Web3 and Electoral Politics: Present Capabilities and Future Potential

Decentralized Future Council
3 min readOct 5, 2022

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In every election cycle, political organizations — campaigns, committees, PACs, and others — experiment with new ways of reaching and persuading voters. Amid a growing interest in decentralized internet technologies, some political organizations have been testing out Web3-related tools and technologies.

Depending on who you ask, Web3 is either the future of the internet, misguided techno-solutionism, or a jargon-fueled scam. But beneath the controversy, Web3 represents, at the most basic level, an attempt to design new tools that are more participatory, more equally distributed, and relies less on a few powerful for-profit companies. Web3 advocates see blockchain technologies as the most promising way of achieving a more decentralized revision of the internet. Advocates believe blockchain technologies can help ensure users follow through on agreements, can bring transparency to transactions, and can provide new ways to incentivize or reward participation.

Presently, there are three main ways that political organizations have been experimenting with Web3 technologies.

Current Use Cases

Political NFTs

American campaigns have produced and sold merchandise for as long as there have been campaigns. Bumper stickers, buttons, signs, tee-shirts provide both money to campaigns and “free” publicity. As detailed by a recent report from Higher Ground Labs, candidates on both the left and right have been minting and selling NFTs to raise money and generate publicity. Democratic and Republican supporters use campaign NFTs of their preferred candidate as profile pictures on social media. For example, Shrina Kurani, a congressional candidate in the Democratic primary from California’s 41st district created a series of NFT collections, as did Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters. More famously, Donald Trump has also created and been featured in several NFT collections. It remains unclear, however, how much money these NFTs have raised for campaigns.

While some major traditional NFT marketplaces deal in political NFTs, a handful of new marketplaces have arisen that specialize in political NFTs. For example, Electables and Front Row exclusively host NFTs for Democrats.Conversely, DeepRedSky sells NFTs for Republicans.

Cryptocurrency Donations

Several campaigns and other organizations now accept donations in cryptocurrencies. Committees, however, face significant challenges in accepting cryptocurrencies. FEC regulations regarding crypto political donations, which date back to a single advisory opinion in 2014, remain somewhat unclear. At the same time, committees must exchange or convert crypto tokens into dollars — incurring exchange fees, and cryptocurrency value can be extremely volatile.

Organizing

Finally, over the past year, a handful of Web3-related organizations have been pursing political advocacy and organizing. A series of PACs, including Web3.0 PAC, HODL PAC, and Web3 Forward have been raising money to support what they see as Web3-friendly policies and candidates.

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DOAs) are blockchain-based organizations that usually require buy-ins in the form of tokens. Most adopt a radical democratic structure, where members/token holders participate in decision making. A series of DAOs including 3OH DAO and Lobby3 DAO have also been advocating for Web3 while attempting to bring the benefits of DAOs to political organizing. At the same time, others, such as ChoiceDAO, are using the DAO structure to pursue political advocacy beyond advocating for Web3-friendly policies.

Future Potential

Looking ahead, political analysts have posed a series of new potential uses for Web3-based technologies in electoral politics beyond organizing, cryptocurrency donations, and political NFTs.

POAPs

POAPs (Proof of Attendance Protocol) provide a way to tokenize attendance at an event or participation. POAPs could allow a political organization to reward someone for attending a rally, discussion, or other event, or for “volunteering” in some campaign activity. Campaigns require huge amounts of labor — much of which is often volunteered by supporters.

However, campaigns are heavily regulated activities. It is somewhat unclear if tokenized rewards would incur additional regulatory burdens.

Better Data and Data Sharing

Modern campaigns run on data. Many campaigns are hesitant to share data, choosing to purchase or rent data for fundraising or advertising. In a speech early in the year, political consultant Eric Wilson suggested that Web3 could provide a more secure ways for committees, campaigns, and venders to share voter data in ways that could ultimately lower data costs.

Advertising

Despite some new interest in Web3 approaches to advertising, few have discussed the potential of Web3 to political advertising. Most importantly, Web3 offers an opportunity to reward users for reviewing advertising or for providing data. While this could help protect user privacy, it could also help create more reliable data for advertising targeting. Platforms like Brave Rewards and Permission.io have already begun tokenizing attention and data sharing. While there has been little consideration of what these platforms mean for electoral politics, wherever commercial advertising goes, political advertising is sure to follow.

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