You may feel that in your future utopia, love and compassion will be enough on all levels of society, but politics is about dealing with those who aren't so compassionate, and who can do great damage to the democratic process.
Some of these ideas are based on the vision that computers represent a revolutionary mode of communication comparable to the invention of paper or the printing press, but with everyone "owning a press". In the near future, computers and electronic communications will be as ubiquitous as telephones and TVs are today. In most cities, anyone without their own computer can make an Internet connection at libraries and other government facilities. Even today, every phone is a limited computer terminal. This could be greatly improved upon. Phones might be free when used for voting. We can hope that computer interfaces, at least for voting, will become much simpler (while computers get more powerful). But for those who still dislike computers , it should be no big problem to electronically integrate this kind of system with those using mail, phone, paper ballots and/or mechanical voting booth, though there may necessarily be less convenience and/or fewer options with the latter ones.
Electronics will replace many conventional modes of communication and decision making. Those who prepare for it will share the power it creates. What percent of people could read and write when this country was founded and Washington was elected president? Those who weren't on the leading edge still had some input. Corporations and other anti-democracy institutions ARE taking advantage of electronic communications. In fact the present global structure of the Internet, with minimal local cyber-structure, is probably a reason we find ourselves increasingly fighting globalized corporations, with a shortage of local community spirit.
No, it still won't be "perfect" egalitarian democracy, but what can ever be? Those who get in on something at the beginning get to decide how it will look later. Even choosing to not get involved, or scrap the whole system, is a decision maybe "you" can make when others can't. You can't abdicate the power and authority. You and I who use computers are well up from the bottom of the hierarchy. Should we then ban use of computers? I'm all for universal freedom and democracy, but I'm told most of the people in the world have never made a phone call. Someone always has more access to power than someone else. Decisions are always made by the bold, the intelligent and those best connected to the human network and technology. I mainly want to see everyone more connected, and more equally bold. We can only work for improvements, but more will always be needed.
If a true democratic or consensus system, were to come into being, we would hopefully vote to subsidize many beginning communications industries until they become "universal", as happened with the post office, libraries and, somewhat unintentionally, the Internet. A major function of all governments. should be to enhance communications and spread information, rather than hiding it.
In my system, public votes would also be a major option, and probably even encouraged. I'm not a big supporter of unnecessary privacy and secrets. They always detract from democracy and community. When we keep secrets from potential enemies, we also often keep them from potential friends. I feel that our "culture of secrecy" does more to help criminals and hypocrites than the "good folks". "Everything's hitched to everything else" (and each in many different ways). The effects of all actions radiate eternally throughout the world (though their results become less predictable as they interact with all the other effects). Therefore "It's none of your business" is never completely valid. If any of the affects of my actions possibly causes you predictable harm, it IS your business. Anyone who expects to take an active part in any long-term viable community should come to expect to be judged, or "rated", largely on the degree to which they tell "the truth, the whole (pertinent) truth and nothing but the truth". (Of course in a world evolved to be dependent on walls, fences, locks, secrets, passwords and such, making a transition to such a view will take some time.)
By "electronic democracy", some people mean using electronics to improve the conventional electoral system, with many concerns about secrecy and security. My view is that true democracy begins not just with the right to vote, but the right to understand what you're voting on, the freedom to know as much of the "truth" as the next person, then with free speech/press, free polling, free meaningful feedback. I think it's always been the case in any society that, on the average, those who can express themselves well and are willing to stand up for what they believe, have more power (in return for committing themselves to taking more risks). This is as it should be. These freedoms give power to those who most deserve it.
This system could allow decisions to evolve, rather than be voted in all at once. Social engineers would "see the writing on the wall" without having to be forced into action. With the greater simplicity of on-line communications, we would move voting on statements of protest to who to boycott, not only on proposals for the next few years, but on longer term goals and purposes. Such systems as I envision, starting informally on a few local Internet servers, would be hard to stop from spreading to the world. The ideas below are for going around the conventional system rather than through it, to make it obsolete rather than eliminate it. They aren't necessarily all compatible, or all needing to be inacted at once.
We have "free press" now on the Internet, but it's very chaotic, with ever-increasing numbers of locations and formats to look at for the same kinds of information, no way to separate the wheat from the chaff, and therefore a lot of chaff. The electronic age is being choked into half-consciousness by the information glut. Instead of electronic democracy, we have electronic chaos, which starts out as a tranquilizer for the anarchist counter-culture, but ends up as just another facet of the ongoing oligarchy. There are perhaps millions of forums, on the Net and elsewhere, to discuss national U.S. policies, in maybe a dozen different formats. Nobody, no matter how concerned about issues, can read them all, even on any one subject. Especially with concerns about plagiarism and copyrights, it takes a long time for ideas to spread to other forums.
