There’s a lot at stake coming up in this year’s general election.  From the presidential nominees to the local initiatives and state legislative measures, we expect to see stark change in how this country is run.  As exciting and frightening as it all is, I cannot help but point out an issue that is being kicked down the road: technological advancement.  

While I could never consider myself a tech expert, I believe it’s in our nation’s best interests to modernize how we legislate in Congress, vote on the ballot, and conduct court proceedings.  Personally, I am of the belief that if we can securely streamline the democratic processes of our country, we can make quick, minute changes to laws and initiatives with incoming new data.  

My first requirement for all these technological changes is to make it secure.  Without delving too deeply into the minutia of encryption and cryptography, I propose the adoption of blockchain and encrypted personalized email voting forms in the case of general voting, and adopting 256-bit encryption and remote secure connections in the case of legislation of Congressmembers and members of state legislatures.  

A blockchain can verify votes systematically without depending on a central source material.  Those who work on blockchain transactions understand that it is a brilliant form of decentralized authentication.  So, when people go to machines and vote, they can be sure that their votes are properly counted, verified, and secured. 

We can also make voting so much easier by using email.  All election divisions should be able to collect phone numbers and emails of the voting-age citizens in their district or county, generate random codes of 7 to 8 digits, and send those codes out to each eligible voter without much trouble.  Currently, I have more security surrounding my Gmail account than I do my personal mail-in ballot.  

Of course, mailing is also fairly secure, but what we want is to streamline this democratic process, so that people have to put minimal effort into the action of voting.  (Voter education is an entirely different issue and should be discussed at length in another article.). Let’s make voting more secure and more easy through the incorporation of at least one of these cybersecurity practices.  

The next technological streamlining that ought to take place is in making our representatives’ (Congressional and state-wide) jobs easier.  The US government should be able to facilitate its legislators in doing their job more efficiently.  Not to mention, there is a lot of work to be done within the various district communities across the nation.  Our legislators are the leaders of our nation, but they’re torn apart by their obligations to travel and their obligations in their home districts. 

Due to some odd laws requiring legislators to be in the physical location of their state capitols and the nation’s capital in order to cast their votes, our nation’s legislators are forced to spend more than half of their time away from their home districts.  While I can appreciate the value in deterring our elected officials from playing hooky from their public service, I see only problems in asking legislators to be running weekly to and from their respective districts.

Give our Representatives and Senators secure desktops from which they can virtually attend sessions of Congress and cast votes.  We live in the age of Zoom and Google Hangouts.  There must be some way to both preserve our democratic institutions and respond adequately to our nation’s needs.  For that reason, I restate my proposal to create a secure network by which our legislators can vote on measures while simultaneously being in their home districts and helping the nation’s communities.  

Very briefly, I’d like to point out that virtual court proceedings have successfully taken place throughout this quarantine, reflecting that digitizing our legal system does not delegitimize it.  I want us to continue along this path of converging technology with our democracy.  It only makes us better.

However, I would be careless to dismiss the potential pitfalls of running too quickly toward digitization.  Theoretically, an AI could be created to destabilize these systems that I’ve proposed.  Or more realistically, a profound hacker could do the same thing.  For this exact reason, we need to ensure security before creating these new systems.  

As exciting as it is to see the nation swell in political activism, we need to make it easier for our citizens to participate in our democracy.  We can do this by discussing the modernization of civic institution technology in budget meetings and submitting formal proposals to city, county, state, and national elected officials.  I look forward to the day when I can seamlessly go from Twitter to my voter app, submit my vote, and then vent about how the new generation doesn’t appreciate enough how easy it is to vote.

Jared Anderson