The Future of Voting is Online

The past several weeks have seen the efficacy of state mail-in voting procedures called into question, a widely contentious subject. While Americans are arguing, pilot programs have been operating to test out new technology that independently validates election results through a secure digital platform – the future of voting is online and it’s almost here. Over the August 29th weekend at the Michigan Democratic Party State Nominating Convention, more than 1,900 delegates came together virtually to successfully nominate candidates via their tablet or smartphone using an app called Voatz. And, this is not the first time Voatz has used their blockchain technology to assist in an election; the Voatz app has been used in elections in West Virginia, Utah, Oregon, and Colorado.

“The future of voting is online and it’s almost here.”

The Voatz app uses blockchain technology, an emergent technology that is known for being immutable, secure, and existing independent of any authority. This technology is already being utilized in the financial sector; you may have already heard of Bitcoin. Bitcoin originated in 2009 as a peer-to-peer currency, meaning it lacked a third-party backer, such as the U.S. Government who regulates our currency. This form of currency is theoretically valuable because it is decentralized; therefore, it is a currency that is owned by the people and it is accepted everywhere.

Imagine a world where money transfers were instantaneous, exchange rates between countries did not exist, lower transaction fees for banking, and more monetary privacy that is the world of Bitcoin. Bitcoin was the first iteration of blockchain technology in society, but the tech has numerous applications in industries including law enforcement, healthcare, real estate, banking, and digital identification. Blockchain was even being utilized in journalism, the technology would prevent stories from being deleted or redacted to falsify data.

While blockchain technology is novel Voatz application is certainly ripe, with data showing that anywhere between 72 and 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Furthermore, in Jonathan Lai and Julia Terruso February 19, 2020, Philadelphia Inquirer’s article, based on the findings in the Knight Foundation’s “The 100 Million Project,” details the reasons why approximately 100 Million American’s did not vote. Those reasons were that individuals were either too busy, did not have transportation, it was too complicated, they did not feel physically well, or no reason at all. However, when asked what could motivate them to vote they responded that changes to the electoral system including “vote online/ from anywhere.”

The technology is not without its skeptics, though. New companies experience growing pains and individuals tend to be distrusting of new technologies. However, Americans have already been banking, storing credit card information and personal identification data, and managing household finances online for many years. Voatz maintains that, “Security has been our highest priority from day one”; the site bolsters several additional security protocols, including identity verification from facial recognition. On the legal side, States may need to modify existing identification voting requirements to comply with the security on the Voatz app.

Though there are some issues to work out, voting via smartphone is already happening. Embracing blockchain technology in the electoral process will ensure that more individuals can exercise their right to vote in a secure and convenient format. At the very least it should make voting easier.

George Williams | Law Student

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