What about online voting?
That's been discussed, and generally the more people understand it the less they like it. By which I mean that scientists who study it don't believe it can be made to work, computer secutiy people regard it as outright impossible (some of them even in theory!) and every attempt has either been carefully shielded from scrutiny or has been shown to have major flaws... or both. Using it means choosing which parts of the current system to give up - it can be cheaper, or more accurate, or more convenient to get to, or easier to use, but probably at most one of those things (and likely all of them will suffer for the first few runs... you know, those tests of the new system where we get a real government as a result).
The problem is that our distributed, paper-based system is the result of much experimentation and experience over a long period. Online voting is new and shiny, and even if we can work the bugs out of it much faster than we did with paper ballots, that gives us 3-20 elections where we are testing an experimental voting machine.
I’ll promise you this. If you win, I’ll step aside from the party, to let you and your supporters mould it into the party you want
That's a good idea. I think it would be healthier for Labour to split into official parties of the centre and left and whatever, rather than continue the cats in a sack stuff that's been going on. That way they could form explicit coalitions with each other with clear boundaries. Or perhaps make the current problems explicit by immediately ruling out ever going into coalition with each other, and instead competing to be best friends with The Key Party and Winston First.
It will be hard, though, because the bought media are still struggling to come to terms with MMP, or unwilling to frame things outside the "looney left"-centre-right spectrum that they've used to such devastating effect for the lastr few years.
Given Labours strong focus on winning electorates, a deliberate overhang strategy might be workable - get all the MPs with strong electorate followings to band together into "the real Labour Party", put a bunch of more collectivst MPs into "the modern Labour Party", and perhaps some of the more experienced members could form "Old Labour - the brand you can rely on".
Digressing a bit: I also think that the voting age should be lowered to 16, and that all (or most) prisoners should be able to vote.
Why 16, and why only prisoners rather than all disqualified persons?
You could certainly believe in democracy without being a libertarian.
I question the extent to which someone can be a libertarian and believe in democracy, however. Libertarianism requires strong limits on state power, much stronger than have ever been accepted by any modern state. The closest would possibly be India or Sudan before their respective partitions, but even then both states claimed the right to levy taxes and enforce laws regardless of the consent of those they were enforcing them on, and without any prior agreement that they might do so.
... to laws that force people to go somewhere or do something
To get a driver's license I have to go the the issuing centre. To get out of jury duty I need to turn up to court and look dodgy. To enter the country I need to turn up to customs when they can be bothered attending. The legal issue exists even without compulsory voting
I think any law that compels an action from someone needs to have really strong benefits to outweigh the loss of freedom
I think democracy is a pretty strong benefit. Letting people opt out is if anything worse than letting them opt out of paying taxes. Admittedly I think we should stop people doing that as well, but I realise I've lost that argument.
this article on Australian identity has some interesting comments on Howard's attempt to teach civics towards the end. Well worth a look.
On the compulsory voting thing - I'm strongly opposed. Why should we compel people to be somewhere they don't want to be?
That's in large part the point of the legal system. You're just not allowed to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Everything from property laws to jails to to the nation-state itself is about "compel people to be somewhere they don't want to be" or "preventing people going where they want to go". I think linking that to compulsory voting is a bit of a stretch.
I put it to you that the reason people consider jury service that way is that the service itself is actually onerous and annoying
And expensive. There's no recognition that the cost of me being away from work is more than just the immediate wages.And it's arbitrary, it amounts to "we pick a few people at random and tax them a whole heap more".
Despite that objection I think we should do more of it. And since we have agreed to live in a capitalist system, we should recognise the value of the service juries provide by paying them properly.
Out of habit most scientists are reluctant to state absolutes because we have enough experience with artifacts to know that we can be made to look like complete dicks.
I think it's more that politics is all about convincing people to act more strongly than the evidence supports (a balanced budget is important! Why? Because... I dunno, it just seems obvious). But science is about probabilities and being wrong. There's a huge gap between political truths like "Saddam has nuclear weapons, that's a fact" and scientific truth like "the law of gravity seems to work, at least as far as we're aware, but we haven't been able to test it in all situations". I mean, the current New Scientist reports someone saying that black holes don't exist. So much for the "law" of gravity... some tweaking may be in order. Or maybe not. We don't know yet.
I struggle with this a lot, I'm yet another STEM bloke who can't just say what I need to say without (usually) putting in caveats and exclusions (worse than lawyers, we are). There's got to be a joke somewhere about asking different professions whether the sun will come up in the morning... the astonomer says "the sun doesn't come up, the earth rotates", the physicist says "it's likely to, we think", the statistician says "historically it has done so, p>.9", the engineer says "I think we could fix that"...
We desperately need better civics education, though
Definitely. Not just the mechanics, but also why the mechanics are important.
I don't know how to convey this to some people, but I am close to people who literally put their lives on the line for this issue. All of them know people, and often are related to people, who put their lives on the line and lost them, because that was better than not living in a democratic society. I kind of get where the grumpy old war veterans are coming from whith the "I didn't fight fascists so you could smoke pot on my lawn" thing. The idea that they would go through that and then not vote... offends them. They are more likely to organise a lynch mob to attack anti-democratic groups than to decide they'd rather stay home than vote.
I kid you not about the lynch mob. The vietnamese communist party people in Cabramatta are very quiet and very careful to make sure they put their stall next to the police stall at festivals. People go along and harange them about how evil they are. I don't want to explain to my father in law that I could not be bothered voting because they're all just the same. I'm sure he would quite politely point out that the communist party are not very nice and by not voting against them I have offended him... well, hopefully politely.