Blockchain-Based Mobile Voting Is Coming to Overseas Citizens

At its core, the technology is meant to make voting easier and increase primary turnout, which is historically lower than that of general elections.
August 1, 2019 AT 8:49 AM

By Sarah Holder

This election season, the option to vote remotely via blockchain is coming to overseas voters from nine new U.S. cities. West Virginia became the first state to pilot the technology last year, with Denver following in May as the first city. In this August’s local elections, far-flung voters from Utah County, home to the city of Provo, will be able to log their votes on a mobile application, too.

At its core, the technology is meant to make voting easier and increase primary turnout, which is historically lower than that of general elections. About 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots in midterm House of Representatives races last year—a huge leap from 2014’s turnout rate of 13.7 percent.

“Given that the average primary turnout is 12 to 15 percent, 12 to 15 percent of people dictate most of our policies on the left or the right,” said Bradley Tusk, the startup-consultant-turned-philanthropist who is supporting the pilots, which are administered by the Boston-based technology company Voatz. “How do you get turnout to 60 or 70 percent?”

In his work in 2011 as an early-stage Uber consultant, Tusk thinks he found one answer: Let people vote on their phones. When Uber wanted cities to legalize ridehailing, the company asked riders and drivers to indicate their support via texts and online petitions. They did, in vast numbers, and the rest is history.

“If you want to change the outputs, you’ve got to change the inputs,” Tusk said. “Everybody has technology in their pocket.” Tusk Philanthropies—funded in part by the equity Tusk was given by Uber as payment for that consulting work—has covered the costs of administering and auditing each Voatz election so far.

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