Follow My Vote is changing the game with respect to how voting is done in the United States. With the advent of blockchain technology, we now have the ability to bring voting securely online and make our elections verifiable. Our software will make voting more convenient and accessible to all, while rooting out corruption in elections, once and for all.
Our first demonstration of this innovative use of blockchain technology will be to host a mock election in parallel to the 2016 United States Presidential Election, which you will learn more about later in this Kickstarter campaign. First, let's take a closer look at the problems we are solving.
We all know that there are major vulnerabilities with the voting processes and systems used in our elections in the United States.
From the hanging chad recount debacle in Florida in 2000 to the disputed recounts that have taken place in various elections throughout the country, the problems we face have become blatantly obvious in recent years.
We've taken the liberty to highlight a couple of troubling examples that have recently been revealed to the American people.
Issues With Our Voting Processes
Did you know that, in Oregon, all voting is done by mail?
According to the University of Minnesota, 6-15% of mail is being delivered late, and the Postal Regulatory Commission admits that almost 2% of mail is lost by the USPS. These statistics are alarming and prove that voting by mail is an inherently flawed way to cast your ballot in an election.
What's even more troubling is that the last Governor’s race in Oregon was decided by less than 6% percentage points, which means the vulnerabilities that exist within our current voting processes may very well be unfairly impacting the outcome of elections.
Issues With Our Voting Systems
Now, let's take a look at Virginia, a state where the vulnerable WinVote voting machines were used in several past election cycles. On Election Day 2014, 49 Virginia localities reported voting equipment issues.
A few weeks later, the Governor of Virginia (Terry McAuliffe) called for an investigation of the security vulnerabilities of the WinVote voting machines. What the investigators found was deeply troubling. An article written by computer scientist Jeremy Epstein, states that "If an election was held using the WinVote, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. A hacker wouldn’t have needed to be in the polling place—he could have been within a few hundred feet (say, in the parking lot) or within a half-mile if he used a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know."
The lack of an audit trail, compounded with the fact that elections can be decided by extremely close margins (for instance, the last Senate Race in Virginia was decided by less than 1%), indicates that even a small amount of tampering could change the outcome of an election while remaining completely undetectable.
Needless to say, once this report was released, the Virginia State Board of Elections voted to immediately decertify the WinVote voting machine, preventing it from being used again in the state of Virginia.
When asked to comment on the issues that Virginians experienced with the WinVote voting machines during the 2014 Mid-Term Elections, Governor McAuliffe was quoted as saying, "We cannot expect Virginians to come to the polls on Election Day if we cannot ensure that their votes will be counted correctly and in a timely manner. The problems Virginia encountered on Election Day this year were unacceptable, which is why I have taken unprecedented steps to replace all legacy voting equipment in the Commonwealth with state-of-the art machines that have paper trails and will update our Department of Elections website."
We commend Governor McAuliffe for speaking out against the vulnerable voting systems technology being used in the United States. The good news is that our voting software offers a practical solution to these problems.
In recent years, we have entered a new paradigm of what is technologically possible. When our CEO, Adam Ernest, learned about the power of the blockchain and the fact that blockchain technology could be used to develop a secure and verifiable online voting system, we immediately pivoted our business and began designing the voting platform of the future.
The problems we face with our current voting processes and systems in the United States can be solved by adopting Follow My Vote's verifiable blockchain voting software.
Not only is our technology superior to these “state-of-the-art” voting machines, Follow My Vote’s technology can be developed at a fraction of the cost that our federal government spent on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which amounted to $3,500,000,000.
NOTE: For all of the technology experts out there who simply want to know about our technology and how it works, please feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this page to learn more.
OUR CORE TEAM
The core team at Follow My Vote is fully committed to bringing this much needed solution to the American people. We are sacrificing everything we have to ensure this project's success and we will stop at nothing see this project through to completion.
Adam Kaleb Ernest - Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Adam is a graduate of Virginia Tech and a die-hard Hokie fan. In 2004, he received his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Marketing Management. Shortly thereafter, he made a name for himself in the internet marketing industry by working with an handful of other people to build a digital marketing agency from the ground up. In January of 2014, Adam left a lucrative career to return to his Alma Mater in Blacksburg, VA, so that he could focus on Follow My Vote.
