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Can the Blockchain Save Democracy?

Voting on the blockchain could end worries about voter fraud and election hacking.

MIKE SEGAR/RTR/NewscomMIKE SEGAR/RTR/NewscomBitcoin has revolutionized money. Now the technology behind bitcoin could change how we conduct elections too.

At least that's what Voatz wants to do. This Boston-based startup claims that it can use blockchain technology to bring greater security and privacy to the democratic process.

Jonathan Johnson—president of Medici Ventures, the venture capital firm that invests in Voatz—claims the blockchain can improve what he says is a terribly inefficient electoral system. In a talk at the conservative Heritage Foundation this week, Johnson said it could usher in an era of "remote, digital, safe and secure voting."

The blockchain is a sort of a decentralized digital ledger, allowing data to be stored on many servers rather than on one server, as is customary on the World Wide Web. Anyone on the blockchain network has access to this data, which acts as a bulwark against centralized control and malevolent hackers.

Voatz thinks this can address ongoing concerns about the accuracy of American elections, as different groups worry about everything from Russian hackers to padded voting rolls.

For example, two counties in West Virginia used the software this year to allow active-duty soldiers stationed abroad to participate in the primaries without forfeiting their right to a private ballot. Using biometric scanners to verify identity, county clerks were able to send the correct ballots to the soldiers, who then selected the candidates of their choice, all on their phones. For the first time ever, voters were able to see that their vote was counted for who they voted for, all while protecting the privacy of the voter.

After raising a whopping $2.2 million, Voatz worked with West Virginia for their pilot project during the May 8 primary. Johnson expects Voatz to soon be adopted statewide for active-duty soldiers.

Voting on the blockchain could alleviate concerns for people across the political spectrum. Conservatives genuinely concerned with voter fraud can rest easy knowing that the blockchain is extremely difficult to hack, by virtue of its decentralization—and that with biometrics, voter fraud is virtually impossible. Leftists worried about voting access will be happy to hear that the system would let anyone with a smartphone vote quickly and easily, even on workdays.

And libertarians should be pleased to see an increase in government transparency. Citizens will finally be able to make sure their votes go to the candidate they voted for, as opposed to merely hoping that the government, an institution with a reputation for incompetence, is handling their ballots responsibly.

Photo Credit: MIKE SEGAR/RTR/Newscom

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  • Hugh Akston||

    Using biometric scanners to verify identity, county clerks were able to send the correct ballots to the soldiers, who then selected the candidates of their choice, all on their phones. For the first time ever, voters were able to see that their vote was counted for who they voted for, all while protecting the privacy of the voter.

    All you have to do is register a complete biometric profile with the state and your privacy will be fully protected!

  • ||

    All you have to do is register a complete biometric profile with the state and your privacy will be fully protected!

    Complete a biometric profile and link it up to the networked tracking and monitoring device of your choice! One day we'll be able to remotely sense a person's breathing, pulse oxygen, heart rate and blood pressure when voting so that we can know whether they've been tricked by Russian hackers or not!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    I surprised someone could write that with a straight face.

    It's really sad that people are buying into the new concept of privacy. Privacy is no longer about what you hide but about how other people protect that which you must share.

  • damikesc||

    Nothing personal, but my faith in anything involving the internet for security is effectively zero.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    And why should you. So far the internet is has made the case against it's self.

  • damikesc||

    No joke. It's so untrustworthy I will loudly shout when I am watching porn now.

    "Holy shit, this is some kinky nonsense right here!!"

  • Citizen X||

    Voting on the blockchain

    These masturbation euphemisms are getting highly technical.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Put that pussy on the chainwax!

  • Nardz||

    That's not a thing.

  • DenverJ||

  • Nardz||

    He's just trying to start a thing

  • Nardz||

    It's from Key and Peele, and it's AMAZING

  • ||

    Bitcoin has revolutionized money.

    Sure. The same way fine art has revolutionized money.

  • some guy||

    So you can buy consumer goods online with a single click using fine art? What fraction of a Rembrandt will get me a coffee?

  • ||

    I dunno about you, but the rest of us could buy consumer goods online with a single click well before the revolution and the revolution, paradoxically, has done little to substantially change that in any functional way.

  • Agammamon||

    Seriously. The only thing cryptocurrencies have enabled is the ability to buy currently *illegal* consumer goods with one-click.

  • ||

    Again, I dunno about the rest of you, but people were buying and selling illegal consumer goods online when Satoshi's white paper was still just a cocktail napkin.

  • DajjaI||

    different groups worry about everything

    Very true. If you are worried about your vote on the blockchain, no you are not an idiot. You just need treatment for anxiety. Don't worry we have very effective treatments these days. Now if you'll just come with us. This won't hurt a bit.....

  • Citizen X||

  • some guy||

    I say we have them draw lots. It would save a lot of time, energy, money and breath without having any real impact on how the country is run.

  • Citizen X||

    But i wanna see 'em wrassle!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Wrasslin' is only west of I-95, you Coastal Plainer.

  • Agammamon||

    Draw lots? I say they all get put into an arena, a pile of one-shot pistols in the center. Only the winner leaves.

  • Brian||

    Embrace the infotainment.

    I, for one, look forward to politics/WWF smash up.

  • Citizen X||

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    More pillow-fisted than Michael Bisping.

  • Brian||

    We just need fully public voting records for everyone: one social security number, one vote. Then, everyone can easily prove shenanigans.

    Because, really, votes are a public matter, and aren't transparency and accountability values that matter? Votes can... hurt. Big ol' source of externalities. So, they shouldn't be secret and private. They should be public and proud. And people should live with the consequences.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    OBL is that you?

  • Agammamon||

    What if, like, 50 different people are using one SSN?

  • Brian||

    So, what you're saying is, detecting voter fraud would be easy?

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Why would we want our SSNs in the public domain? That would make them easy to steal for other purposes.

  • Brian||

    You're adorable.

  • JeremyR||

    Only thing BItcoin has done is ruin the PC gaming market by driving hardware costs through the roof

  • Agammamon||

    People haven't been using PC hardware for Bitcoin mining for something like a year now. Its all ASICs nowadays. GPU's aren't fast enough to find the current (much longer) hashes competitively anymore.

  • Agammamon||

    Can the Blockchain Save Democracy?

    Well then. Looks like somebody's read an article. Or at least part of one.

    I'm not sure how blockchain and privacy of vote go together though. Right now its not exactly hard for law enforcement to track Bitcoin purchases by comparing against credit cards.

  • Greg F||

    ... allowing data to be stored on many servers rather than on one server, as is customary on the World Wide Web.


    This is so last century. Nikhil Sridhar needs to familiarize himself with prevailing architecture of the WWW.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "voter fraud is virtually impossible"

    Blockchain is racist. /DNC

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