The Process

The setting is a representative democracy founded during a nearly current technological era. Being aware of how easily representative democracies can be manipulated by political parties, corporate campaign funding, control of mass media, etc. this civilization sets out to create a system that leverages modern technology to keep the electoral process representative of the needs of the people.

To solve this, they decide to come up with a values based election program. In this system, the voter does not get to pick what candidate or political party they vote for, instead they are asked a series of questions to which they respond (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree, or I am unfamiliar with this topic) to identify what candidate most closely aligns with the voters values.

If there is any ambiguity left when done, the system starts asking you a bunch of questions about which values are more important to you until it can determine what single candidate most closely mirrors your values. While this process is far too complicated for paper ballots, it would be easy for a computerized system as long as all the obvious security concerns are addressed.

The Problem

The issue with a values based election process is that if you allow candidates to self-identify their values, they could just do market research to find the most popular platforms, self-identify as that, then do whatever they want when they get to office. To combat this, the system needs a way to verify the values of the candidates.

Some questions could be easily proven through public records such as:

  • My candidate should not have a criminal record
  • My candidate should be an experienced politician
  • My candidate should have experience running a business

However, other questions will be much more relative like:

  • My candidate should support GBLT rights.
  • My candidate should support lower taxes.
  • My candidate should support small businesses.

When you have an experienced politician, you can prove their relative values by looking at what bills they have supported or opposed in the past, but newer candidates don't have enough data to make those assessments.

The Question

What would be the most evidence based/hardest to manipulate method of determining a candidate's values that neither discriminates for nor against newer politicians?


There is of course also the problems of who gets to decide what questions make it to the ballot, cyber security concerns, etc, but I'm not worried about that for this question. Those can be addressed in follow up questions as per the single question policy of WB.SE.

For the sake of this question, assume that this system itself is safe, secure, private, and trusted by the general population.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The biggg problem with this is that in a representative democracy, the representatives are supposed to represent their constituents, and not the opinions of their constituents. That is, a representative is supposed to be a complete person, with a mind of their own, capable of making decisions and taking the best positions in the interest of the country; they are not supposed to be slaves of the opinion polls, and they are not supposed to put the whims of their constituents ahead of the reasoned interests of the country. And remember that the people at large are very conservative... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 17, 2020 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ You do of course realize that the system requires each and every adult in the country to provide a written, detailed and authenticated set of answers to the most intimate and delicate questions, to be kept for reference in the permanent record. This is necessary because otherwise it would be impossible to prove that a winner or loser of the election was the correct winner or loser. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 17, 2020 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see your point, if you vote for a person's values, rather than their persona, then all they have to do to represent the people who elected them is be themself, and do what they already think is right in each situation. They don't know which values they got elected based on, just that they were the right combination of values to win. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Feb 17, 2020 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ Of course they know on which values they were elected. Election happens, A is elected, B is not. B contests the election. The electoral authority must show in open court that A is a better match. They must provide (1) all the answers of all the constituents; (2) the set of values computed for A and the set of values computed for B; (3) the computation which shows that A is a better match than B. How else could they do it? Quite soon those tables and computations will be provided as a matter of course without waiting for a contestation. As today they provide the detailed tally of the votes. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ Sorter explanation: the result of the election must be proved publicly. Otherwise it is not an election, it's an arbitrary assignment. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:24

3 Answers 3


A Printout of their Online History

People can lie pretty damn easily on the spot, but it’s hard to keep up a facade of values over a long period of time. So you will provide a written record of their opinions and some behaviors that they’ve put out over the years. It wouldn’t just be Facebook and Twitter either, as part of the process the prospective candidate essentially undergoes an online background check; every website that they registered their email to, from reddit to stack exchange is fair game. The names would be expunged, and identifying information and confidential information (HIPA, bank stuff) would also not be included.

If the candidate has absolutely no online presence, and can substantiate the claim after their hard drives are inspected by a third party, they must have a written statement in the voter pamphlet that declares this, and a statement on their values. The voters then decide if they will trust them on this, as they would be clearly aware of the lack of substantiating evidence, pruning them to be skeptical.