Will Long - Marketing Manager
Will joined Follow My Vote as an intern during the spring semester of his senior year. In May of 2014, Will graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Marketing Management. Will has proven to be invaluable to our team by consistently generating innovative marketing ideas.
Nathan Hourt - Co-Founder & Chief Technical Officer
Nathan has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Computer Science from Harding University and a Master’s of Science Degree in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He has contributed to research projects in data compression, randomized algorithms, and software obfuscation and reverse engineering. Nathan is one of two chief architects that designed and developed the Graphene Blockchain Framework, which is the foundation upon which Muse, BitShares, and Steem built their blockchains.
FACING THESE PROBLEMS HEAD ON
In September of 2015, Follow My Vote Co-Founders, Adam Kaleb Ernest and Nathan Hourt, took a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a panel put on by the Brennan Center For Justice entitled “America’s Voting Technology Crisis: Preparing for 2016 and Beyond.”
In short, this panel highlighted the fact that the money set aside as a result of the HAVA Act of 2002 is gone, all $3.5 BILLION. Over the years, our government has spent this money on purchasing “state-of-the-art” voting machines, which are built to last only 10-12 years. Given that these machines are reaching the end of their lifespan, it was clear that members of the panel were advocating for more money to be set aside to purchase more “state-of-the-art” voting machines, just as Governor Terry McAuliffe did with his 28 million dollar budget proposal.
Replacing current voting machines, which cost around $6,000 each, with more “state-of-the-art” voting machines is not the answer to solving this crisis. Using this approach, the Brennan Center For Justice will find themselves hosting another panel in 10-12 years from now entitled: "America’s Voting Technology Crisis: Preparing for 2028 and Beyond."
We now have options. By utilizing, Follow My Vote's inexpensive verifiable blockchain voting software, our mobile devices will become our new voting machines. The average American replaces their smartphone once every two years, which means that we will naturally have up-to-date mobile voting devices without the government having to purchase them for us.
Our team has been talking to people like you from all over the country. Regardless of whether you are a member of The Greatest Generation, a Baby Boomer, part of Generation X, or consider yourself to be a Millennial, an overwhelming majority of people that we have spoken to about our secure online voting technology typically respond with one word: “Finally!” Despite what others might tell you, most people want to vote securely online from their own device. Follow My Vote’s software allows voters to do exactly that.
According to The United States Vote Foundation, secure end-to-end verifiable online voting is the future of voting. However, there is a common misconception among the people that developing a secure online voting system is a technical challenge that cannot be solved.
For instance, during the Q&A portion of the above panel discussion (see video starting at timestamp 1:02:00), we informed the panelists that we had figured out how to build a secure online voting system, and they refused to believe it. In fact, they told us that we would have to prove that we can build a secure online voting system, in order to bring voting into the modern age.
With this feedback in mind, we have committed to developing the world’s first open-source end-to-end verifiable blockchain voting system that supports secure online voting. And, to demonstrate our technological know-how to the world, we are using this software to host a mock election in parallel to the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
FOLLOW MY VOTE'S PARALLEL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION EXPERIENCE
Follow My Vote is hosting an election in parallel to the 2016 United States Presidential Election, using our secure online voting software.
We will still be encouraging all registered voters to take time out of their day to travel to your usual polling location on election day, wait in line, and cast your vote in the official way on Election Day.
However, for those that want to help us prove our technology works while getting a sneak preview of what voting will be like in the future, we are also encouraging people to take a few minutes out of their day to vote for president using our secure blockchain voting software.
Our software will work on internet connected desktop computers, laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets. If you have one of these devices and would like to participate in our parallel election, signup here: https://followmyvote.com/parallel-presidential-election-2016/.
GOALS FOR OUR PARALLEL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
1) Prove We Can Build A Secure Online Voting System
Because we are so confident in the security model behind our verifiable blockchain-based voting software's design, we will be inviting highly skilled hackers from all over the world to try and hack our system by stealing or changing votes during our parallel election.
If we can prove that we are capable of building an online voting system that cannot be hacked, we will haven proven our doubters wrong.
2) Prove That People Want To Vote Online
We’d like to establish a baseline with respect to how many people in the United States would prefer to vote securely online using our software versus voting at a centralized polling location.
If we can get more people in any single geographic area to vote in our parallel election versus the official election, we will have undoubtedly proven demand for our secure online voting software.
