Blockchain Voting and Liquid Democracy — Technology Will Reshape the Very Structure of Government
In the vast majority of countries on the planet, elections — in some form — take place. In researching this article, I was surprised to learn that even in North Korea, elections are held for their legislature (though they appear to be very one-sided).
In recent history, elections have proven to be the most practical way for a country to choose their governance. Yet elections around the world are wrought with fraud, with any vulnerability in election processes exploited by those that seek to rig the vote. Even in western countries, including my home, the United States, this problem festers. Whether voting by paper ballots or with touchscreen computers, honest elections have no shortage of points of vulnerability. Distributed ledger technology will change that.
Beyond voting to elect those that govern, a new form of structuring governments is on the horizon, made possible by today’s emerging technology, especially distributed ledger technology. “Liquid democracy”, as it is known, is a form of delegative democracy that will fundamentally alter both the composition and the function of governments. In fact, in most places around the world, there is nothing to stop individual candidates from pledging — TODAY — to vote on issues in this way.
Blockchain distributed ledger voting — accurate, fair, and immutable
The first paradigm that blockchain promises to disrupt is with voting systems and technology. Imagine the following scenario:
- Eligible voter arrives at any polling place in their area (no need for a designated polling station, they can choose to visit one that is convenient for them);
- Voter identification is validated and the voter is shown to the voting booth;
- Inside this booth, a voter inserts their identification into a device, similar to inserting a payment card into an ATM;
- The proper ballot for that voter (which depends on their home town) is displayed, and the voter selects their voting choices;
- The voter presses the “cast vote” button, a receipt with a QR code is printed for the voter (with a duplicate also printed inside of the machine for election integrity), and the machine is ready for the next person.
From the perspective of the voter, this experience is very similar to some voting systems in use today, but there are key differences with blockchain voting:
- All voting machines are open-source, and the code has been audited and installed on the machines in a secure manner, with systems that authenticate the hash of the binary code and other support files and refuse to operate if they’ve been tampered with;
- Each cast ballot is combined into blocks that are distributed to other nodes in an election blockchain;
- While the polls are open, the blockchain exists as a private chain. However, once the polls close, the blockchain is published to the public internet and results are instantly available; and
- A voter can scan their QR code or enter their receipt code (essentially a tx hash) and ensure that their ballot was cast properly.
Next-generation voting technology, using these ideas as a starting point, have the power to eliminate points of fraud in the electoral processes of governments, from towns to countries, and other bodies that hold elections (corporations, trade unions, associations, etc.). Once shown to be sufficiently resilient, there is no reason this couldn’t be extended in a way to allow secure voting from a smartphone or computer.
Election integrity is essential for any system of governance that elects representatives, and these technologies are already beginning to be explored. In Russia, the city of Moscow is unveiling an Ethereum-based version of its voting system called Active Citizen. By putting the votes on the blockchain, as long as the code is solid, then the results cannot be disputed.
Moscow Begins Crypto-Elections Testing: Thumbs Nose At U.S.
The irony is so thick you'd think it was made from ballistic jelly. But, that's exactly what's needed to contain this…
The next step, liquid democracy
Before we founded BTRIC, I worked in advocacy for non-profit trade associations. If you work around the gears of government long enough, you start to see just how inefficient and filled with corruption these structures have become. Like other centralized places of power and control, government is prone to corruption, especially if people aren’t looking. If you have a media that is complicit in keeping that corruption hidden, then there is really no bounds to the size of this corruption.
In the United States, a person elected and re-elected once to Congress has an over 90% chance of being reelected again, and again, and again. Some lawmakers are good, many are not. This is not confined to either of our major political parties, there are good and bad on both sides of the aisle. One promising idea, never before possible, to reinvent government is called “liquid democracy”.
One conception of liquid democracy has these key attributes:
- Voters directly cast votes on issues they choose through the Internet.
- Voters can also, at any time, delegate their vote to another voter. This delegation can be specific to a single proposal, a certain category, or even all of their votes. Voters can revoke and reassign this delegation at any time.
For example, if you’re a tax accountant, your friends, family, and even your clients could delegate to you their votes on tax matters. If your sister is a doctor, you can delegate to her your vote on issues about public health and health insurance. If a particular matter comes up that you’d rather vote on, you cast the vote instead of your sister. Otherwise, she can cast your vote as a proxy.
In this way, instead of electing a single person that is to vote on all issues, we elect no people, and instead have an organized system that allows subject matter experts, decided by the voters and instantly changeable, to decide political matters.
There’s a lot of implications of something like liquid democracy, and as far as I know, it hasn’t been tried outside of small-scale pilot projects, mock election style. However, there’s nothing stopping a person today, declaring their candidacy for office, from pledging, “If elected, I will vote on all issues exactly as the people in my district decide through a liquid democracy smartphone app or website”. That is a powerful concept, and with worldwide, instant communications, its something possible now that just wasn’t practical before.
Support BTRIC’s launch
The ability for our organization to incubate projects such as these, and others, into successful, investment-grade businesses is why I’m asking you to consider supporting BTRIC’s launch.
Through your support of Blockchain Technology Research Innovations Corporation (BTRIC) as a Founding Donor, you will be rewarded from each project that completes our Innovations Incubator program, such as a potential project to develop next-generation voting technology.
You will also support BTRIC Labs, so we can explore concepts such as liquid democracy and create pilot projects to refine the concept. BTRIC is focused on building promising emerging technology projects into investment-grade businesses, education, advocacy, and research and development.
We are currently conducting our launch fundraiser, which will get our organization off the ground and fund our operations to launch all three of our major projects, BTRIC Institute, as well as our Innovations Incubator business development and startup accelerator program, and BTRIC Labs, our R&D initiative.
From now through March 31, contributors to BTRIC receive BTRIC Founding Donor (BFD) Tokens. Holders of these tokens will be recognition as a Founding Donor on our website, a free grant of something we’re calling “BTRIC Coin” (working name), and rewarded in some way by BTRIC for each project that completes our Innovations Incubator program. That program is going to build great startups that incorporate all of these best practices I’m writing about today. As these projects launch as separate businesses, they’ll reward donors to their project, as well as all BFD donors for helping to launch the overall organization. Besides being tax-deductible, supporting BTRIC as a Founding Donor is a great way to be recognized as a leader in the industry, in addition to the rewards BFD Token holders receive on an ongoing basis.
We are also scouting out for people that want to get involved as an employee, contract worker, or even a volunteer. Reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can email me directly. I can also be reached on Telegram.
Benjamin Beideman is the Executive Director of Blockchain Technology Research Innovations Corporation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit economic development organization that is devoted to fostering emerging technologies, through business incubation and other initiatives, that decentralize the control structures that have entrenched global systems for centuries.
BTRIC is proud to have earned GuideStar’s Platinum Seal of Transparency — their highest level of recognition. Contributions to BTRIC may be tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Contact your tax advisor for more information. Visit BTRIC’s website at https://www.btric.org. Benjamin can be reached on LinkedIn, by email, and on Telegram.