Regardless of who is ultimately declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, the chaos and irregularities prove that the United States has the election system of a banana republic, which is a disgrace to a country that claims to be the leader of the free world. If Americans are to trust the outcome of an election ever again, a total overhaul is needed. Fortunately, a technology specifically designed to be fraud-proof and generate public trust exists: the blockchain technology upon which Bitcoin is built.
When Bitcoin came onto the scene in 2008 after the financial crisis, its creator Satoshi Nakamoto argued that central banking allows for the fraudulent printing of money, causing a debt-fueled inflation spiral. He created Bitcoin as a system that does not require trust in humans. The networked computer program allowed for maintaining a public ledger of transactions, making it impossible for a central bank to inflate the money supply.
That public ledger is called the blockchain, and it can be explained in lay terms as a record of changes that everyone has a copy of and that requires majority agreement to change. Although it has its problems, the bottom line is that it has proven to be virtually impenetrable to hacking and fraud. It works, and its product is a trustworthy public record, precisely what is needed in an election.
When adapted to the election, instead of money transactions, votes would be tallied on the ledger. In such a system, whenever voters register their vote, everyone can see that they have cast a ballot, but not what they have voted, which maintains the right to privacy.
Chain of Custody
Even with a trustworthy blockchain-like public ledger, it is worthless if the chain of custody between the voter and the ledger is broken. That is, to maintain trust, voting should occur in person and in public, where election observers can validate that you are a real, living voter who intends to vote voluntarily.
You, the voter, should have direct public access to entering your vote into the public ledger. When you scan your ballot, you should be able to verify on-site that your vote has been registered publicly, without any human intermediary. There should be no need for some bureaucrat to punch in the number of ballots counted.
To prove that you have voted, you should receive a receipt with a computer-generated vote ID. This vote ID is only known to you, and you can use it to check online that a) your vote has been registered and b) the ballot accurately reflects the candidates for whom you voted.
Mail-in Ballots are almost by definition, susceptible to fraud because it breaks the chain of custody. There is no confirmation that a voter receives a ballot, no confirmed notification to the voter that a ballot has been sent to her, and the security of the votes hinges on the postal system, which is a gaping security risk. Even if the mail-in ballot reaches the voting machine, there is still plenty of opportunity for hacking and electronic interference.
Therefore, the only form of mail-in voting that should be used is absentee voting, where the voter must request the ballot and confirm that it has been received.
The election system in the United States is a mess. The country’s polarization, close elections, and proven cases of voter fraud and election interference make it more important than ever to ensure election integrity.
Without a massive cleanup in the voting process, the 2024 election will bring about more chaos. A blockchain-based public voting ledger could go a long way to avoid such a “dark winter” scenario.
Read more from Onar Åm.
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