Why still vote with a pen?

Despite all our advances in technology, from robots to driverless cars — and robots who build driverless cars — there still are some corners of society where technology has had little impact. One system that has barely changed over the years is our voting system, where we still use paper and pen like the good old days.

Why you ask? Well there have been long time concerns around security and corruption. If online hackers can target large businesses like Sony, imagine what they could do to the voting system and the implications that would have on a nation.

But let’s stop to think about how paper-based voting can be hacked and how easily votes can be destroyed or manipulated.

In Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election, journalists reported on corrupt voting tactics and highlighted how easy it was to destroy, or manipulate paper-based votes. Journalists witnessed people pouring acid into ballot boxes to destroy votes and voters “carousel” voting, a technique used by individuals to vote at more than one polling station.

But what if all that could be solved by technology? What if we could develop ballot boxes that could in no way be tampered with? I give you the blockchain: the unhackable ballot box.

21st Century Voting

The internet has provided the potential for everyone to participate in democratic decision making, but security has always been an issue, a central point of failure.

Jamie Skella, founder of Horizon State, a startup at the forefront of using blockchain to redesign democracy, talks about what the future of voting and collaborative decision making looks like.

“We talk about how utilising the same technology the Bitcoin uses, so instead of: ‘send a Bitcoin, send a vote.’”

For the last year, Jamie has been working on using blockchain technology to create a system for casting votes where the results cannot be tampered with.

Blockchain technology is now talked about all over the world, and is most commonly associated with financial transactions of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The same property and security rules that are applied to Bitcoin can be applied to votes.

Beyond Security

Jamie explains that blockchain technology presents other opportunities and benefits other than security. The blockchain can increase the speed and reach of voting, which may impact not only the way people vote, but also the frequency at which they vote.

“People can have a say with frequency and immediacy and we can start looking to replace referendums, plebiscite and in fact creating brand new opportunities to the Australian citizenship or any other around the world,” explains Jamie.

The same sex marriage postal vote currently taking place in Australia is a perfect example of why we need to improve the voting system. Jamie believes the postal vote would be the perfect fit for Horizon State’s technology.

Jamie explains that, instead of taking months to orchestrate and costing taxpayers in excess of $120 million, Horizon State would be able to organise the same sex marriage vote in a space of a couple of weeks at a cost of $2 to $3 million.

“There will be massive benefits for the organisers and our governments in respect to the cost,” Jamie foresees.

“It’s a benefit for them and the constituency in regards to immediacy. [Governments] are able to deliver this in a very timely manner and people are able to vote using their smartphone or the library computer for example. Their vote is counted automatically and is stored securely on the blockchain.”

With the postal votes, there are many ways to tamper with the outcomes because of the nature and physical qualities of paper. Jamie says that unlike the postal votes, where some may have been left out in the rain and obviously won’t be counted, blockchain is something which cannot be tampered with — either accidentally or deliberately.

While using blockchain technology to overhaul the voting system may seem like a no-brainer, Jamie and many other entrepreneurs have their work cut out for them. Jamie admits it will be an uphill battle to educate not only the public but governments all over the world on the benefits of blockchain.

If you want to hear more about Jamie’s uphill battle, or other benefits of blockchain technology, then come along to our event: Disrupting democracy: the structural power of the blockchain.

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