Regardless of the merits of the many claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, a sizeable portion of Americans have lost faith in the election process. Technology, now considered to be the fallible system at the heart of most of the claims, may hold the key to restoring election integrity.
Allegations of voter fraud have swept the nation after the 2020 Presidential Election resulted in a record number of votes for both sides. Many claim that President-Elect Joe Biden did not fairly win. They cite claims that fraudulent ballots were counted, that those appointed to count did so behind closed doors, that mail-in ballots were shipped in by the truckload, that after-midnight ballot dumps (solely for Mr. Biden) were added to the tally, and that recounts did not match signatures and are therefore phony. The most serious allegation, the one which undermines the trustworthiness of all future elections, is that voting machines were programmed with an algorithm that switched votes from President Trump to Mr. Biden. Regardless of the merits of these claims, the number of witnesses who have stepped forward and the fact that highly respected persons are making the claims will undoubtedly shake many Americans’ trust in elections for many years to come. How, then, could technology, which is at the very root of the newfound distrust in elections, solve the problem?
Enter Blockchain. It is a concept with which I am fairly familiar. In 2018, proposed in a scholarship essay an idea that could revolutionize our electronic medical record system to reduce cost and errors and improve the quality of our healthcare. Simply put, blockchain is a system of computing that allows an audit trail to follow data, is completely transparent to all who participate, and allows participants to verify validity of the data independently. The following video explains the concept concisely:
My proposal for a new voting system:
- All American citizens are issued a (free, taxpayer funded) voter ID card when they are of age and eligible to vote. This card has a chip much like a credit card chip, and also has a unique number. (In some countries, all citizens have a chipped card that contains their healthcare information, and they plug the card into a card reader at their doctor’s office, allowing the doctor to see all of their past medical information and add to it, himself. In a way, these countries have a ‘blockchain’-like system.).
- Americans wishing to vote may insert their card in person into a voting machine and register their vote. Their vote is a block recorded into an election blockchain.
- Americans who are traveling (think military personnel), ill, or otherwise unable to attend an in-person election may log into an election website or present a mail-in ballot with their ID number at any time within 1 month prior to election day. Their vote will be counted just as if they were in person at the voting machine, with their ID number.
- Once a vote is cast, it will change the election block, and the block will have a record of the individual’s ID number and the vote they cast. Any attempt to change this will raise a flag for all who wish to independently verify on the peer-to-peer network. All voters have access to the blockchain and if a new block added is not verified through the hash and proof-of-work security systems, then fraud will be suspected. If this makes no sense, watch the video above.
- Because nothing can ever replace a human mind, there is one more step to voting. Each citizen has 1 week to independently verify his vote after election day. This involves a two-factor identification process much like what it takes to log into Amazon from a new device.
- As soon as you vote, you receive a verification code. You may write this down, or take a picture of it. If you vote by mail, your paper ballot itself has this verification code written on it.
- Within 1 week after election day, you log into the same site you used to electronically vote, or appear in person to the same place where voting took place. There your vote on the blockchain will be recorded, and if you agree with it, you submit your code electronically along with your social security number. If you do not agree with it, then you have the ability to dispute it.
- Disputing one’s vote will launch an investigation as to what happened, and will also enable you to submit a new vote.
- New votes must be submitted within 2 weeks after election day.
What about those living in nursing homes who want to vote? What about the homeless? What about those who do not have internet access? How can they verify their votes with two-factor identification?
Every legal citizen has a social security number. For those who do not have internet access and are unable to appear in person, their paper ballot will come with a separate pre-paid envelope that is delivered to a separate office from their mail-in ballot. In this envelope is a second identical ballot, along with their verification code (found on the first ballot) and a place to write their social security number. This separate ballot is mailed to the appropriate office in their own state. With this new system, states will not be counting as many ballots, so they will be able to count the ballots of the few who do cannot or will not use the internet two-factor identification system or cannot present in person to verify their vote within a week of election day.
If the system detects unverified ballots, it will send a request for verification from the state. The state then has the responsibility to use the two-factor identification system to independently verify the ballots of those who could not or would not do it themselves.
Examples: Joe works 9-5, and takes some time off on Election Day to present to his local polling location and vote. He puts his ID chip into the machine and registers his vote. He writes down his verification code in his phone. The next day, he logs into the website and sees his vote. He agrees with it, so he puts his verification code into the box and verifies his vote. Pete is Joe’s coworker. He forgot to write down his verification code when he voted in person. He appears in person to his polling place and inserts his card in, which recorded his verification code. He sees his vote online and agrees with it, and verifies it with his code.
Jemma has eight children and doesn’t want to take the whole crew to the polling place. At nap time, she logs into her computer the day before Election Day, enters in her ID code, and votes. She has her verification code sent to her phone in a text. The next day, she logs in and verifies it. Her eighteen-year-old daughter Jill is away at college and her husband John is deployed overseas. They all vote the same way.
Jemma’s 91-year-old mother lives in a nursing home, and hates the internet. She requests a mail-in ballot and gets two in the mail. She fills out identical ballots and sends one to the state and one to the federal government. The one that goes to the federal government gets recorded into the same computer system Jemma used. A week after election day, her vote is not verified, so it sends a notice to her state government. The state government has been counting ballots using a similar but separate system as the federal government. They receive notifications for those like Jemma’s mother, and they enter the verification code after determining that the vote is identical.
Meanwhile, all of the above individuals have the ability to watch the election blockchain in real time and every time a new block is added, they have the opportunity to independently verify the election results.
This system seems more cumbersome than just filling out a paper and mailing it in. It seems more involved than just clicking a box for R or D. But it is not needlessly difficult. It is just difficult enough to prevent fraud, and puts more power in the individuals’ hands. Voting is one of the most important things we do as citizens, and if integrity of elections is lost, then so is our freedom. As the video refers to above, consensus is a critical aspect of blockchain. Isn’t consensus what elections are all about? Let’s adopt blockchain as a solution to election uncertainty.