Blockchain Voting Is The Future
2016 was a demonstration of deep-seated problems; 2020 has brought more problems but also possible solutions.
2016 was a historic election. The second race in two decades to be decided in favor of a candidate for President of the United States of America against the popular vote placed Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Four years later, we sit in the worst economy of our lives — but we’re more worried, on the average, about the pandemic sweeping the land that has already killed nearly a quarter million US Citizens. Do we still need the electoral college at all? What would it look like, if we were to do away with it?
A few remarkable innovations are already set to change the game here. Most significantly, the USPS filed a patent last month for a blockchain voting system which would use randomly generated QR codes to link individually registered voters to a database in which anonymized hashes would be presumably tied directly to votes up and down the ballot. However, the innovation does not stop there. This year, the AP is going to partner with Everipedia to publish election calls to the blockchain. The main benefit is that the calls will be rendered immutable — no one, neither Trump nor his most creative and motivated supporters nor Vladimir Putin himself, will be able to change what is recorded on Election Day.
Why Does Blockchain Voting Matter?
Countries such as Estonia have already accomplished a great deal of technological integration in their elections. Most of the Estonian government already takes place on the blockchain, including voting. The effective and valid status of this technology is significant because it removes a technical bottleneck that was responsible for representative democracy in the first place. The reasoning runs thus: it takes too much time and people are not educated enough to directly vote upon issues, so direct democracy is impossible. We therefore have to elect leaders to make important decisions for us.
Direct democracy would allow individual citizens to vote directly upon issues; think of propositions and ballot measures you’ve seen. These types of votes are the bread and butter of direct democracy. With the ongoing constitutional crisis of the past four years, a criminal president aided and abetted by a Senate majority more endeared to wealthy donors than the citizenry they were supposedly elected to represent, and a population which has been handed the short end of the stick by this utterly inadequate decisionmaking at these highest levels of government, it would make sense to eventually see a consititutional convention in the near future to update the two-century-old foundational document of the United States Government. It’s been a long time coming, as they say.
But even this political tide can be deeply and immediately changed by something like blockchain voting. Imagine a constitutional convention that took the writing of the document directly to the American people for a vote!
Such power being presented to individual voters for the first time could radically change the course of political life in the United States. It would be engaging, it would be capable of bringing in the younger and older generations alike, and it could help keep America competitive in cutting edge scientific research and new technology.
Additionally, the provision of such a hands-on voting experience could change the way Americans tend to check out of reality and follow sources like Fox News or Breitbart for their news needs. Seeing the actual proposals and following official literature would take a lot of the mystery out of the operation of government, and the infamous conspiratorial right-wing media which is responsible for the white man’s status as the most dangerous US Citizen might find itself neutered.
What’s Happening This Year?
There are two major developments taking place this year, so far. The first is a United States Postal Service patent on a blockchain-based voting platform. The second is the recent announcement that the Associated Press election calls will be published to Everipedia so that they are publicly available and cannot be tampered with after the fact.
The USPS voting platform is a stroke of genius. As the Forbes article above states, there are many more post offices than local electoral offices. These resources can be employed to make it easier than ever before to vote — while simultaneously boosting security against foreign interference.
The US democratic republic is a frail and geriatric institution. It was robust when founded, in a slavery-permissive time when women did not expect to be able to influence the course of history by voting in elections and running for office. Election security was initially intended to enforce the narrow definition of citizenship and prevent voter fraud. It still accomplishes both goals with remarkable efficiency, but the problems that arise involve overactivity of these security systems which prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots.
The USPS has the resources to make secure voting available to every US Citizen for the first time in history, and it is possible that the technical solution that needs to be developed first will be ready to go in time for local elections in some districts ahead of the 2024 Presidential election to allow for some testing and to make sure the system is un-hackable.
That’s all in the future, though. If it happens at all.
