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Bitcoin Government

How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting 480

blottsie (3618811) writes If implemented correctly, the proliferation of online voting could solve one of the biggest problems in American democracy: low voter turnout. The 2014 midterms, for example, boasted the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. Making it easier to vote by moving the action from a polling station to your pocket could only increase turnout, especially in the primaries. Making online voting work is infinitely harder than it initially seems. However, in the past few years, there's been a renewed effort to solve the conundrum of online voting using a most unexpected tool: Bitcoin. The key idea is this: The main job in online voting is ensuring that the election system records someone’s vote the way they intended. Running votes over the blockchain, which is public, creates an auditable trail linking a person and their vote. Bitcoin-enabled voters don’t have to place their trust in Florida ballot counters trying to discern the difference a hanging chad and a dimpled chad—nor in black box online voting systems from private companies where what’s happening inside is a mystery. The proof is right there on the blockchain.
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How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting

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  • Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:21PM (#48794167)

    You can't have an auditable trail and a secret ballot.

    • Re:Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:41PM (#48794445)

      You can't have an auditable trail and a secret ballot.

      I've been preaching this on Slashdot for years... electronic systems that let people track their own votes can be used by others to track those votes. Already there are entire industries around trying to figure out how people vote and manipulating the electorate, so it is a very real concern. But maybe it is time to ditch the secret ballot... at least for some things. Look at Open Town Meetings as an example. It is one of the most democratic and empowering form of governments in practice and it exists without a secret ballot for most matters. Only for elections of individuals to particular offices or for setting salaries do they usually do a secret ballot. But for general changes to the bylaws or voting on the overall budget the voting is quite open and anyone with a pen could record your vote.

      We could move to more participatory government where ballot questions could be voted on electronically and we could record who votes for what as a matter of public record. Perhaps we retain the option of in-person secrecy. But secrecy leaves all sorts of room for ballot fraud if undemocratic forces get control of the election systems. In many places that seems to be the entire point of ballot secrecy... to make it impossible for the public to know if the election was stolen. So, perhaps the cost of ballot secrecy simply does not outweigh the benefits of people being accountable for their votes.

      • Re:Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dns_server ( 696283 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @01:17PM (#48794931)

        While that sounds good there are people that still round up the opposition in to one area and shoot them.

        It is unlikely to be a problem to you or me but encouraging a system that makes it possible is a bad thing for the world.

      • Re:Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @01:36PM (#48795173) Homepage Journal
        You know...someone that cannot be troubled to take the small amount of time and effort to register to vote, and go to the poll to vote, likely is also NOT the type of person to take any amount of time to study the issues or people up for election and therefore, not someone I'd actively encourage to make a vote.

        No vote is better than an ill-informed / non-informed vote.

        • Re:Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @02:55PM (#48796129) Homepage Journal

          No vote is better than an ill-informed / non-informed vote.

          Ya know, I'm not so sure about that. The whole premise of democracy is that we are, collectively, smarter than any of us individually. Somehow, the average of the guesses comes out as closer to the truth than any of the guesses. Uninformed voters on one side of the issue cancel out uninformed voters on the other side of the issue.

          There's a lot of reason to be dubious about that, but to be frank, the vast majority of voters are very uninformed about practically every issue. Any significant topic requires years or decades of study to be really expert on. And most voters will go in with nothing more than they've read in the newspaper, or worse, on TV. Take any topic you actually know in detail; do you think that any reporter has ever understood it? Here on Slashdot we regularly complain about how science and technology are misrepresented and misunderstood. Do you really think that reporting on energy issues, the economy, or foreign affairs is any better?

          I'm always glad for people to want to know more, but practically everybody goes into the voting booth with a massive case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome, convinced that they know the topic far better than they actually do. The whole point of democracy is to try to take that into account. Usually, we're actually voting for people to represent us, and they often know it a bit better than we do (or at least, they have advisers who do), but in the end we're really just hoping that the representative on the side of the truth will have slightly more followers than the representative who has it wrong. Democracy is designed to expose a slight bias towards reality, even if few of the individuals involved can actually justify that bias.

          I'd love to live in a meritocracy where only the best experts are making decisions... but who's going to pick those experts? I'd be happy if it were me, but I bet you wouldn't be. Democracy is the closest thing I've ever seen to a fair way to pick. And if so, it only works because everybody gets to take their best guess. I suspect that the ones who know enough to know that they don't know very much are better qualified to take their guess than those who don't even know that they don't know.

          Especially when you've got a news media which gets its best viewership by telling them how smart they are and that all of the smart people agree with them. They're the most dangerous voters of them all, and they vote in droves. And I can't think of any fair way to keep them out of the polls. So everybody might as well go out and vote.

