If you’re looking for a quick way to assess the differences in technological prowess between generations, simply ask someone about blockchain technology. Blockchain, or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), makes the history of any digital asset transparent through decentralized cryptographic hashing. We don’t need to dive further into what the process is, but here are the essential components: it’s secure, it’s public, and it’s decentralized.
If the 2020 election taught us anything, it’s that U.S. election’s are vulnerable. Some would argue it’s vulnerable to fraud or hacking. Others argue the misinformation that can propagate around our human-driven voting process is exceedingly dangerous. Even if there is no fraud in any given election, smart phones capture out-of-context video, which can be used to create compelling narratives that misuse optics to manufacture fraud when none was committed.
Imagine, now, elections held using blockchain technology. Here’s what that would look like: you vote for the 3 ranked candidates you find most compelling. Your votes are prescribed a hash — a unique string of characters and letters that then get posted to a public ledger. After you’ve voted, you’ll be able to check the public ledger for your unique hash string, along with your corresponding vote. This allows every citizen to verify their vote was counted, and it was counted accurately. It will allow people to verify their votes on a decentralized public forum while their identity remains anonymous. The public and decentralized nature of the ledger negates any questions of fraud or impropriety. Further, utilizing this technology would allow Americans to vote from their smart phones or computers. Anyone without the necessary technology to cast a vote from home can still go to their local voting stations, where they can cast votes on machines that send the vote to the blockchain ledger.
Why is this preferable? Many reasons. First, blockchain voting is much more secure. Blockchain ledgers are unfalsifiable because they are hosted on a multitude of servers. The ledger itself is a cryptographic account of each vote, and cannot be edited or fraudulently changed. Smart contracts utilizing blockchain technology are already being used in business, and that trend will continue to grow throughout the legal arena. In summation, math is impartial; computer code is non-partisan. Code is the great political unifier in the sense that the biased and partisan human component will be removed from the voting process.
Second, ranked voting will be much easier to accomplish if paired with blockchain tech. Ranked voting is the concept that voters be allowed to cast multiple votes, by rank, for their preferred candidates. If the voter’s first candidate doesn’t win, their second vote is then counted, etc. This allows citizens to vote for the candidate they believe in the most, even if the chattering classes are claiming that candidate has “no chance of winning.” Ranked voting is a more democratic process, one that will allow us to fine-tune for competence as opposed to concede to perceived popularity. Blockchain voting allows algorithms to parse the vote count data quickly, and we’ll have an accurate ranked vote analysis within minutes of the polls closing.
Third, there is an economic imperative to switch our voting system over to blockchain. The amount of man-hours required to run a successful election are immense, despite the fact that many of the poll-workers are donating their time throughout the process. Coordinating those volunteers is still a costly endeavor, along with excessive administrative costs.
If 2020 was an indicator of future issues, politics in America will continue to become increasingly polarized and more violent. Political actors looking to rile up their base can simply declare an election deficient of fraudulent, and it becomes nearly impossible to prove the post-hoc negative that it was secure. The burden of proof in these cases is often offset onto the party claiming an election was secure, as opposed to requiring those who cry wolf to produce tangible evidence. Regardless, we need to update our democratic processes to meet the needs of the time. The benefits are clear, it’s on our next generation of elected officials to update our archaic and outdated voting system — even if such an update limits their chance of reelection due to more competent competition arriving via ranked vote.
Blockchain Voting in Political Elections was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.