Milo Vannucci

Mike Gretes Fan Club


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Simple. Every person who votes gets a special lottery ticket making them eligible for a 100 or 200 million dollar prize; whatever it takes

Naysayers will say we are trying to "bribe" people to vote. No. We are offering a carrot. The stick people want to fine people for not voting. Very negative. We reward people all the time for doing the right thing. Let Buffet or Gates put up the money or better use some of that $1 check off tax money or a similar check off on tax returns provide the prize. My God, even TED has a prize, and is that considered a bribe? Why shouldn't there be one for voting. People love lotteries and I predict there would be a huge turnout and if not, then keep doubling the prize till the turnout is consistently in the 90% or more category. Anticipating those who will argue against this idea are those who will say that people should not have to be rewarded or enticed to vote. My answer: we are now actively discouraged from voting by such outrages as voting a working days and not having a national holiday to vote. But that would be a whole lot harder to change than simply having a large lotto prize for voting.
And as I said, if the government cannot or will not come up with the prize money, then a few wealthy benefactors can put up the money...and this should include both conservatives and liberals and all in between. If the idea catches on there could be all sorts of consolation prizes like new cars and kitchen appliances etc so corporations can help to "sponsor" not candidates but voting and democracy itself. This ballot box brought to you by GE. Just kidding. And lastly no one is telling anyone who to vote for. You are simply being asked to vote and for exercising your free choice to vote for whomever you like, you get entered into a huge lotto. What could be more enterprising than that.

  • Aug 17 2012: David Wang has a very good point.

    Just getting people to vote is the last step in a process. We need to get people engaged. The electorate needs to be well informed and conversing about the issues.

    I very much like your idea of offering an incentive, but it should start with getting people to learn about their government and the issues, especially, who is donating to the candidates.

    The government provides monetary incentives for all sorts of purposes. Getting people to engage in the process of democracy should be at the top of the list.

    For example, offer classes about the candidates, their priorities and positions. The day before the election, give a test on everything covered by the classes. Everyone who passes the test gets a voucher for fifty dollars, redeemable when the person votes. Something like this could revolutionize politics in this country.
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      Aug 20 2012: Barry, Thanks so much for seeing this idea for what it is and not becoming distracted by other issues. See my reply to David below and my reply to Andrew and John in the comments section of the talk. You are absolutely right: This non voting is a serious crisis in America and a lottery system would be just one small
      step in moving toward 90% participation. There are several comments that speak about a revolution as the only means of change, but that is the opposite of what Democracy was supposed to provide for its citizens. Yes, Malcolm said "Its either the ballot or the bullet" and JFK cautioned that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable". But I have to believe that neither of them
      wanted to give up on Democracy. For those who continue to create roadblocks to that peaceful revolution I have but one word: Nuremberg. And the beauty is that in any future democracy bills can be made retroactive. Those who are actively obstructing the will of the people will eventually pay a price. This simple idea...of a system of lotteries for a hopeful and helpful way to ensure that the revolution stays peaceful and within the Democratic process.
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    Aug 26 2012: There is a reason why Occupy has chosen not to be overly specific about solutions. Solutions, such as the one proposed here-giving a lottery ticket to everyone who votes making them eligible for a multimillion dollar prize-
    inevitably get bogged down in criticisms often irrelevant or peripheral to the point. For example, in this excellent conversation among some of the brightest people anywhere, the TED community, we are cautioned that
    it is more important that voters be informed before they vote. It is more important that voters be educated before they vote. We have to figure out how to get better candidates before we vote. We need to eliminate negative ads and introduce honor and integrity before we vote. We need to have publicly funded elections before we vote. We
    need to get money out of politics before we vote. We need to get Americans more engaged before we vote. Let's
    not even bother because the system is just about money and greed. Some feel it will take a revolution to make meaningful change. We need more motivated voters before we vote. It would be wrong to work toward 90% voter turnout if this was based on an economic incentive. And so on. All excellent ideas and comments.

    Yet most of them do not have much to do with solving the problem of voter turnout. Let me again recommend Tony Benn's powerful interview with Michael Moore where he argues persuasively on behalf of democracy in spite of those who are actively working against it. Here is that link: Large voter turnout will not solve all our problems. It is just one small step in the right direction. Those in power do not want poor people and the working poor to vote as Tony Benn points out. But if Democracy is to mean anything, it must be both a political and economic democracy for all our people and not a charade conducted on behalf of the few. Thanks to all who took the time to participate in this little exercise. Best wishes to you all.
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      Aug 26 2012: Milo, I agree and even admire your dedication to making Democracy better. But I still have to take exception to some of your stated reasons.

      (Quote): "Those in power do not want poor people and the working poor to vote as Tony Benn points out."
      Then how do you explain that some political parties will actually have their representatives go to voting locations on the day of an election to get homeless people registered and escort them inside to vote for their candidate? Political parties want ANYONE who will long as the voter will vote for THEIR candidate. Doesn't matter if the voter is rich, poor, educated or not. If the voter is provided ANY incentive to vote for a particular candidate, OTHER than the incentive to excercise their RIGHT to vote as a Democratic citizen, the system fails (or is at least still flawed).

