Debate On The State Of Our Current Election Process.
One week following an election that did nothing to bring sides together, the state of our current election process was the first topic discussed on this week’s Super Happy Dragon Lucky. The show welcomed back frequent guest, Orrin, along with long time friend but first-time guest Franklin Fitch from Blockparty.
Joe starts things off with what we all know to be true. “People have lost trust in the democratic process as well as the elections themselves. Blockchain can solve this and we think it can be solved today with Dragonchain.”
Key take-aways Dragonchain solves today:
- Secret ballots - Anonymity is a necessity to avoid voter intimidation
- Proof, Eligibility, and Accountability - It is possible for the individual voter to check, not only that their own vote was counted, but also that it was counted correctly
- Auditability - The capability for anyone with access to the system to execute an automated audit of vote tally as well as the eligibility of each vote.
So if we can make changes now why haven’t those changes been implemented yet?
Franklin was first to tackle the question but made it a point to be a respectful employee by stating that his views are not representative of Blockparty. Franklin feels like change doesn’t happen unless people want change to happen.
“We're not using Blockchain because there's no desire to have a transparent democracy in America, either among those in power or even among the common person. I have a Masters in Consumer Psychology and it is my experience that people have a strong desire for convenience and a smooth user experience so much so that it is an overriding factor when it comes to anything they do. We like the low effort, low impact things as human beings. So I question if we really want to have a transparent election or do we just want to believe the process works the way that we think it works?”
So perhaps the populace isn’t exactly ready to demand change. How about those in power? Do they want a transparent electoral process? Franklin doesn’t think they do.
“I think if they did, a lot of other things about how the process works would have been changed already. There are certain aspects of the Electoral College that could be addressed. There are certain aspects of how the actual voting takes place at a polling station. Given the fact that we're still using physical ballots is kind of mind-boggling to me. We live in the modern world and we're still using paper to vote in person? The pandemic complicated everything. So, there are a lot of different things that point me in the direction of nobody wanting this. We may want it because we work in cryptocurrency. But, I wonder how broad even the most common people's desire for a more transparent process is. And, more importantly, wonder whether people in power would even let it take place.”
Orrin thinks this is a common issue in the blockchain space. “From politics to medicine to finance, we see that Blockchain has a lot of useful capabilities that can help us with transparency. And a lot of those in power still do not want to adopt it for their reasons, usually for self-interest or those people who they represent. That is unfortunate. Self-interest drives actions. For instance, PayPal integrating cryptocurrencies makes the news, but we can assume that PayPal has been stocking up investments in Bitcoin and Ethereum for the past year. They are secretly hoarding, so it is only a matter of time before things coalesce and we can have a public adoption of cryptocurrency in such fields.”
Joe tends to think most people want transparency but agrees with Franklin in that convenience is a mitigating factor. He also thinks there is likely a point where the two meet, where the need for transparency outways the convenience. Joe feels these are the times for those changes.
“These are the times that you can actually make things happen. I agree with Orrin's point. The powers that be do not want it, and there are obvious reasons that they don’t.”
Joe goes on to point out current flaws with voting. “There are notable, interesting flaws with our voting system. When it’s by mail the signatures are not on the ballot they are on the envelope. Is that legal? Can I sign an envelope and say, “Oh, it's a legal contract with the paper that's inside?” No, I don’t think you can do that. It's bizarre.
The reason they do mail-in ballots this way is that they don't actually want the traceability. They are fine tracking you to the point of putting your code online, or that your vote made it all the way to the endpoint and it was counted. But, how was it counted? In all fairness, governments don’t yet have the tech to maintain an independent secret ballot even if they wanted to.
We want to allow people to see their vote on the chain and know that it was actually counted the way they intended. With blockchain and in particular with decentralized identity and blockchain, we can absolutely already do it.”
Joe recalls a meeting on this very topic a few months back. “I was in a trade organization meeting with government officials in the state of Washington with a group of other blockchain projects and we tried to talk with officials about how this is possible and doable today. They said there was no way and we didn’t understand how complex this is.
It would be an amazing use case if they really wanted to know how the government can use blockchain like the little guys. It was a couple of months ago and was probably too late for this election. But, Dragonchain could have gotten it done. It's just that the politics got in the way.”
In the end, Joe feels like our current election could be a catalyst. “So what's happening now could lead to that inflection point where everyone on all sides would agree that we really need a way to know that a vote was actually counted, that every other vote was actually eligible, and that anyone in the world can take part in the counting. For instance, I could go to my PC, pull the data, and say, yep, that person won. That's what I want because then we are all looking at the same data.”
Franklin points out that there are some people even within the crypto community that have some caveats about using blockchain systems for voting. Noting that Dragonchain, of course, has a really good shot at pulling it off because of the architecture and enterprise-level scaling system. But also saying that there are concerns about what would happen if the blockchain was compromised and everyone’s vote became known. Franklin asks Joe, “What would be the ways that you could make sure the integrity of the system is preserved?
“We use Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ethereum Classic to counter against fifty-one percent attacks. If one is compromised all data is secured with hundreds of millions of dollars on one of the other multiple chains.
The fact that Dragonchain has a hybrid architecture means you can have some level of privacy. We can legitimately not expose any of the source data until after the election is over. So people could vote all the way up to a particular time. And then, after a certain amount of hash power is applied the whole thing can be released and everybody can look back and see that there's a couple of billion dollars worth of hash power applied to this entire vote. The question then becomes can I trust that or not? Depends. Would China pay a billion dollars to alter the data? Maybe.
We can also see if there were any chain forks at that time. That would trigger you an inquiry on the data to make sure that it was still secure. So the compromising issues that occur now we can handle today.
Now, the decentralized identity parts are very important to have. I probably don’t have time to go into all of that right now. You can learn more on a Quick Take we did a bit ago. But, what it means is that nobody can even know that this vote is mine unless I explicitly expose this is my public key. The main point is that you, yourself, can go in and find your vote and in the rolls and see that, yes, I really did vote this way.
There's even the potential that if you wanted to change your vote right up to the last minute, you can do it because the system will be able to see that this single vote is being replaced. You could even see that a person switched their vote three times without exposing data.”
The fact remains, adoption remains a challenge no matter what industry we are talking about.
“Whenever you bring in a new system even outside of voting you wouldn't believe how much politics is involved. Here's a system that's been around for 15 years that does a specific thing in the company and if people say “Here's a better way or we can add to it” then there is a lot of resistance.
There are a lot of people who believe that most of the rules and features that have been changed or added, especially in the past few years, were implemented to compromise the system. There are so many holes right now and enough of them are coming to light, that hopefully now is that time for a change.”
When the time comes will the crypto community be ready? Joe isn’t so sure.
“The industry needs to be ready too. I've gotten flack from the community saying that you can’t use a currency to vote. I would say there is more to it than being a currency.
Bitcoin is amazing. Ethereum is beautiful. But there are so many other applications for this technology and even Satoshi said that.
It’s all about individual liberty. It's individual liberty encapsulated in software. That’s why we are here.”
Will the next major election be conducted on the chain in any capacity? Guess that depends on if the people and governments are interested. Looks like Brazil is ready.
Learn more about how blockchain can make an impact on our voting systems here.