The overheated debates over voter suppression and vote fraud are a waste of time because we have the technology to prevent such abuses right now.
The problem is that neither the Democrats worried about voter suppression; nor Republicans who are concerned about vote fraud, seem willing to use that technology. Instead, they seem to be interested in engaging in hysterical debates over the issues while ignoring the root causes and workable solutions.
The cause of voter suppression and potential voter fraud is obvious: our broken and fragmented election and voter-registration system. Those systems use archaic methods, obsolete technology, untrained or amateur personnel, and lack basic security and quality-control measures.
Tech and Blockchain can fix voting why don’t use them?
The dirty and obvious secret, that neither President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Integrity nor left-wing foes of voter suppression will admit; is that technological fixes for our broken electoral and voter registration system are plentiful.
A few ways that technologies such as blockchain can fix voting include:
- It would be possible to use highly-secure blockchain architecture; such as Ethereum to build an encrypted, tamper-resistant, voting system that delivers a high-level voter privacy. Several proposals for such a system including Patrick McCorry’s Open Vote Network have already been made.
- Theoretically, such a system can create a permanent digital record of voting that cannot be erased or tampered with. This would make it hard to challenge and easy to confirm election results. There would be no paper ballots that can be easily lost, stolen, destroyed, or altered.
- It would be possible to build a highly-secure blockhain based voting system for the entire United States right now. Such a system would it make possible for any citizen to vote online or over the phone. It would also be easy to set up simple touch-screen voting machines connected to the system all over the nation.
- Once the blockchain-voting system was up and running it would be a fairly simple to use tablet computers with touchscreens (ignorant journalists call these iPads) as portable “voting machines.” The portable voting machines could be taken to the elderly, disabled, shut-ins, military personnel in the field, and others that could not reach the polls.
- Such voting machines could be set up in public places such as churches, union halls, college classrooms, Army barracks, supermarkets, shopping malls, Walmart stores, McDonald’s, and Starbucks to facilitate early voting.
- It would be possible to use technology such as the Ethereum-based Raiden Network to instantly transmit votes to central election authorities. That means a national system for counting the votes in presidential elections can be set up.
- A blockchain-voting system can be cloud-based and decentralized so it would be hard to hack or sabotage. The system can operate on servers all over the country to make it almost impossible to knock out. An added layer of security can be created by placing the servers on military bases.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to quickly and accurately count the votes. This might provide almost instant and incontestable election results. Since the AI has no stake in the election, it would have no incentive to miscount votes.
- Machine learning can be used to teach AIs to identify patterns of vote fraud and suppression. The AI would then throw out such votes or turn them over to the FBI for investigation.
- Blockchain can be used to create an encrypted, tamper-resistant, digital identity for every American. That would enable any American to vote at any polling place in the nation, or vote from anywhere via a smartphone or the internet. It would also make vote fraud a lot harder by making it is easy for election officials to ask for and verify voter IDs.
- The United Nations, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Accenture (NYSE: ACN), and the Rockefeller Foundation are developing such an ID through the ID2020 initiative. ID2020 can form the basis of a similar ID for all Americans.
- The digital ID and an official ID card can be made available to the 11% of Americans that lack government photo ID for free. People can be “encouraged” to get the ID by requiring it for work and benefits like Social Security.
- Biometric technologies; such as Fingopay can be used to provide instant verification of voters’ identities even if they lack photo ID. Fingopay provides fairly foolproof verification because it scans the veins in a person’s fingers. This way lack of photo ID will no longer be an excuse for not voting or a means of voter fraud.
- The digital ID can be made available to the 11% of Americans believed to lack government photo IDs. One way to encourage people to sign up for such an ID is to require it to get a job or receive government benefits such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and medical care at the VA.
- It would be possible to create an encrypted and highly-secure ID app that any American can download to his or her phone with readily available off the shelf technology right now. Such an app can facilitate voting and government benefits.
- It would be possible to vote through highly-encrypted smartphones such as the Apple iPhone and the various Android products right now. That way any American would be able to vote from anywhere in the world with wireless service, at any time.
- Using such technology it would be easy to take elections and voter registration out of the hands of local officials that are more likely to be corrupt or engage in voter suppression. Instead, a nationwide voting system can be set up to ensure that right to all Americans.
None of these suggestions is sci-fi or utopian. The technology to make them a reality exists right here, right now. All that is required to implement them is political will.
New Legal Framework for Elections Required
To make such a 21st Century electoral system a reality, a new legal framework for voting-registration and elections will have to be created. Congress has the authority to do that under the Constitution.
The creation of such a system would require:
- A uniform set of standards and rules for elections and voter registration that would encompass every state. This would create a level playing field in elections for all Americans and ensure equal access to the ballot.
- The best way to implement such standards and rules would be with a new Voting Rights Act.
- Create a Federal Elections Agency; or a U.S. Department of Elections, that would administer or oversee elections nationwide. Its main role would be to operate the blockchain-voting system and make it available to all state and local governments. This entity would be staffed by professional technocrats dedicated to operating a fair and impartial election system.
- Create and require a national ID card and digital ID for everybody with a Social Security number.
- The federal government should finance the design, acquisition, and operation of new elections systems and technology. A think operated by a Federal Elections Agency can be created for this purpose.
- Create an Elections Security Agency whose job it is to investigate and combat voter fraud and voter suppression.
- Require a national digital ID and ID card for all U.S. citizens.
- Invest the funds necessary to develop and implement a blockchain based national-digital ID for everybody American.
- Make voter suppression a felony punishable by federal prison time and prosecute local or state officials caught engaging in it.
Such measures are imminently sensible, but I imagine it will take an election debacle far worse than the mess last year to make them a reality. Despite all the publicity about vote fraud and voter suppression; neither political party has a real incentive to reform the electoral system. Instead, politicians will try to preserve the sorry status quo because it helps them keep their cushy jobs.