exact however, because any registered voter in the barangay could attend the assembly, whereas only the stockholders or their proxies could attend the corporate meetings.
As far as I know however, there appears to be no provisions in the election laws that would allow voting via email, via web forms or via mobile applications. What that means is that every registered voter in a barangay has no other choice but to physically attend if he wants his voice to be counted.
 No, I am not demanding because I am only wishing. My wish is that sooner or later, the election laws could either be interpreted or modified so that any registered voter in any barangay could virtually attend a Barangay Assembly and at the same time be able to electronically cast his vote regardless of where he is, even if he is abroad.
I understand that many would have apprehensions about this idea, but the fact remains that this is already the regular practice in many other countries, notably in Estonia. Some might have apprehensions about data security and the possibility that the system might be hacked or compromised, but as it is now, there are many ways to prevent that.

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