Electoral Reform (Part 2) – SecureElect, and Voting by App

(The following article contains potentially patented, patent pending, trademarked or copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Allen Rowe, or the Rowe Foundation. All rights reserved. Don’t take my stuff.)

If you don’t already know why we need election security and electoral reform, feel free to check out Part One of this article. If you already know about voter suppression and open cheating, and agree we need the most convenient, informative secure election system on Planet Earth…read on. We’ve got an App for that. It’s called SecureElect.


Section 1 — Voting by App
Section 2 — What is SecureElect?
Section 3 — Accessing the App
Section 4 — App Functions
Section 5 — After the Vote


Section 1 — Voting by App

Preferring as I usually do technological solutions to legislative ones, the idea of securing our election system with an app shouldn’t be that surprising. Especially since it builds on practices already in use other places. Voting by phone is a default practice in Australia, the UK and many places where voting is mandatory. I’m not in favor of mandatory voting, but I’m very okay with every American carrying a voting booth in their pocket.

Except, this isn’t 1989, and nobody wants to talk on the phone. Do people even do that anymore? And easy enough to handle phone voting in Australia, where there are more spiders in the average didgeridoo than people in the country. Here in 21st century America, we have this thing called “the internet.” It’s connected to every home, every phone, every school and public library. It’s even right-side up.

And we already use the internet (mostly by phone now) to access all kinds of secure functions. Banking, most government functions and whatever disposable “dating” apps we’re using to cheat on our spouses this week. We already conduct 99% of our personal business through phone apps; and security measures are already in place through the government to do so. So, why aren’t we using them? If you can file your taxes, apply for social security, transfer payments to Switzerland and pay your credit card bills through secure phone apps…why not vote?

Of course, we already know exactly why. Because then voter suppression tactics wouldn’t work as well. And it would be much harder to rig voting machines that don’t exist. Or cast fake votes when everyone’s verified. And extremely hard to hack the results when they’re stored redundantly in multiple locations. Expect every corrupt politician in America to hate SecureElect. And everyone else to love it.

Section 2 — What is SecureElect?

The first thing to understand about this system is that it is a system. Not just an app. Any idiot could build the software; this ain’t exactly Fortnight. The hard part of making SecureElect work is coming up with protocols to make it both completely secure, and totally anonymous. To verify identity beyond a shadow of a doubt, and make sure every vote gets counted, while isolating the two from each other.

Not an easy task in the digital world. And even if it were easy, people wouldn’t trust it because the Internet Never Forgets. And there is some truth to concern. No matter how well we engineer any system, there’s always a possibility someone could figure out a way to at least backtrack your identity. It’s possible. It’s also possible that the CIA has hidden nano-cameras in every voting machine on Earth, and they know everything except your mother’s blood type. Which they also know.

Yes, it’s possible to hack almost any system where secure identity is involved. The idea is to segregate one person from the next, one bit of data from the next, and install redundant firewalls and redundant storage all along the line so that even if someone manages to hack a single identity, or erase a single vote…they won’t be able to keep doing it. Make the process so difficult to accomplish once, that no one would ever succeed in doing it in meaningful numbers. That’s the best we can hope for in any voting system.

The basic approach here involves using multiple encrypted firewalls and passcodes between identity and vote, and redundant storage for those votes afterward. Multiple records stored multiple ways through multiple locations means every vote gets counted. Yes, of course…a thief who’s smart and determined enough always find a way to rob the casino. But I doubt even the best vote rigger could make it to Ocean’s 2.4 Million without getting caught.

Otherwise, the intent here is to make SecureElect’s system both completely secure, and completely transparent. Democracy, like the dollar, works by faith alone; if we’re going to save it, we need to have faith in the process. It isn’t enough for the system to just work. The public must know how it works, in order to restore faith in our democratic system.

To that end…here’s how it works. More or less.

Section 3 — Accessing the App

The first step in secure elections is making sure everyone is who they say they are. This is something everyone agrees on, whether you believe Nancy Pelosi secretly imported 3 million illegals to vote in Alabama…or that Rick Scott rigged our Chinese voting machines to cut out 20,000 votes in Dade County to get himself into Senate. Which he did. Allegedly.

In any case, everyone agrees we need more secure voting; every vote counts, and to every citizen a vote. That’s how it should be. The Right’s answer to this is Voter ID laws; which seem like a good idea, but ultimately end up yet another method of voter suppression. The Left prefers…actually, I don’t know. Because it seems to be nothing. But we need something.

It seems to me that we already have a fairly stellar personal identification system in place through .Gov sites and the social security administration. So, that would be the logical place to start. And the easiest. It would take very little for the SS admin to add a tab to allow us to vote online through their website. Ideally, this would provide security coming and going; both at log-in, and at count since each vote would be registered to a single person.

