Electronic Voting

This speech was given at the Global Forum Plenary online 28 May 2020 by Andrew Rippon.

See the whole day event here!

Preamble

Andrew Rippon, Founder of Thrupny, speech to World Forum Digital – Corona Virus Unites the World in plenary session:

My name is Andrew Rippon
My background is digital transformation for 20+ years
My company Thrupny does four things:

  • Blockchain consulting
  • Government blockchain platform
  • Fitnech platform
  • KYC Platform as a Service

What I will talk about is bringing these four threads together to create a new personal electronic voting capability.
In the context of Covid-19 can we move voting for government democratic processes AND corporate shareholder voting TO OUR PHONES?As Christophe mentioned, social distancing has had a major impact and the question has arisen in many places about the safety of going to vote. We are going to go through the pluses and minuses as well as a methodology to implement it. 


Intro Video

Personal Electronic Voting


Personal Electronic voting is safer and can reach more people than postal or in person voting.
This does not mean that we have to switch from the current tried and tested methods, with all their barnacles, of today to the Electronic version overnight.


But Covid-19 is giving us a good driver and kick in the behind to move voting technology up with the times and update the doing of it significantly for the first time since paper ballots were first used in Rome139 BC. Ok so we’ll ignore the verbal voting of more recent times.
In the US, mainstream politicians such as Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been proposing nationwide postal voting, while on the fringes, “The Internet’s Favorite Candidate” Andrew Yang went further, so just to prove this is not my idea, he said:
“Americans should be able to vote via their mobile device, with verification done via blockchain.” Yang goes on to say:

“It is 100% technically possible to have fraud-proof voting on our mobile phones today using the blockchain.

Andrew Yang, Former 2020 US presidential candidate


In the UK, the parliament has been working remotely in a dysfunctional way as not all MPs can participate in debates and no electronic voting is in place. There is however a commission looking into the subject, so that means they’re not interested, as the old saying goes, commissions are a great way of dealing things. Many other countries are working on it in some way.

So what do we mean by personal electronic voting? Well I don’t mean the dumb, centralised kiosks that have so far been deployed to mimic posting your ballot, causing problems like has been seen in Georgia, for example with training of staff.
(See an interview on the incident here https://www.facebook.com/StandWithMueller/videos/2761908574056998/)

but simply this, VOTE FROM YOUR PHONE. (And your computer if you want…oh and tablet) Yes its that radical and I am saying it CAN BE more secure. Why? Decentralised friends. 


Now before you think I’ve lost it and started to believe my own “there’s an app for that’ mantra, lets look at the facts.

In terms of problems, lets look at what happened in Georgia, USA on the 10th June 2020, where some voters had to wait for hours to vote or were literally virtually disenfranchised by a combination of:

  • Having to stand in socially distanced lines, making the process very slow (ok magnified by cover but still an issue in many places)
  • A lack of voting “machines” 
  • Lack of training on said voting “machines”
  • Lack of staff

Literally all these problems are resolved by personal voting. So is it even possible for us to move this to mobile?

Think of this – Mobile devices today can support such strong encryption that banks allow you to access your account from them. In fact completely decentralised money is now possible making your phone or other device THE actual bank


The GSMA, the global mobile phone association, notes that nearly 70% of the global population own a mobile device of some sort and that well over half of those are smart phones. In many countries this is well above that, reaching virtually 100% in some. So reach there is.

Not that this is discriminating in any way either as those who cannot or prefer not to use the convenient mobile path, could still go to a polling booth and still have the option to have a voting officer help them vote electronically, use the polling stations tablet to do so or just fill in a plain old paper ballot that could run along side for a number of years until the benefits become apparent to all.


But mobile is not all, there are other technologies like blockchain. Why? Instead of one central database, all stakeholders in a country, city or even a block, can have an audit copy of the voting in real time and have it simplified with dashboards to understand it.

So how can we summarise the potential benefits?

  • Greater security than paper, the election officials cannot interfere with the vote
  • Greater reach and granularity, its cheap and quick, vote on anything
  • Mobile polling booths to support those unable to use a device, such as the elderly and the handicapped
  • Engage the youth, in most countries youth vote is very low
  • Instant results in real time, also an aid to reduce possibility for change of results
  • Cheaper, yes tech in this case is cheaper, of course not if you hire big tech to spin out a few years, also fewer people are required to keep it honest
  • Real time audit by all constitutionally required to do so and even the people, in real time
  • Reduce virtual disenfranchisement, huge time wastage, cost to the voter and health risks by cutting out the need to go somewhere to vote

What are the hurdles to be surmounted:

  • Perception that digital is fraud prone and could help extreemists, yet lets listen to our friend and my namesake Andrew Yang “Voting is hard and time-consuming, which is why turnout even in presidential elections is barely over 50% and much lower during local and state elections. This rewards extreme points of view as opposed to the popular will.” So something that makes voting easier might actually also fight against extremism.
  • Coercion – as voting can happen anywhere, how do we ensure people are not being coerced to vote in a given way
    • But maybe strategies such as having to show up at a public place such as a library, but more than polling stations of today because they not need to be manned specifically, to ‘ping’ bluetooth beacons or QR codes could be there to be the final step to sending the vote
  • Trust – how do we explain that the technology is secure, especially in light of the abysmal failures of the past
    • Let the marketing guys loose, where there is a will there is a way
  • Evolution – we have to go in with an eye to the future and have built in a method for evolving or stopping it if technology surpasses the security or regulatory models, as has happened with Cambridge Analytica for example

So where do we go from here, step by step?


We don’t need to do everything at once. As I said, traditional systems of voting can co-exist and voting can be applied to votes of lesser importance or even just expressions of wish, such as a non binding referendum.


Using mobile app software, blockchain, potentially location enablement and building it in a privacy enabled way we can do this quickly.


If you want to know more pls do get in touch and I an share the sources and the basic plan. Also please do read our blog on Electronic Voting – the 3 X 3 X 3 Program on thrupny.com We’ll end with our friend Andrew Yang…


SOURCES

HOW MANY SMARTPHONES ARE IN THE WORLD?
(Source: https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world)

GSMA (Source: https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world

A Brief Illustrated History of Voting
Part of the Voting and Elections web pages by Douglas W. JonesTHE UNIVERSITY OF IOWADepartment of Computer Science
http://homepage.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/voting/pictures/#before

Modernize Voting – Andrew Yang https://www.yang2020.com/policies/modernize-voting/

Electronic Voting – the 3 X 3 X 3 Program

3 Problems 3 Solutions delivered in 3 Months

https://ww.thrupny.com/electronic-voting-the-3-x-3-x-3-program/

UK Electronic Voting

https://www.parliament.uk/business/commons/the-speaker/speakers-commission-on-digital-democracy/electronic-voting/