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No More Hanging Chads!

The 2000 presidential election is probably the first election that I paid attention to and I will never forget the ubiquity of phrases like "hanging chads" and "dimpled chads." These phrases refer to punch card ballots that were used in some precincts and that were essentially defective. Hanging chads occur when the perforated portion of a ballot does not completely detach. Dimpled chads occur when the portion of the ballot that should be perforated is simply dented or dimpled. In the 20 years (wow!) since that suspenseful election (and controversial Supreme Court decision), the vast majority of precincts in the U.S. have adopted some form of electronic voting or scan voting. Will blockchain be part of the next wave of voting changes?

This post is coming at a funny time in light of the national debate currently taking place about widespread voting by mail. I won't get into that but I will think out loud (or in writing) about the potential for blockchain to be a part of this next evolution. Blockchain's immutability offers a response to commonly raised concerns about tampering and security (at least insofar as those concerns relate to fraud as opposed to outright subversion). There are a host of options, including biometric markers or facial recognition, that can be used to verify a voter's identity. One of blockchain's biggest obstacles in general has been scalability and the ability to validate significant volumes of transactions. This obstacle remains even in the context of voting. Finally, if we're talking about mobile voting, there are access issues (digital divide) that come into play.

I like the idea voting on a blockchain (shocker!) because I see real potential for increased access to voting and faster, more reliable results. If you're interested in reading up on blockchain and voting, here's a good paper from Plymouth University. For a counterview, check out this article. Let me know what you think!


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