That would be the simple solution. But not the most secure. Americans are funny when it comes to keeping ballots secret. So, I would imagine many might have a problem with their votes going on record in the system.

Of course, those people can always go out and cast paper ballots, which would also be fine. I’d consider adding a second functionality to the system that would generate a printable QR code for voting once identity has been established. That would serve as your ID at the polls. But those who don’t want to go to the brick-and-mortar polls, who still want to be certain of anonymity, it would be best to run the app through a double-redundant code and identity verification system. Here’s how I would imagine the sign-in system working.

  1. Log into the App using your name and password.
  2. Redirect to .Gov website, such as the social security administration.
  3. Log into .gov site with relevant information
  4. Go to “Get Vote Code”
  5. Website generates encrypted, rolling code set to time out and delete after three minutes
  6. Enter code into app
  7. App accesses third party storage server (remember this), requiring different ID information (perhaps thumbprint ID), and providing second time code.
  8. Enter second code back into app to access voting functions.

It’s just a proposed protocol, and far from perfect. But I believe a process along these lines would provide redundant levels of both identification and isolation from that identification after the vote’s been tallied. Is there any way to be absolutely sure identity remains protected and isolated from the vote? No. But there’s no way to know that’s true for voting machines or booths, either. How do you know for sure the CIA isn’t watching with thermal cameras through the ceiling panels? You don’t. Nothing is certain, ever.

The important thing is that we have a fully transparent process that’s such a pain in the ass to hack, 300 million times over, years later, that it would become a practical impossibility to even try. And if you don’t trust this system, feel free to head on down to the polls at your local Baptist church in November. I’m sure they’ll be empty.

Section 4 — App Functions

The cool thing about SecureElect is that it’s not just a voting app. It’s a one-stop shop for all your candidate selection needs. Informed voting has never been so informed. Here are some of the functions I’d include:

  • A side-by-side analysis of each candidate in every race
  • Simplified “bar-stat” visual rankings on key issues, and links to expanded information.
  • Rankings for bills passed, promises kept and lies told
  • DONOR INFORMATION — Probably the most important of all statistics. Using information linked and provided through OpenSecrets, voters will have a clear view on who owns which politicians, and by how much. Breakdowns by individual amount, industries and specific donors.
  • Policy Change Index — A view on how often a politician “adjusts” their positions to favor donors and donor industries. Want to know how bought they are? The PCI will tell you.

From here, it’s simply a matter of choosing the best candidate who isn’t me for any particular race. Because I’m clearly the best in all of them, but it would be a little self-serving to say so.

Spoiler alert for that picture, by the way.

Section 5 — After the Vote

Once you cast your vote, it’s important to know that it isn’t going to end up feeding South Florida’s reptile population. To that end, we have a similarly quintuple-redundant system for vote recording.

  • Encrypted vote records (timestamped for rolling key retrieval) are sent to independent servers locally, at the state and Federal levels. All of these must match up within the relevant margin of error. If not, it goes to a Stage 1 Hard recount.
  • Stage 1 Recount — Remember that third-party server? When you qualify your identification through that server, your previous encrypted code is assigned a serialized PROM chip that record your vote. Since PROM chips cannot be rewritten, your vote is forever etched in silicon for later retrieval. This system is better than paper ballots, because all PROMs will be serialized, fully accounted for and forever mounted on retrieval trays in epoxy resin. Which is much harder for alligators to digest.
  • Stage 2 Recount — If for some reason hard retrieval of PROM storage isn’t within the margin of error, or varies greatly from two of the three government servers, we move onto a Stage 2 recount. In this, you are asked to resend a coded email back to those same three servers. This password-protected PDF will have been sent to you through the app upon voting, and will serve as your personal voting record. This code comes in the form of another timestamped rolling code. But you can opt in for a visual readout of your votes.
  • Re-Vote — If all else fails, and results still aren’t certain within the margin or error, we go back to the old-fashioned second vote. If that fails to produce results…I don’t know. Duel to the death?


Of course, much could stand to be improved upon here, or altered in some way as to make it easier, more secure or more accessible. I recently had someone ask what I’d do in the case of someone who had no electricity, transportation, internet access or phone. I don’t know, man. I haven’t Armageddon-proofed the thing yet. We’re not even in Beta. Give it a minute.

So, yes. Much remains to be done. It might be fun to include some sort of livestream feed of your individual PROM chip being loaded from the Write to the Read tray via robot arm, and clear-epoxied to the tune of All Star by Smashmouth. We could do a lot of things from here forward to add some transparency and trust to the voting process.

At the end of the day, the goal is to make every vote count, and make every vote counted. To destroy election fraud without further voter suppression tactics, and ensure everyone in America knows that their voice matters. That they can express it at will, making this nation as great as the will of its people.

And we can all agree on that.

Well, most of us can.

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