        • You know...someone that cannot be troubled to take the small amount of time and effort to register to vote, and go to the poll to vote, likely is also NOT the type of person to take any amount of time to study the issues or people up for election and therefore, not someone I'd actively encourage to make a vote.

          No vote is better than an ill-informed / non-informed vote.

          You're just one small step away from a poll tax or an intelligence test. Watch it, buster.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        The US was open voting for the first 100 or so years. It wasn't until open civil war when the system didn't work as well. It worked much much better than we have today. A full electoral roll with every vote published along side it for all to see in plain text would be a better system than we have now. But we can do much better than that as well.

        Perhaps knowing everyone will know your vote would shame some voters into being educated. One can hope.
    • Re:Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:49PM (#48794537) Homepage Journal

      Not that I'm in favor of this, but... that isn't exactly true.

      You can have an audit trail and anonymity so long as the source of the audit trail is known only to the originator.

      If each year I am assigned a token at random, and the assigning system tracks only that a token was assigned, then I can look at that token and see it's audit trail to ensure that my vote was recorded correctly.

      Anyone else looking at the audit trail of that token would be able to see how that token was used, but not by who.

      Not sure I'm on board with online voting, but I don't believe that the audit trail and anonymity are mutually exclusive.

      -Rick

      • Re:Secret Ballot? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GuldKalle ( 1065310 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @01:06PM (#48794753)

        The problem is that you yourself can provide the token to, let's say, an employer forcing you to vote a certain way, an abusive spouse or someone who wants to buy your vote.
        The current systems prevent that or make it hard to do in any systematic way. Even taking a picture of your ballot won't help, as you can always get it exchanged for a fresh one.

        • by RingDev ( 879105 )

          Because clearly that doesn't happen already. It's not like Walmart pulled all of their managers in to give them political commentary about how it would be "bad" for them if the Dems won the 2008 election. How, if the Dems won, or if unions gained any foothold in the company, that clearly it would cause economic downturns that would result in the closing of their stores. Not like they were dancing around the message of "Vote Republican or go find a new job" or anything.

          That type of behavior wont change betwe

    • stolen ballots? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by swschrad ( 312009 )

      let's review the evidence. biggest Bitecon shop rifled and shut down broke a year ago. last week, the next biggest Bitecon shop was hit for something around $5 million in Bitecon. TV hosts wave around a new wallet on the air and it's emptied before the videotape rolls on the story.

      and somebody wants to run VOTES over this leaky scam system? almost as bad at the Supreme Court allowing billionnaires to buy all the elections they want.

      • The problems you describe, are not related to the security of the blockchain. That is actually a different issue altogether (see bitcoin cartels)

      • There are orders of magnitude better security on Bitcoins then there are on our electronic voting systems. They were designed in the first place by two hackers Rove got out of prison. They had three "Access databases" one for query, one that was used to submit the vote, and a third with no particular reason given. Any reason other than fraud to have three databases in a simple voting system and any REASON why a touch screen device is so expensive and flakes out so often? If Banks had these problems they'd l

    • the purpose of elections is to convince the public the election was fair. crytpography isn't transparent. worse in some forms of crytography it gains security from centralization of the key control making single point of attack more likely. It's much better when the public can see how the election works.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @01:08PM (#48794779)

      The secret ballot has two purposes. one is it maintains your privacy and that's good for you. The other is it prevents selling your vote and that's good for the public. If I have a bitcoin ballot then I can easily transfer that coin to someone else to vote. thus I can sell my vote and the buyer knows for sure how it will be cast.

    • Not true. There have been people working on this problem [wikipedia.org] for over a decade; it has not been proven impossible. In fact there are several promising solutions that provide both an audit trail and secrecy. And you left off a third thing, no way to prove to a third party who you voted for.
  • Anonymity (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:21PM (#48794169)

    Isn't one of the key features of modern voting the ability not to have your vote connected to you? This is part of the reason why there's so much argument over "card check" voting systems for unionization, because it allows the union or the company to coerce workers into voting one way or the other, since their vote is not anonymous.

  • Color me skeptical (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    One can already vote with a minimum inconvenience by being a permanent absentee. I can't remember the last time I actually went anywhere to vote, and haven't missed a single election in decades. Those who are not voting will, for the most part, carry on not voting with or without bitcoin.

  • Conflating Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:22PM (#48794195) Homepage Journal

    It's not a given that low voter turnout is a problem. We don't need more low-information voters (89% agree that DHMO should be banned) and we don't need to coerce those who do not vote to signal their non-consent to the system.

