Let’s face it.
The American people have lost faith in the electoral process. Whether you’re on the right wing and a die-hard Trumper who truly believed that evil liberals conspired to steal the 2020 presidential election, or whether you’re a mainstream progressive and concerned about the fact that in the United States, candidates who win a majority of votes (like Hillary Clinton in 2016) actually cannot become President due to the weirdness of the Electoral College, you know that something is wrong in this country. There is also the huge problem that ballots can get lost in the mail, and that not everybody has time to get to the voting booths or wants to come out and vote in the age of COVID.
What if we just had an app, or a website, for voting? Wouldn’t that make things easier?
It absolutely would. Turnout would go through the roof. Open source election technology is already mainstream, as this PDF from the respected Open Invention Network (OIN) clearly shows. Existing voting machine technologies could certainly be adapted for remote use.
But then the risk of fraud becomes higher.
How could we keep our elections secure, yet enable everyone with a cell phone or a computer to participate?
The answer is another open source technology: blockchain.
I floated this idea to Jenee Desmond-Harris at The New York Times in the summer of 2020.We knew each other because she had read a few of my essays and considered them for the NYT op-ed page, even asking for revisions. I had discussed my essay idea with Dean Pierce at PDX Hackerspace (also known as Ctrl-H). The basic premise resides in the reason why blockchain (the technology behind Bitcoin, popularized by my old advisor, Gavin Andresen) works: it is analogous to BCC. You encrypt or do not store the identity of a person making transactions on a blockchain network, but you make many copies of the record of this transaction, so that it can be verified by independent third parties (and 4th parties, 5th parties, etc.)
My proposal is that we use the same blockchain technology to prevent fraud in US elections, and of course also elections anywhere else in the world.
Jenee kindly emailed me back within a day of me contacting her, but passed on the story. I believe that with the 2024 presidential election now on the horizon, we may want to reopen that discussion.
#opensource will lead the way.
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