Using Facebook Style to Find Candidates We ‘Like’

likeThe US Government operates on a two-party system. Primaries and elections often result in gridlock. With the ever increasing deficit and equally growing displeasure that most Americans have with both parties, perhaps it’s time for a new system. The down side is that a third party option has never worked. The most successful third-party candidate never won a state.  Is it time for technology to intervene and give us a Facebook-style campaign and an online voting system?

Imagine creating a virtual third party system that was dubbed “America Elects”. It would use online nominations and attempt to avoid the extremism that is so predominate in the current system.  So few voters used the system it soon proved to have no impact on the next election.

This doesn’t mean that online elections don’t work. The process is working well for the election of board members for ICANN, the corporation that controls domain names.

Former supporters of the America Elects project believe that a similar process would reenergize politics. An open online system would allow voters to support a candidate that truly represented their needs. People would feel more compelled to express their opinions and make informed decisions.

The basic principal of the process would be having the candidates complete a multiple choice questionnaire which would define their positions on various political topics. Voters would then see rankings of potential candidates whose view on issues match those of the voter, who has completed the same questionnaire. Then with one click, they can vote for their chosen candidate.

There would be a few technical hurdles to overcome, but nothing overly difficult.  America Elects managed to raise $35 million and sign up over four hundred thousand potential voters, but when it came time for the election, no candidate was able to get the magic 1,000 “likes” needed from each state. It was blamed on the lack of a database from which to launch a campaign to encourage voting.

The current system ensures that new and upcoming parties are faced with insurmountable challenges. The technical challenges are far easier to overcome than the political ones. For example, getting a new party into the required televised debates is a near impossibility. Trying to get media coverage from a new party is equally impossible.

Several parties have gotten their start online. Some, like the Occupy Wall Street, even began as a post on a blog. “We’re seeing an entirely new political media ecology that’s transforming politics and threatening their traditional political parties,” says Andrew Rasiej, a technology advisor to the Democratic Party.

Even though the current political system has no shortage of road blocks to prevent the inclusion of a virtual third party, the nature of the Internet gives the ability to surmount these obstacles. The process will need to be implemented in small steps. Just moving the primaries to an online forum would be a start.

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