    Blockchain technology could make voting more reliable, but that's a separate issue - don't confuse the two.

    • by Kobun ( 668169 )

      It's not a given that low voter turnout is a problem. We don't need more low-information voters (89% agree that DHMO should be banned) and we don't need to coerce those who do not vote to signal their non-consent to the system.

      Amen.

      • Yep, I view low voter turnout as a symptom, not a cause of our badly broken system.

        Low-information voting exacerbates the problems, but is hardly the main issue either.

        Problems I see:
        1) 2 party system that does not do a good job representing the needs and desires of the country. Usually you have a choice between bad and worse, which is hardly a compelling motivation. Neither party seems to do much more than play high stakes chess with the other to try to stay or get in power.

        2) Congressional and Preside

    • Re:Conflating Issues (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:40PM (#48794433) Journal

      We don't need more low-information voters (89% agree that DHMO should be banned)

      Well yeah. If you breathe it you'll DIE! Only a Teabagger would be against Government regulation of a chemical that's so dangerous as to cause DEATH when inhaled. Why do you hate the children? How much did Big DHMO pay you for this astroturfing?

      • 89% agree that DHMO should be banned

        If you breathe it you'll DIE!

        Everyone will die. In fact, if there's not enough DHMO in the air you breathe [mercola.com], you'll die sooner. It's not about avoiding DHMO but about having the amount that the human body expects.

      • What I find amusing is that many of the videos of people being polled and displaying their ignornce are on college campuses. Some even at social rallies against environmental dangers.
    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Voting needs to be more convenient. Doing my taxes is less effort.
    • Reminds me of the episode collecting signatures for a petition to stop women's suffrage. Needless to say, the petition drive was very successful.

  • by Kobun ( 668169 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:23PM (#48794201)
    It's not worth going out of our way to make voting MORE accessible than it already is. There are multiple polling places in every city of any size across the nation. People who are so uninterested in the process that they can't either go to their local poll or drop an absentee ballot in the mail are VERY likely to have a misinformed, useless opinion.

    There are any number of areas regarding voting that I'd rather see time spent on instead of being able to claim "There's an app for that".
    • by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:25PM (#48794237) Homepage

      Bingo!

      The assumption that low voter turnout is a bad thing always puzzles me, as it seems to suggest that it is better to have a larger number of uninformed people voting... rather than a smaller # of people who can at least be bothered to get up off their arse and do something.

      • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:42PM (#48794461)

        Bingo!

        The assumption that low voter turnout is a bad thing always puzzles me, as it seems to suggest that it is better to have a larger number of uninformed people voting... rather than a smaller # of people who can at least be bothered to get up off their arse and do something.

        The actual experience shows that the lower the turnout, the more likely the electorate is to do something stupid.

      • by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:53PM (#48794591)

        Maybe the more apt question would be why people are so uninformed that simply withdraw all responsibility in governance. A few toss outs:
            - The system works, so why bother voting to change it
            - The systems is so corrupt, I've given up any hope of fixing things
            - I'm a small person, and I should have no say in how things are run
            - With all of two parties that are functionally essentially identical, who cares who I vote for, so I don't bother
            - I hate politics (I've personally knows many friends that would turn hostile that the thought of talking politics)
            - I work 80 hours a week in my salt factory job, and I'm literally brain dead, and I've lost all sense of smell... Squirrel!

        I'm sure there are many more reasons. The point is, there are good reasons to vote, and BAD reasons to not vote. I'd say make voting mandatory, but add a category for no-vote and give a large list of reasons why you chose to not vote for a candidate/party/etc.. It'll inform both the government and the populace on how government has failed those that chose not to participate.

    • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:30PM (#48794331) Journal

      Which is why political parties love these voters. Because they'll vote straight party line ticket every single time. They make an effort to identify these people and physically drag them to the polls if necessary.

      Back in the day before New York got rid of our battleship gray lever machines it was easy as pie to identify these voters. "*click* *click* *click* *click* *click*" as they pulled the levers across their party line without even bothering to read the names of the candidates they were voting for. In and out in 5 seconds flat with 15+ offices on the ballot.

      • Politicians of a given party vote with that party VERY high percentages of the time. It really doesn't matter what politican A says about some issue, it matters what the party's stance is. Voting your preference on party stance and ignoring the candidate's position of the moment makes more sense because you're much more likely to get what you voted for.

