Presidential Andrew Yang established himself as the blockchain Democrat back in April, when he added a call for clear regulation of cryptocurrencies to his policy proposals months before Facebook’s Libra stablecoin proposal made it a hot topic. Now he wants to bring voting onto the blockchain.
In a policy proposal added to his campaign website on August 22, Yang called for transitioning the U.S. voting infrastructure to a mobile, blockchain-based system, both for security and to increase turnout.
“It’s ridiculous that in 2020 we are still standing in line for hours to vote in antiquated voting booths,” the website quoted him as saying. “It is 100% technically possible to have fraud-proof voting on our mobile phones today using the blockchain. This would revolutionize true democracy and increase participation to include all Americans—those without smartphones could use the legacy system and lines would be very short.”
Yang also noted that the current Internet-based voting machines are very prone to tampering and hacking.
That vulnerability comes with a cost beyond fueling the growing concerns about Russian election tampering. It could cost the state of Georgia nearly as quarter billion dollars this election cycle. On August 15, CBS News reported that a federal judge found that the state’s current touchscreen machines, which have no paper trail, are so unreliable that if a new system isn’t in place as scheduled by the state’s March 24, 2020 presidential primary, the election will be held using paper ballots.
The cost of putting a paper backup system in place could be as high as $224 million, according to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The state is already spending $106 million on a new touchscreen system with a paper backup.
Blockchain based voting has been tried on a small scale in several U.S. elections. The most notable were West Virginia’s 2018 state elections and Denver’s use this year of the Voatz platform created by Overstock.com to allow military personnel stationed overseas to vote in municipal elections. It has also been tested in Russia.
In his April policy announcement, Yang said that the federal government’s failure to establish a clear legal framework for cryptocurrencies and digital assets threatens America’s lead in blockchain development.
This failure to act also leaves digital asset developers vulnerable to a patchwork of state regulations. He singled out New York’s BitLicense as so “onerous” it has had a “chilling effect” on the U.S. digital asset market.
Speaking at the Consensus conference in New York on May 15, Yang said “blockchain needs to be a big part of our future,” according to Bloomberg. “If I’m in the White House, oh boy are we going to have some fun in terms of the crypto currency community.”