I write this in mid-March 2020, in the midst of the US Presidential primary voting season prior to the presidential election coming in November. While about half of the states have voted, there is a lot of concern about the votes going forward, there is a series of primaries today and a battle between the Ohio governor and a judge in that state leaves that primary in a state of limbo at the time of this writing. So this presents problem #1, how do you maintain a voting system that requires personal interaction during a health crisis, but even ancillary to that, people are walking around with different “stuff” on them all the time and you have people re-using these machines and equipment and you never know what might get left behind. Not to turn into a germaphobe because just washing your hands will take care of things.
Now we get to problem #2 and that is ensuring the integrity of our elections and our votes. We have incidents of more people voting in districts than are registered to vote. We have people on the voter rolls and voting that were born in the 1800’s. We have people voting more than once, we have dead people voting and we have efforts to stop any voter roll cleansing of dead records or have voter ID. Two of my kids had their part preference changed by the registrar from Republican to No Party Preference, without having done anything themselves, they’ve lived in the same place since registering and voting in previous elections, so clearly there are some shenanigans going on at some level.
When I originally started voting here in Southern California, we had these awesome voting devices, you slid your card in, moved the handle to what you wanted to vote for and pushed it. It clearly punched out the hole, no hanging chads. Then we had the 2000 election and we all discovered what crap voting machines were deployed around the country and everyone went and developed something different for electronic voting, some had paper trails and some didn’t the ones in California were as primitive as it gets, but you couldn’t really hack into them and they created a paper trail with the electronic record, not all districts were so lucky.
When I went to vote a couple of weeks ago, I was stunned at the giant step backwards we’d made for voting. First, because of the change, the county sent out multiple (expensive) packets to registered voters to explain what was going to happen, but it didn’t really prepare me. I went to vote and I’m given a paper ballot, just like the one I got mailed, and a pen and told to just mark the boxes I liked. I wasn’t told if an X or check or a filled box was required, so I filled the boxes. Then I went to submit my vote, it was fed into a machine when then told me my votes had been counted but didn’t show me what the votes were, no confirmation at all. This little quirk was nothing though compared to the disaster that the Los Angeles voting machines were. As a software designer/developer, I have trouble wrapping my head around how long this project took and how much it cost, $300 million and a decade. So what do I propose?
I’ll keep this short because the solution is pretty short and simple, sure, there are details to work out, but this isn’t hard. I don’t believe that blockchain technology is the solution to everything as some enthusiasts will tell you, but voting is an excellent use case for it. In very simple terms it would work like this:
- You have a unique voter ID, maybe it is based on your Social Security Number which is basically impossible to not have now.
- You use that ID to login to the software system to cast your vote that will be recorded on the blockchain.
- If your ID has already been used, then you contact the correct officials to flag that other vote and deal with it.
- You can now use the blockchain explorer to see that your vote is there and you can count the other votes without knowing how other people voted.
That’s it, problem solved. You can vote online from home, you prevent dead people voting, although you still need to synchronize voter rolls and registration rolls, as I found out when my sister passed away, it is very hard to report someone dead to the government, but they sure want to know when you are born. What do you think?