      Quote): "But if Democracy is to mean anything, it must be both a political and economic democracy for all our people and not a charade conducted on behalf of the few."
      How do you justify an "economic Democracy" where wealth is equitably distributed amongst all the citizens on an equal basis? Where does it say that in any Democracy some can't become rich while others remain poor? I'm not saying the people of a Democracy should tolerate allowing any citizen to be "poor" to the extent they can't even meet basic survivable, housing, etc. That is wrong. But "rich" and "poor" are just words used to describe relationships between people of differing wealth or income levels. No "economic Democracy" can call itself a Democracy with any integrity if it places limits on the ability of any individual to acquire wealth (if done legally). As soon as you institute those limits, the Democracy has died. It has now taken the "economic freedom" away from those who choose to persue a higher income or wealth.

      I don't discredit your desire to improve Democracy. I just question some of your beliefs in the ways it should be done.
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    Aug 25 2012: The problem with the suggestion lies in a common misunderstanding of many voters in the U.S.

    They were asleep during the American Government class that explained the difference between Democracy and Republic.

    Voters can vote because we live in a Democracy where the voters get to choose who will represent them. But what many voters don't comprehend is that whoever they voted for, they have just given that candidate the right to make future decisions FOR the voter, not the decisions the voter may WANT them to make in the future. So there should be an inherent trust that the candidate will do what is RIGHT in the future, not just what the voter WANTS.

    I agree most people won't vote because they don't think they can make a difference. But when the campaign system in our country revolves around discrediting every opponent running against you, and them doing the same to you, who seems to be qualified to hold ANY office in the government anymore? By the time an election date comes, all candidates running for the office in question seem incompetant from the negative bashing they receive from their opponents. When was the last time you heard any opposing candidate imply, "My distinguished opponent's views are correct"? Even if they BOTH agreed on a policy, they would STILL try to discredit each other during the campaign.

    No wonder there is voter apathy. If nobody running is presented as being qualified, who cares who gets elected? I think most of us would agree that the $1 lottery chance would not increase the "critical thinking" skills of a non-interested voter who is apathetic because no candidate seems worth voting for in the first place. So all we end up with is increasing the voter turnout, with no increase in informed voters.

    How about changing the "campaign rules" instead to include some honor and integrity in the campaign process? When the voters start thinking there is someone worth voting for, they might start showing up at the polls.
  • Aug 25 2012: Hmmm...
    Would the money be better spent for publicly funded elections which if implemented would eliminate big money from politics? May be people would have a stronger reason to vote naturally if there was less pandering to big money. The cost would be minimal compared to the benefit obtained.
    Rather than one person winning, why not everyone - by publicly funded elections?
    People and entities could still donate money to campaigns but it should be capped at an accessible value that the majority of people could afford.
    (such as 5% of the average monthly income at the lowest poverty threshold = 0.05*10,788/12 = $44.95)

    Incentives are proven successful in Social Science studies usually within the Minimal Sufficiency Principle. An arbitrary value attached to a lottery ticket most certainly would not help as it detracts from the meaningful incentive which is to obtain a just government.

    An altrnative to such a prize scheme might award 1 voter per congressional district the equivalent of a zero federal income tax for the median payer, paid yearly throughout the term
    = $12,700 per person per year = $5.5m/yr
    A similar incentive could be in place for State and local elections using state and local tax revenues.
    This version of the prize idea may be argued to balance voting and tax payment (yet arbitrarily) but still unfortunately would undervalue the real benefit of voting - though low in the current system it would be very high for publicly funded elections.
  • Aug 25 2012: That may very well get more Americans to vote. But alas, I doubt it would get Americans engaged, and that's something that I don't blame them for.

    As a young person who usually doesn't vote I can speculate that there are many reasons why.
    1. Just too darn lazy.
    2. Neither candidates or choices on the issue are appealing or that they don't seem to represent you or you political decisions.
    3. You don't feel qualified to make the vote and so you take the agnostic route and abstain.
    4. There are millions of other voters and therefore your vote will most likely not matter.
    5. You feel like the government and this election in particular doesn't impact you.
    6. None of your peers do it or talk about doing it.

    If you want people to vote. Make an enthymeme out of it and allow the idea to grow and propagate through social networks.
  • Aug 22 2012: The problem is our so called democracy is a joke. Media, corparate and government propagada fueled by money and greed. No amount of people voting is going to change that IMO.
  • Aug 20 2012: really not a solution in my opinion. the point isn't about just to rise the number of voters, it's about to rise the number of motivated voters, voters who care about changing the society they're living in. i do totally agree with david's and robin's comments. it would be impossible to avoid a huge number of people going to vote just in the hope to win a big prize, totally careless about who is going to win the election, and with the winner who maybe would be underlining the authoritativeness of his win in an election where the case would have had such an importance. more transparency objective information and education are the only points to win this challenge. if you have the feeling that nothing will change whatever you'll vote than you'll be discouraged.
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    Aug 17 2012: Wow, I understand that the intention is good (getting more Americans to vote) but the method is a bit misguided.

