Exploring the New-Age Reality on How Blockchain Can Foster Democracy in US Elections

True democracy demands voter participation. The 2018 US elections are fast approaching, but nobody knows how they would pan out. However, one trend is cropping up – the use of blockchain technology in elections.

Representatives who are elected by a small percentage of voters lack legitimacy. Often, such leaders are biased against non-voters. As a result, the neglected voters abscond from the subsequent elections. The voter apathy cycle persists, and its effects on democracy are severely adverse. If history is anything to go by, the upcoming elections will have a lower turnout than the 2016 polls.

A majority of political issues in the US stem from the continuous voter apathy. Over the past 50 years, the voter turnout has been declining gradually. In 2016, less than 50% of Americans of voting age participated in the elections. As compared to other OECD countries, voter turnout in the US was appalling.

Voter apathy was particularly accentuated by Americans living in the diaspora. A survey conducted by the US Department of Defense indicated that only a paltry 7% of the 3 million US citizens living abroad participated in the 2016 Presidential Election.

The standout state in the upcoming election is West Virginia. Earlier this year, the state implemented the country's first blockchain platform that is accessible through a mobile phone. The application enables citizens living overseas to vote securely if they are unable to access designated voting areas. It is specifically designed for members of the military. Regarding this, Mac Warner, the Secretary of State for West Virginia, recently told CNN that the troops deserve to vote because they are risking their lives for America.

Security Mechanism Of The Blockchain Mobile App

The blockchain-driven mobile app relies on a three-piece mechanism to ensure the security of the election. This move is aimed at reinstating the public’s confidence in polls.

  • Photographic Identification – before voting, users must take a photo of their government-issued identification document along with a recording a ‘selfie' video that captures their face.
  • Anonymity – after voting, the votes are anonymized using blockchain technology.
  • Secure recording – the ballots are then recorded on the immutable public blockchain databases.

Besides the initiative taken by the state of West Virginia, there are other frontiers advocating for the use of blockchain technology in elections. These include:

Rock The Vote

Rock the Vote has been actively contributing in voter awareness campaigns over the past 30 years. This year, the impartial nonprofit is working with Sweet to increase voter outreach. Sweet is an online social marketplace and loyalty ecosystem.

Sweet offers rewards to voters who watch election-related content, share the content and educate themselves and others on polls. The rewards are in the form of Sugar tokens that can be exchanged for unique items on the Rock the Vote Rewards Marketplace.

Tom Mizzone, the CEO of Sweet, says that the initiative is meant for engaging the youth. Tom hopes that the younger population will benefit from the tools provided by Sweet. The Sweet platform has received backing from several prominent personalities, with the most notable being the Black Eyed Peas music group.

Democracy Earth

The midterm elections will be the first time that blockchain technology will be tested in a poll. Nevertheless, some entrepreneurs believe that the election system needs an overhaul.

Democracy Earth is a blockchain-driven civic ecosystem where the currency is vote tokens. These tokens can be used by users to make selections on a wide range of queries. The platform is headed by Santiago Siri, a former video gamer who is now a political theorist. In real-life situations, this system could be sued to vote for representatives.

In an interview with the Wired Magazine, Siri said that they do not intend to assist the government in the voting process. Instead, their platform is meant an empowering people at a personal level.

The Democracy Earth platform is still a work in progress. So far, the development team has not figured out how to democratize tokens, as well as how to balance anonymity and transparency in the blockchain.

Democracy Earth will issue 500 million tokens valued at 12 cents each. The proceeds from the token sale will be used to pay employees and investors.

My Number

Tsukuba, a city in Japan, is recognized for being on the forefront of developing and adopting the latest technology has to offer. Now, the city has joined the league of governments that are using blockchain technology in their electioneering process.

In September, Tsukuba established an online blockchain-powered voting platform. Locals used the system to vote on regional development initiatives the Tsukuba voting system uses Japan's ‘My Number' system. This is a 12-digit social security identity given to all people living in Japan. The role of ‘my number’ is to avoid cases of voter duplication as well as verify the identity of individual voters. The ballots are then secured using blockchain technology.

The first attempt of using the Tsukuba voting systems was not entirely successful because some voters forgot their passwords. Nevertheless, it is a promising alternative to traditional voting methods.

A Test For Blockchain Technology

Undoubtedly, many people will be looking forward to the performance of the blockchain-based voting system in the upcoming election. In fact, they are generating nearly as much anxiety as the candidates whose names will be on the ballots. Specifically, people will be looking to see whether the implementation of blockchain will tackle the issues of voter apathy and alleged election malpractice.

If the West Virginia experiment proves successful, other jurisdictions are likely to adopt or at least contemplate about implementing the method. On the other hand, if it fails, people will perceive it as a technology that needs more work before it becomes mainstream. Lastly, if it performs beyond expectations, platforms such as Democracy Earth will have made a breakthrough.

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