Digital ID Can Increase Voter Participation

2022 Ontario Election Results

 

If I said that I was disappointed with the 2022 Ontario election results, it would be an understatement. I’m not talking about the winning party – I’m talking about the turnout. It’s discouraging to see such low participation.

Elections Ontario reported that 4.6 million out of 10.7 million eligible voters had cast a ballot in Thursday’s election.

That’s around 43 percent of eligible voters. Certainly not healthy for democracy.

Comparitavely, the 2018 Ontario election results saw 57 percent voter turnout, the highest voter turnout in over a decade.

So, what happened? There could be many reasons, from people are just done with it all after Covid, voting locations problems to early predictions affecting turnout. But who knows

 

Voting Ease and Accessibility

I’m not an expert on the Ontario election process, and this is just my opinion. I’ve been lazy in past elections, and I’d be lying if I said I’ve voted in every one. As a citizen, I believe ease and accessibility have a lot to do with the 2022 Ontario election results. If I could have voted from home on my phone, I would have voted in every election. Not to mention, from my experience, the voting method is archaic. I’ve heard of these Dominion machines – I’ve never seen one, and I’ve been of legal voting age since 1998.

When I cast my ballot in the Ontario election on June 2nd, I made my choice via a sharpie on a piece of card stock paper and put it in a cardboard box, as I have done in every election. As soon as I did this, I thought about how my vote might not be accounted for correctly. Would that cardboard box make it to the counter system? Would my vote be counted accurately? What about human error? And how do I know that someone won’t add ballots for those who didn’t show up? Right now, I can’t see that my vote was counted accurately or even counted at all for the 2022 Ontario Election.

All I see are vulnerabilities.

What if you could securely vote from your phone at home? What if you had a choice to continue to vote in person or a new way – via trusted credentials that live in your digital wallet? Even if people are “done” with politics. If people could take 2 minutes and vote from their phones, I believe more would be inclined to vote, thus increasing the turnout. 

 

Future Possibilities

You Already Have a Digital Wallet, so let’s imagine a scenario where citizens could vote accurately AND know that hackers working for the opposition (or Russia!) aren’t taking over the election.

 

  • Let’s imagine that Bubba’s Wallet is the trusted digital wallet provider. We trust Bubba’s Wallet because it’s gone through the rigorous vetting processes to be said trusted provider.
  • The election authority could issue citizens (who opt-in) verifiable credentials stored in Bubba’s Wallet. That credential would be used when citizens vote – and the system would make sure they only vote once. Users would be able to load up a website, and their wallet would make sure it was actually the election authority (e.g. Elections Ontario for the Ontario provincial election).
  • The election authority could also create a voting app compatible with Bubba’s Wallet and other trusted wallet providers. It would be like logging on to a banking app or using Apple or Google pay via Biometrics.
  • To safeguard the system from fraud, the election authority would have to make it so that users cannot log on or access the app unless they have a verified voting credential. Because the verifiable credentials are stored and shared via Distributed Ledger Technology, and the credentials are not stored in a centralized manner by the Issuer (e.g. Elections Ontario), they are inaccessible to hackers.

We should have many trusted digital wallet providers for a healthy market. 

Increasing Voter Participation

If the four scenarios above were factual and in play today, citizens would be able to log into the Elections app on voting day, no matter where in the world, and vote for the candidate in their riding. Citizens could instantly see that their vote was accepted for the chosen candidate, assuring that they were counted accurately.

The technology is there for this to happen, but we need the government and general public to adopt the technology, and I know that’s a big order. We have a ways to go as the trust needs to be rebuilt among many parties.

Digital ID can increase voter participation and improve democracy.

Something to think about.

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