    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @01:02PM (#48794717) Homepage

      While it's true that low-interest voters tend to be low-information voters, there is also the problem that highly-interested voters are often highly misinformed voters. You have fundamentalist preachers frightening their congregations to vote in favor of bans on same-sex marriage by telling them horror stories about gay couples adopting babies to molest; or dogmatic political organizations telling their members to vote against a candidate because she's going to take their handguns and hunting rifles away, when all she said was that she'd look into restricting sales of assault weapons. Voters who haven't been mainlining bullshit propaganda crafted to "mobilize the base" can actually have a better grasp of the truth.

      • telling their members to vote against a candidate because she's going to take their handguns and hunting rifles away, when all she said was that she'd look into restricting sales of assault weapons.

        Look into the issue and you'll find that there's no real definition of "assault weapons" and it usually comes down to simple aesthetic components that have nothing to do with the lethality of the weapon. And it's usually pushed by people who openly want to ban general ownership of guns.

        From this link:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09... [nytimes.com]

        But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.... It was much the same in the early 1990s when Democrats created and then banned a category of guns they called “assault weapons.” ... This politically defined category of guns — a selection of rifles, shotguns and handguns with “military-style” features — only figured in about 2 percent of gun crimes nationwide before the ban.

  • Sounds stupid ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:25PM (#48794243) Homepage

    Running votes over the blockchain, which is public, creates an auditable trail linking a person and their vote.

    I'm sorry, but what idiot has decided that having your vote be a matter of public record is a good idea?

    From all of the news stories I've heard over the last year or so, I don't trust Bitcoin at all.

    So WTF would I want this tied to voting for?

    This sounds like an incredibly stupid idea. Bitcoin seems like it's barely usable as a currency, it has no place trying to prop up democracy.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:27PM (#48794273) Journal

    There is no way that you can conduct online voting and ensure that the voter is not being intimidated. Offsite voting is a necessary evil for certain people (the handicapped and those who are unavoidably out of town on election day) but it does not need to be expanded to cover everyone. Here in New York we very specifically keep those most likely to intimidate you out of the voting booth, i.e., your employer and union official. The people that can hold a financial gun to your head if you don't vote the way they want. With online voting (or offsite voting on paper, i.e., absentee ballots) there is no way to actually ensure that the voter doesn't have a gun (real or proverbial) aimed at their head when they click 'submit.' For this reason alone I will always oppose it and other measures (vote by mail) that take people out of the polling place.

    The summary also makes the assumption that low voter turnout is a big problem. This is an oft-repeated claim but there's zero evidence to suggest that increased participation rates equate to better results. People choose not to vote for many reasons; apathy likely being the biggest one, followed closely by a generalized disgust with the available options. "None of the above" is a perfectly valid option in an election, whether exercised via the write-in for "Mickey Mouse" or by staying home on Election Day.

    • An overly-complex and ill-considered solution to a mostly non-problem. I was honestly surprised that the summary *didn't* end with "Read on to see what Bennett Hasselton has to say."
    • Personally I think non of the above should be on all ballots. He would win landslides every time. If he gets a majority the election needs to be Reheld and new candidates need to be chosen.

    • by VFA ( 1064176 )
      Very well put. I think there should be an actual "None of the above" choice on the ballot. If the count of that choice reaches a certain high percentage, say 50%, the elections should be considered null and void and new elections with new candidates should be run. This way we may have a chance at actually getting the rascals out of the government. Oh, and on topic, elections MUST be conducted in public place with privacy booths. Online voting as tempting as it may sound in this day and age of not getting o
    • The people that can hold a financial gun to your head if you don't vote the way they want.

      Worse than the gun to the head, the free voting app from your party / union / special interest group / chamber of commerce that makes casting your vote simple! Just type in your ID, press the big red "Vote!" button, and we fill out the virtual ballot for you! No getting bogged down in details like names or offices or having to read those boring ballot initiatives!

      .

    • "None of the above" is a perfectly valid option in an election, whether exercised via the write-in for "Mickey Mouse"

      Isn't voting for Mickey Mouse what got into this Copyright Term Extension Act mess in the first place?

      or by staying home on Election Day.

      Some countries make "staying home on Election Day" a crime for eligible voters.

  • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:28PM (#48794287) Homepage

    "creates an auditable trail linking a person and their vote"

    Being able to verify how someone voted defeats the whole point. You need ANONYMOUS, but verifiable voting, if that's at all possible. Otherwise, you get into the whole issue of vote buying, intimidation, public shaming, etc.

  • Poll tax? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by plopez ( 54068 )

    Would this amount to a poll tax?

  • The causes of low voter turnout are many, and difficulty with the voting process itself is not one of them, except for one factor: waiting time in the big, popular elections. Waiting time is not a factor in most elections. I am an officer of election, and have worked the polls for nearly a decade.

