There is a lot going on in the world of technology. I look forward to sharing new stories on things I learn about in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, scientific discovery, medical research, healthcare, and much more. However, it is still November, and I cannot resist making some further commentary about the American election system. I’ll then take a breather on that topic for awhile.
Our election system is badly broken. I am a registered voter in Florida and embarrassed how, once again, the state has become a global laughing stock for not being able to count votes. It is actually worse than that. Thousands did not vote for a senator because the ballot design was so confusing, putting the senator selection in lower left of ballot below the ballot instructions. Regardless of the outcomes, the final count will not be totally representative of the voice of the people. The military overseas has learned over the years to not bother voting because they have no confidence their ballots would get to the polls on time and if they do may not be counted. To add insult to injury, the law is requiring some elections to ignore the machine counts and do it over again — by hand.
The news media loves to make “the call” on winners and losers as early as possible, sometimes hours before the polls have closed. Wouldn’t it be better if we could just wait until the polls closed in all time zones and then, a few minutes later, make all the results available. Is this possible? If we can put a robot on Mars, we can surely count votes nearly instantly, securely, verifiably, and accurately. Need a recount, although it would be unlikely, no problem, it could be done in a few minutes also. All of this, of course, would presume we have a modern, highly secure Internet-based voting system. As Vint Cerf, often referred to as the “Father of the Internet” said on the back cover of Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy, “We can do this.” I would add all we need is the political and technological will.
There is one bright spot on the election scene. West Virginia made the bold move to enable overseas military and ex-pat citizens to vote using mobile devices with finger or face recognition, blockchain technology, and the Internet. The initial trial was in the May primary election for a handful of overseas voters. The proof of concept came out with thumbs up. In the November general election, an expanded trial enabled 144 overseas voters to cast their vote over the Internet from wherever they might be. Secure, private, and verifiable votes came in from 29 countries. Two voters had a problem with the app. This is nothing compared to the thousands who could not get to the polls, did not understand the paper ballot, or signed an early or absentee ballot envelope with a signature which did not exactly match the DMV database. Some people do not like to craft a perfect signature on the outside of a ballot envelope for fear someone could copy it and sign credit card charges or other identity theft acts. This is not voter fraud. It is grappling with a 150-year-old system.
My friend, Bob Fornshell, shared a great video called the Pale Blue Dot with me this week. Watch it below. The short video is narrated by the late Carl Sagan, American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science popularizer. The video starts in outer space at a distance of nearly four billion miles away on Feb. 14,1990. At the time, Voyager 1, had just completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System. At the request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the spacecraft to turn its camera around and take one last look at Earth across the great expanse of space. The narration you will hear was written by Sagan 27 years ago. Bob’s friend said, “The words are still, and even more, relevant today. If only all on this earth could hear them.” I hope you enjoy the video. YouTube put an advertisement on the front end. You can skip it after a few seconds.