Granted, this is an egregious breach of privacy, but it could be argued that politicians are public servants that ought to be held to a higher standard, and if the government wants to spy on us it’s only fair the voters spy on them.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Privacy? What privacy? Privacy is already out the window when every adult in the country is supposed to take a detailed authenticated quiz detailing their position on each and every conceivable delicate issue, to be kept forever on the record. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 17, 2020 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Alex P You’re right $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Feb 17, 2020 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ Sociopaths would have the cleanest record since they would just do everything shady on a blackmarket system and never trip up while on the system everyone knows about. $\endgroup$
    – Muuski
    Feb 18, 2020 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ That WebMD article was written by, a freelance journalist, not a mental health professional. While the DSM does not recognize Psychopathy as a separate condition from ASPD, the DSM is often criticized for failing to differentiate the two. Psychologists and researchers in the field frequently differentiate the two in thier treatment plans and research. When I took Abnormal Psychology in college, they were taught as two seperate things. The DSM is written for insurance classification and rarely goes into an accurate depth of classifying psychological disorders. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ So yes, they can often be considered synonymous in layman's terms, but in the relevant field of study they are not. It's kinda like how a normal person would use the terms Meteor and Asteroid interchangeably, but an astronomer would not. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Mar 3, 2020 at 17:41

I'm pretty sure this could never actually work for a couple of reasons, namely that there are better ways to improve democracy and you'll never handle the security concerns.

The security element of this is a nightmare in two directions. The first is that because it is so complex, there is little way to handle questions about the accountability of the system. Meddling by various third parties would be much easier, not harder, because the closed nature of the system would allow them to cheat in all sorts of subversive ways.

On top of this, you'll have an information security nightmare in terms of the preferences of each individual voter, which would produce a disaster if it were ever released. Currently data has actually been classified as a toxic asset in some companies for this reason, and you don't want your election system to drive people away. Voter suppression would be a problem here, as it would be about convincing certain people to not give over this level of information to the government.

The Centenal Cycle trilogy by Malka Older is all about how to improve democracy and the problems that this could create. One of the biggest problems is about education, and how people are resistant to the kinds of fact checking that allow elections to run smoothly. It also involved an unelected NGO that is running all of the elections and the fact checking system, and the problems that this creates.

There are relatively simply fixes that could be made to existing election systems that would improve them significantly. The problem with current election systems is mostly an inevitable consequence of gerrymandering and first past the post voting. These could be fixed by ideas like mixed-member proportional voting, in which more than one representative covers a much larger district, or the single transferable vote, in which you effectively have instant runoff elections because your choices are ranked, allowing third parties to avoid the spoiler effect in which they hurt the larger party ideologically closer to their own. CGP Grey has a couple of videos that cover some of these options in more detail.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You say that the problems in current election systems arise from gerrymandering and first past the post voting. This might look true from a US/UK perspective but it's not if you also consider for example several EU countries. Neither of these problems really exist in the German, Dutch or French election systems and they are not too happy with the system either. Gerrymandering is a problem that can and should be solved, but it is not the only one. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Feb 18, 2020 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ While this is a legitimate concern with this manor of system, I'm looking for how to assess candidate values. I will address cyber security and trust authentication issues separately. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Feb 18, 2020 at 16:07

Crisis Reveals Character

To establish the candidates' true nature, they must voluntarily submit to a combination endurance march, Military Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) trial, reality TV-style Survivor meets 'The Apprentice' and real-life Lost TV episode.

Every moment is recorded and videoed as each of the candidates is faced with hunger, cold, genuine threats to personal and group survival. The situation is designed in secret by psychologists and psychiatrists and Advertising Executives to rock any person to the very core being and then force them to make decisions that affect their own well being and those of their fellow candidates.

It would be like Special Operations "Hell Week' except it would last longer, and no one cares if they actually survive -- because, hey, one less politician can't be a bad thing.

The recordings are open to anyone that wants to see them, total transparency. And committee of 100 people would develop an extract of every person's values based on their actions in extreme circumstances. The committee would be made of most qualified mental health experts, criminal prosecutors, judges, used car sales staff -- any profession that requires intuiting human behavior and motivations to be successful.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm... not sure if this would tell voters who's for and against socialized healthcare, but watching Hillary, Sandars, and Trump get thrown together on an island with no food or shelter for a week would probably break some records as a reality TV show. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki-ReinstateMonica, I think you are talking about positions on issues. I am trying to uncover their true values -- do they mean what they say or will they say anything to get elected. Are they principled -- mean what they say, and say what they mean -- or is their word only as good as the next poll results. Are they honest or scoundrels. Can you trust them with your money and your daugters (or sons) $\endgroup$
    – EDL
    Feb 17, 2020 at 21:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be easier, and gain more information if you skipped all the drama and instead waterboarded them while screaming "How do you think we should handle the situation in Venezuela?!" $\endgroup$
    – Muuski
    Feb 18, 2020 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Muuski, while it would be must see tv, studies show that torture generates the information that the tortured thinks the torturer wants to hear. If we can solve that problem, then sure. Debates+waterboarding == Informed voters. I can see the bumper sticker. $\endgroup$
    – EDL
    Feb 18, 2020 at 21:31

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