    Despite all the hullabaloo, it is not, in fact, difficult to register to vote. It is not, in fact, difficult to show up at a polling station, check in, and cast your vote. There are scores of organizations that

  • The author doesn't understand the requirements for elections. It should not be possible to bribe or coerce anyone for their vote. Anonymity is therefore an absolute requirement.

    If votes were tied to identities you could have politicians bribing individuals for votes. Coercion could come in various forms, not just threat of violence, and it doesn't have to happen immediately. "I'm sorry you and your children are starving, Ms. Hudson. This is completely unrelated, but I see you voted against us during the las

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @12:53PM (#48794583)

    In addition to selling your credit card and social security numbers, they can now offer to sell your vote for 10 cents apiece. Just harvest the private keys and it's a race to see which botnet can sign with the stolen key first! Sell them on TOR or I2P, I'm pretty sure Koch and Soros will bid big money to literally buy the election -- you can auction them against each other.

    And if you say "we'll put the private key on a dedicated USB stick only for voting" then not only have you killed a lot of the convenience (for instance, you cannot do it from a phone but need a PC that can act as a USB host) but you've just moved the point of pwnage up a little bit to having to steal it right as you vote (or present a bogus voting interface!).

    Really what you need is a set of physically separate machines that people can go to and plug their USB drive into a known secure environment. You could even put them in convenient nearby locations like schools and churches ...

  • It should be very clear by now that at least one party doesn't want more people to vote in general, only more of the people likely to vote in that party's favor. The establishment only accepted electronic voting so that they can game the outcome. They'll never take the next step to allow it to be widely exercized.

  • Frankly, if someone can't be arsed to vote in person, via mail in ballot, or via early voting, I'm not sure they really care enough about the process to put any real thought into their vote at all.

  • One of the big things I see with respect to U.S. elections is that there are far too many thing crammed onto the ballot every two years. Simplify it! Every 4 years you get your presidential vote, along with senate and house, and the off 2 years you get senate and house. Put anything else on other days. Federal elections could have a standardized ballot across the entire country, no dimpled cards or hanging chads.

  • The premise of this article is flawed. The biggest problem with the current electorate is low voter turn out? No, the problem is uneducated voters voting. If anything we have too many idiots casting ballots on issues they've learned about through entertainment tonight or TMZ.
  • Low voter turnout is NOT in and of itself a problem. Only people who care enough to inform themselves and are concerned should vote.
    Low voter turnout means people who don't give a hoot and have no idea have not participated. This is a good thing. The real problem is: How to turn them into people who give a hoot and have informed ideas of the issues.
    Furthermore, whether they've informed themselves they way the way you do or are concerned about what you're concerned about is a feature of democracy, not a p

  • how is this in the same sentence as Bitcoin?
  • Republicans are fighting hard to decrease voter turnout. Low voter turn out is exactly what they want. They will never vote for something that increases voter turnout.

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Monday January 12, 2015 @01:18PM (#48794935)

    "one of the biggest problems in American democracy: low voter turnout." which is translated in the post to it is too hard to vote so people don't vote. However, this is a misconception. People don't vote because it has no purpose for them. They do not think that they are participating in a process which has any effect on politics. Therefore, the key problem is to ensure that every vote counts in a sense that it has effect on public policies.

    Furthermore, the key problem is not only to guarantee that every vote is counted as intended, but also to be able to verify this vote and vote counting by everyone. Every time where a computer is the only thing that counts, the count can be corrupted. To do the same with paper and crosses on papers is much harder and easier to figure out.

  • The proposal of voting with Bitcoins has a flaw of trying to solve a problem that has not been posited. People who do not vote often choose not to. Most people vote for peer pressure, or by a sense of civic duty, which washes away if one doesn't need to get out of one's basement and meet the neighborhood, family and friends, to cast a vote. Voting online has already been tried in Switzerland and it did cause the turnout to decrease(http://www.nytimes.com/... [nytimes.com]).
  • The key to increasing voter turnout is not about making it easier to vote.
    The key to increasing voter turnout is allowing someone to run that's worth voting for.

  • Make owning some property be a requirement to vote, the KKK would be proud

  • I'm American, so my opinion on this matter does count. We live in what is generally considered to be a free society. There is no legal requirement to vote. That's part of what being in a free society means. If you choose not to vote for any reason, good or bad, you have the right to do so. Frankly, a lot of governments that have no freedom at all require mandatory voting. Yes, I know that Australia does too. That is their problem, not ours. I vote regularly but I feel very strongly that anybody who

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