Voting has become a controversial political issue in the popular discussion today. Speculation of Russian interference in past and upcoming elections and questions on whether enough is being done to safeguard the electoral process monopolizes the news on a daily basis, with no indications of the story abating anytime soon. This has led some to openly question if there is a better way to vote.
Zug, Switzerland’s open trial of blockchain voting in June, the Estonia Nasdaq-backed e-voting trial last year, and news that West Virginia will be the first state to permit blockchain voting in a federal election have led many to believe that e-voting will be the next big area for blockchain development. In this videocast, Bitcoin Market Journal’s John Hargrave spoke with Voatz’s CEO, Nimit Sawhney. Voatz is a partner in the West Virginia Secure Military Mobile Voting Solution pilot program.
The Need for e-Voting
Sawhney started by pointing out that the United States holds the score of 55 percent in federal election turnout, trailing behind other countries like Belgium, Switzerland, and Australia. As the United States is the oldest currently-operating democracy in the world, this relatively low score is disturbing from both the perspective of those that look toward the United States as the “city on the hill,” as well as those that could be inspired by a democratic America.
American democracy is failing, opines Sawhney, because too few Americans have a say in its leaders. It is estimated that Donald Trump was elected president on the support of only 26 percent of the American eligible voting population. A slightly larger percentage voted for his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and a resounding 48 percent voted for neither. This means that 74 percent of the voting populace – enough to declare the vote’s result invalid in any other voting system – did not choose Trump to be president. This level of voter detachment ranks the United States between Poland and Slovenia, both former Soviet Bloc nations.
Voatz was set up to make voting easier. With previous mobile voting platforms proving to be unsafe, blockchain voting offers the security requirements to address the issues of the current voting system, including long voting lines, inadequate voting machinery, and voter distrust. Blockchain voting would keep your vote anonymous, but still allow the tally of the vote to be recorded in a way that is transparent and auditable.
Voatz has been used in 30 elections so far, tallying 100,000 votes, and has partnered with Clear Ballot, an optimized digital voting management provider. Besides partnering with West Virginia, Voatz conducted the town meeting vote at Hopkinton, MA and campus elections at Tufts University.
Voatz claims that its platform is 60 percent cheaper than traditional platforms and ten times faster. At this point, Sawhney feels that many government officials are getting used to e-voting; once they are accustomed, adoption will move faster.
“Despite the hype, very few people actually understand how the blockchain works, especially among the community that runs elections,” Sawhney said. “That’s a big hurdle because any new technology is met with skepticism and misinformation; news that a blockchain wallet was stolen gets perceived as news that the blockchain is unsafe or that it is being hacked.”
As with anything involving voting, adopting a new system will require developing the voters’ trust, which will take time. However, continued exposure to the blockchain system may convince voters that a better system is available, in which your vote is secured and confirmable.
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