A More Perfect Polling System

2 minute read

One of the biggest issues in American politics today is the unbalanced influence of those with money. In fact, it’s the entire basis of Larry Lessig’s campaign. Part of the reason moneyed individuals can carry such influence is campaign finance, but another is voter apathy. It’s one thing to fight unfair fundraising laws with the nation at your back, but it is another to challenge those who donate piles of cash while the average American won’t travel to the polling booth once a year.

Since we can’t convince more than 3/5 of the US to get out of the house and vote, maybe we can bring the vote to them. 74.4% of US households reported Internet access in 2013, with 73.4% reporting high speed internet access. 64% of Americans own smartphones. There is already worldwide adoption of mobile banking, information sharing, and account validation. Elections should be available for online participation.

Full adoption of online voting is not possible with only 74% of Americans reporting Internet access, but a combined approach — O2O voting if you will, seems likely to raise participation and awareness (Estonia and Arizona have already implemented models of this idea).

Imagine for a moment, the US government election app. Users create an account with a SSN, full name, address, video evidence of identity, photo of social security certificate, and a random set of questions based on government data collected via the IRS and other government agencies.

Once signed up, you can vote from your phone. In the future, politicians could create profiles and deep link to their publication on Medium, their AMA on Reddit, and their speeches on YouTube.

Register to vote before the deadline, and on Election Day all registered voters will receive a push notification reminding them to vote. After voting is complete, share that you voted on Facebook and Twitter with a link back to the voting website— the modern day “I Voted” sticker.

Is it possible to scam the system? Perhaps. An attempt was made at allowing internet voting for members of the military in 2012, but the system was flawed and eventually scrapped. However, I can’t be persuaded that a government that made it to the moon in 1969 and currently houses the world’s center of software innovation can’t create a secure voting system in 2015. It’s possible that an online system could even be more secure. AI systems can be trained to detect voter fraud, and in after a few years of training the system would be far and away the best in the world. Results from government sponsored research could be used to strengthen the security systems of other government branches and US companies. Given proper time and resources are provided, we should be able to create a secure system. Considering that popular election is the cornerstone of our political system, I would argue that it is worth proper time and resources.

It’s time for the US to promote democracy more broadly at home. The best way to do this is to quite literally put the vote in the hands of the people.

Follow me on Twitter: @c_h_wood

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