Each governmental jurisdiction should have it's own central media outlet, including Internet forums, broken down into topics, for the main discussion and decision-making of important policies. (Of course that's not likely to happen through present governments.)
The articles in the electronic magazine could potentially be integrated with electronic polls. The reading fee for articles/polls would be reduced (including to zero fee) according to its voted importance. Free articles/polls would then be put on the "government" forum. Everyone who reads an article/poll could then vote, both on it's literary worth and on whether they agree with the idea.
Sample, non-working, voting page.
The same kind of thing is also available in Internet mailing list form. Information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. It offers the capability for "eVote". If the first line of a message begins with "eVote", the host computer processes it as a command. Unfortunately, the system isn't significantly used at present. But it's available for anyone who wants to subscribe. The Unix eVote program is available for free download. My vision of such is web-based, but I'm increasingly thinking eVote might be the place to start. In any case, I also want a compatible email-based system. I also look forward to more integration of web and email programs.
Either of the above systems may need only to be combined with some of my Electronic Magazine principles for screening, which include voting on the worth and importance of the presentation as well as on the idea, to make them much more viable. We can hope to eventually see the opportunity for both kinds of votes on all ideas presented on-line, and automatically-added links to pages commenting on each site.
Assuming there would always be some people who want to vote secretly, here's how it could work. When each voter registers, they get a computer readable card identical to all others. When they insert the card in an election system computer, they can create, or choose from a list, an anonymous code name unique within the local precinct , and a secret password. They could then log on from any Internet connection, for polling or voting purposes.
There would be a public list of all eligible voters in one's precinct. Thus anyone could look at the list and perhaps challenge another's right to vote, to assure, for instance, that no dead people are "voting". The names of people who challenged might also be made public. Voting rights of both people might be interrupted until the issue was settled.
The person's votes on each candidate and issue would be recorded in the database along with their real name, and code name of those who voted privately. Real names for public voters, OR code names for private voters, but never both together, would be displayed with their votes on a public list. Voters could later look at a numbered list, sorted alphanumerically by names and code names, each with the associated votes, for those votes in their "virtual precinct". They only know their own code name, so the others code names will be anonymous to them. They can see the total number of names and code names in the precinct and compare it to the known population of the precinct. They can see the totals of votes on an issue and see that those were the totals passed on to higher levels. If they like, they can pay for print-outs to take home and add up the votes, and intermediate sums of votes. They could also vote early, but go back before "election day" (if such was needed) and change their vote. This would seem to pretty much eliminate the need for an automatic paper record of votes, but there's no reason we couldn't have that also if desired.
(I'll leave the final say on this up to security experts.)
As mentioned above, we'd have the choice of voting privately or publicly. I look forward to a time when voting publicly, standing up for one's true principles, will be rated higher than private votes, though this is obviously controversial. In this case, maybe every voter would have a code name which would be completely independent of their real name in the database. They could then vote under just their code name, or also under their real name. Code names would then have to be renewed once a year. Separate real names and code names would also make the system more secure.
I see the new version, at least for polling and voting, in terms of one major forum for each governmental jurisdiction (while such words still apply). Years ago, my vision of the future of electronic communications involved a hierarchy of nodes, from local to global, probably run by the public libraries, to encourage a local sense of community. Then it would be easier to set up a system where one could vote only on issues in one's own locality, or region, or globally, while communicating with all communities. Of course location is not the only basis for community, but probably the most important.
Back to "present" reality, such a system might start informally, without a lot of security concerns, on a local-only Internet provider, where the voting process wouldn't be accessible by Telnet etc. Trying to influence an election remotely by subscribing to the local system, then calling long-distance and pretending to be a local resident could get very expensive. As votes became more formal, local residence would be verified. As free, open-source software, it might then grow to make present political systems obsolete.
Proxies might have voting power proportional to the square root (negotiable, probably between that and 1-to-1) of the number of people who professed preference for that proxy. (Having one hundred "followers" would yield the voting power equivalent of ten individuals.) Then a community that pressures people into yielding voting power, in effect voting the "party line", will have less voting power than a community where people respect their community "advisors" but keep their individual votes.
I'd also like to see a system with one "council" where voting power is proportional to one's score on a test of understanding of government principles, intelligence, and/or maturity, but I'm not clear how to work that yet. Then there'd be no additional need or validity for age limits or other such requirements.
See the "Format" section of "New Paradigms for Creating World Government", www.efn.org/~danrob/econo/worldgov.htm#format, for more thoughts on my ideals for governments at all levels, including further extensions of democratic principles such as "control by taxation". But the electronic version, using the above systems, will probably look different.