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Is Online Voting The Future?
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Is Online Voting The Future?

Editor’s Note: In honor of election day, OUTSET contributor Keeleigh Utt introduces us to an idea that could revolutionize the way we vote, and a profile on a company that’s making it a reality.

People worldwide use the internet on a daily basis for a myriad of tasks – whether it be for checking email, shopping, paying bills, or simply to be entertained by a five minute video celebrating the cuteness of kittens. These processes require quite a bit of personal information to be released out on the web for anyone to see, but still, we accept the terms and conditions.

Earlier this year, I ran across a website called Bitshares.org. This is the website for a company that claims to be ready to revolutionize the world with opportunities to expand the use of the internet, particularly when it comes to voting.

Bitshares partnered up with an non-partisan organization called Follow My Vote, founded on July 4th, 2012. The purpose of this group was explained to me by Will Long, the marketing manager. According to Long, the idea behind this cooperation is fairly simple.

“We develop software applications that build consensus by effectively gauging popular demand… founded on the principles of freedom, as a tribute to the Founding Fathers of the United States… Follow My Vote is in the process of combining voting with blockchain technology, via BitShares.org,” Long said. “Simply put, Blockchain technology is the creation and management of a true unhackable transaction ledger. This transaction ledger’s inherent properties such as security, privacy, and best of all transparency can be applied to election hosting. Never before has an election been able to be as secure and transparent as our voting platform will allow.”

We can get behind that idea, seeing how we love the idea of freedom, and even more so when our needs and wants are being kept in mind in the process. Long continued to explain just how the Follow My Vote organization could revolutionize the country and possibly the world by extending the powers of the internet safely and efficiently. It was interesting how he described just how the Follow My Vote group could ensure safe voting.

Voting Booths

An estimated 23% of young voters will head to the polls to vote in the 2014 midterm elections, according to the Harvard University Institute of Politics.

“We aim to provide a secure open source voting system that the people will trust. The black box of voting will be a thing of the past. With our software, election participants will be able to follow their vote all the way into the ballot box and confirm for themselves that their vote is unchanged and safely cast,” Long said.

Safety is still a big issue, however. I was wondering myself how both the traditional voting style and this new voting style line up when it comes to hacking, security and legitimacy. What I found in my research was shocking.

According to research at Princeton, most traditional voting machines can be hacked quite simply.

“In the past voting has not been hosted online due to the security risks of lone hackers and foreign governments seeking to undermine U.S. elections,” Long commented.

There has been no breakthrough on security risks until now. So simply in fact, that a middle schooler with ten bucks and ten minutes could do it. In this election, it was said that the Republicans were up by 10% in early votes. That percentage is not large enough. It doesn’t cover human error. Human error, voter fraud, and hacking plague our current method of casting ballots,but we still use this method to vote even though we are aware of its vulnerability.

Follow My Vote, in contrast, allows a voter to do just that: follow their vote and see where it is applied – thus ensuring the vote is not tampered with. With this system, everyone could create an account to vote, and have all sorts of ID questions and the like to ensure the vote is not fake. We could even add an extra layer of security by requiring a social security number to create an account and then again on voting day, to be sure that no unauthorized people attempt to vote.

“Never before could all participants audit the election for themselves. We find this to be truly revolutionary, as our world is filled with distrust right now and our congress has a troubling approval rating. Transparency is very much in demand and we aim to provide it,” Long said.

The only person to vote would be those that are of age, of proper citizenship, and proper standing. The ballots would be preserved and would be much safer. When the votes are sure to be untouched, the election is clearly honest and true.

This new way of casting votes could be more effective than traditional methods in regards to turnout and preventing double voting. Though it may not become a reality play for a while, this could make absentee and early voting specifically easier for everyone.

“Our voting solution uses cryptography to protect users identities while third party verification services make sure users are allowed to vote in their respective election,” Long said.

Think about it this way, college students live busy lives. Sometimes it’s hard to say if they can be home in time to vote, so what do they do? Vote absentee? Not vote at all? With online software, they can vote for their home state while in their dorm three states away. This same principal can be applied from students to business owners to vacationers. The sky is the limit.

According to IVN, Follow My Vote should have some sort of proof that this can work by the end of the year, perhaps so that the technology can be applied by the next presidential election. Online voting can become a great way to encourage more people to vote. It’s time to accept that we live in an age of technology.

Editor’s Note: Bitshares did not create Follow My Vote, as was originally stated. This article has been updated with that correction.

What do you think about Internet voting vs. traditional voting? Let us know in the comments!

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