This year, the Associated Press will tabulate the results that begin to roll in on Election Day and declare winners as it has for over a hundred years now. However, for the first time ever, blockchain will be involved directly. An EOS-based application, Everipedia, will record the AP winner declarations as they occur. EOS is a secure public blockchain and the calls will not be able to be changed after they are made for the first time — a security feature that’s primary in modern blockchain technologies.
What this means for the election calling process is that, come what may in terms of legal challenges or recounts, which have been all but promised by the Trump administration, people will be able to look back to the election’s initial reported state with absolute confidence that no tampering has occurred after the fact.
Think about that. If recounts are in fact necessitated by legal struggles after election day, judges and jurors may make a different decision on the basis of this technological innovation and the trustless certainty it entails. Removing doubt-points from the process is one of the most important duties of technology in the American electoral process. If the US is to prevent its elections falling into the sort of skullduggery that dominates Russian elections, for instance, building in trustless interactions will be key.
Chainlink (LINK) is an Ethereum-based blockchain which integrates off-chain resources onto the blockchain trustlessly. Now, it is possible to feed Chainlink bad data to then integrate into the chain, but contemporary election controls should be sufficient to prevent this from happening enough to skew the election’s result — not to mention record-breaking voter turnout as the American people finally wake up to the importance of participation in their democratic system.
So the call is made, then handed to Chainlink, which ensures the security of the data that ends up being passed to the EOS-based Everipedia blockchain. Then fault tolerance and immutability ensure that the results are kept clean and stay the same for as long as Everipedia remains operational. Seeing as Everipedia is decentralized and immutable, this could conceivably be a VERY long time.
The USPS system represents a major advance in terms of technical security because it could conceivably eliminate Chainlink from the equation and simply allow citizens to perhaps mint a token for their chosen candidate or proceed via some other on-chain process.
One risk of this is that anonymity could be compromised, which could lead to more coercion during voting. However, this is relatively easily managed via the current voter registration process. You’d just get a QR code with a link to a web3 based blockchain interface that only let you vote once after verifying your identity. You could record your hash and possibly view your own ballot after submitting it via the same QR code, but nobody who didn’t have the code would be able to look up how you voted. If you want your vote to remain anonymous for all time, perhaps you could simply destroy the card after you vote.
What Happens Next?
No one knows what will happen next. This year has been extremely unpredictable, but it appears that turnout has increased by a degree never seen in recent American politics. As a rule of thumb, higher turnout favors Democratic candidates. Americans in general agree with the Democratic platform in terms of economic and social policies; they mainly vote Republican for religious reasons.
It seems reasonable to predict that the Democrats will do very well on election day, and this will position the party to take advantage of advances in technology to reduce voter suppression and increase turnout permanently by making it easier for everyone to vote securely.
It is unfortunate that the parties have aligned themselves the way they have, because it makes me sound partisan when I write about these matters. I would like to assure my reader that I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but I do find the damage done by the Republican Party to the electoral apparatus of my nation to be extremely concerning. There is no bothsideism here either — the Republicans have done it and should be blamed for it.
Fortunately for all of us who have to live in the United States and want our government to do a better job of responding to events domestically and abroad, it appears that the Democrats do support blockchain technology. You may recall during the passage of the Cares Act that Nancy Pelosi, the second-most powerful Democrat after Joe Biden, investigated stablecoin stimulus payments.
If the Democrats win a substantial amount of power in the Presidency, House of Representatives, and Senate this November, there is an excellent chance that increasing amounts of the business of the US Government will be handled by applying the best technology for security and accessibility available. This will empower government employees and voters to make better decisions; and it will make accountability to platform and office easier to track than ever before. In short, this could solve many of the problems facing American democracy today. And that, despite the dark and terrifying state of the world today, gives us hope for a more democratic future.
Nothing in this article constitutes financial advice. Content provided only for entertainment and informational purposes. If it were financial advice, it would probably be terrible because its author is a philosopher and a bit of a scientist, but by no means any sort of authority on anything financial at all. All investments carry risk and the author of this article assumes no responsibility for any gain or loss incurred by a reader under any circumstances.