    People should vote because they believe that it is their privilege to be part of a free society and their civic duty to protect that society by exercising their right to vote. It's especially difficult when people from groups that were previously denied this right (women and minorities) don't vote. How many blacks and women died or went to jail in the past to get the right to vote in elections?!?

    Offering a lottery will attract people who are voting only for a prize. I doubt if they will be as informed as people who vote because they are exercising their basic rights. These new voters won't be vested in the outcome.

    I don't know about you, but people who are not taking their right to vote seriously, I'd rather have them forgo voting rather than voting for a chance to win the lotto.
    • Aug 17 2012: I can understand your misgivings, but we have a major problem in the USA right now.

      People don't vote because they believe their vote does not matter. Their vote does not matter, because not enough people are engaged in the democratic process. It is a downward spiral which will end when so few people are voting that each one has excessive power.

      We need a solution, and just telling people they should vote is not working. This idea of using an incentive may not be the ideal situation, but it just might stop that downward spiral and turn it around.
  • Aug 17 2012: Voting is exceptionally easy.
    Do you have any safeguard in your idea about how to prevent voters from checking off the first name they see and walking out with their lottery ticket, completely content and oblivious to the person they voted for?
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      Aug 20 2012: David, Please see my reply to Andrew and John in the comments section of Krastev's excellent and stimulating talk. After WWII the GI Bill sent millions of ex servicemen to college. Yes, David, did some just
      go through the motions just to loaf around? You and I both know the answer. But no one...well maybe some...would say that the GI Bill should not have ever happened because some people might take advantage of it.
      I have to say, sadly, there is in America today a meanness of spirit by those in power...or more accurately...
      the 1% and those working on behalf of the 1%....that might very well say that a program should not be developed because a few might take advantage of it. As a simple comparison...they shut ACORN down...
      a great organization that helped poor people in many ways not the least of which was to empower them to vote....and even if the allegations were true (very very flimsy evidence) they got shut down while the banks and Wall Street are going gangbusters and giving themselves bonuses for nearly destroying the entire world economy. Not even a slap on the wrist. There seems to be some disconnect here in your basic philosophical proposition. When the rich do it, its always a few bad apples, and nothing wrong with the system. When the middle class and poor do it, the entire program or idea needs to be discarded. It wasn't just a welfare queen driving the Cadillac that was a "bad apple"; no! it was the entire system of welfare that needed to be rethought and reconsidered. There are countless examples like this. So a few people who may just go in to check off the first on the list of voter choices should not be a reason to scrap this idea.
      • Aug 21 2012: While it's certainly easier to shoot down ideas - even good ones - than to provide ideas, the naysayers are an important part of any discussion. I think the concern that the "voters" enticed by this might just think of it as a free lottery ticket is far more troubling than just that they might check off the top person on the ticket.

        If that concern is accurate, to what degree it is and to what degree it is exploitable is an even larger concern. Simple and cheap survey research could provide political parties with the answer as to whether or not the first or third box is most likely to be checked by those who don't care and want the free lottery ticket. A little more money and they can find out what percentage of the new "voters" are going to bother to be informed and which aren't.

        An example doomsday scenario for your idea: Survey research comes back on MA non-voters in the major population centers. The lottery system will not entice 43% of them to vote. 17% will now vote and will be as informed as the average voter. 16% are on the fence. 24% will go for their chance at the lottery, but will simply mark a random box either because they don't care or don't like any of the candidates but don't want to miss out on the chance for money.

        An additional study is conducted to see what people will mark on a ballot when the information isn't relevant but that money is involved in completing it shows that generally the third box is chosen so it doesn't look like they didn't make a conscious decision. However, 45% of people will choose the box that has the longest name next to it if there is a difference in name lengths.

        I don't think any of us would like candidates getting votes simply because they were the third box or had a longer name. Or both. Or even worse knew these research results and orchestrated it so they'd get that slot on the ballot.

        Of course, these are all made up numbers. The same real research might show optimistic numbers that support the use of your...
      • Aug 21 2012: idea.

        I think it's important to understand how a system can be abused. You make an excellent point about the college loafers, but in that particular instance only money is wasted whereas in the case of the lottery, it's possible to open up a new avenue of exploitation that has greater ramifications than simply money being lost.

        Still, voting apathy is a huge concern right now and we need ideas to keep rolling in. The easier they are to implement the more likely they are to be implemented. Someone should pay for a quick test of this theory to see if it has merit. Without accurate research on any suggestion we're really just throwing darts at a board and hoping the suggestions work.