3) Showcase End-To-End Verifiability
Elections today happen in a black-box. Once you cast your vote in an election, there is no way to tell whether or not your vote was counted correctly. We are currently forced to put blind faith in the system that our elections our being conducted in an honest fashion.
With Follow My Vote’s voting software, once you vote, you can follow your vote into the ballot box to ensure that your ballot was safely and securely stored just as you cast it. You can even audit the entire ballot box yourself to ensure that the election results being reported are truly accurate. Using our innovative anonymous ballot issuance process, all this can be accomplished without compromising the voter's privacy.
4) Introduce People To New Methods Of Voting
Many people in America are frustrated with how political parties conduct their primaries, especially with respect to how things have gone during the 2016 election season.
Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two non-establishment candidates from opposite sides of the political aisle, have recently expressed concerns about the process. Donald Trump, the presumed GOP nominee, was even quoted in The Guardian saying "it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system, it’s 100% crooked.”
Also, in a rare interview with famous Hollywood actor Ed Asner, our friends and partners at The Free and Equal Elections Foundation make a political call to arms, suggesting that we’d secure better representation from our elected officials if we were to do away with primaries altogether and move toward approval voting here in America. Instead of being forced to vote for one candidate and only one candidate, approval voting allows voters to cast their vote for one or more candidates on the ballot. From their, the candidate with the most support among the people overall wins the election.
In Follow My Vote’s Parallel Presidential Election, we will be including all candidates that publicly announced their desire to run for office on the ballot and allow voters to vote for more than one candidate.
5) Develop A Voting Software Usability Case Study
Earlier this year, during President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address, he stated that, "We've got to make it easier to vote, not harder. We need to modernize it for the way we live now."
During Follow My Vote’s Parallel Presidential Election Experience, we will be opening the polls several days ahead of Election Day and allow voters to vote early and even change their vote in the days leading up to Election Day.
We believe that we will be making voting easier and modernizing it for the way that we live now. However, we will be working with one or more research groups that will be conducting a usability study to determine whether or not this is actually the case.
WHAT WE WILL DO WITH THE FUNDS WE RAISE
Our CEO, Adam Kaleb Ernest, invested his life savings into Follow My Vote in order to get the business off the ground. When that wasn't enough, he cashed out his 401K to extend Follow My Vote's lifespan.
At this point, we have early stage investors and venture capitalists knocking on our door to try and get a piece of the action. However, being that we are striving to build a company of the people, by the people, and for the people, we'd prefer our funding come directly from the people themselves, as opposed to private investment.
Our goal is to raise at least $21,000 with this Kickstarter campaign.
Upon reaching our Kickstarter goal, the $21,000 we raise will be used to hire additional backend development support to ensure our voting software is completed in time to put on our planned parallel presidential election demonstration.
From there, if we exceed $21,000, we plan to spend the remaining the funds we raise to further improve upon the design of the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) within our voting software. We are currently, projecting these costs to be around $100,000.
Once we are up and running, we are projecting our parallel election hosting costs to be around $3 per person. And, we’ve set a goal to be able to support at least 100,000 voters in our parallel election.
Based on the figures above, reaching $400,000 in Kickstarter contributions would allow us to achieve our goals of completing our software in time to host our parallel presidential election and supporting up to 100,000 voters.
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MORE ABOUT FOLLOW MY VOTE
Follow My Vote is a nonpartisan public benefit corporation located in Blacksburg, VA, at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.
What is a benefit corporation?
A benefit corporation is a new legal tool to create a solid foundation for long-term mission alignment and value creation.
Why did Follow My Vote become a benefit corporation?
In an effort to lead by example at the highest of levels, the executive team at Follow My Vote decided to officially incorporate in state of Virginia, as a benefit corporation. We are making it clear to the rest of the world that we are a different kind of company, one that takes more into account than just the bottom line when making business decisions.
What is Follow My Vote's mission?
Follow My Vote’s mission is to promote truth and freedom by empowering individuals to communicate effectively and implement non-coercive solutions to societal problems.
How does Follow My Vote plan to fulfill its mission?
As a first step towards fulfilling our mission, Follow My Vote is taking on the challenge of improving the integrity standards of voting systems used in elections worldwide.
MORE ABOUT OUR TECHNOLOGY
In truth, voting machines are built using vulnerable technology that is critically flawed and easily exploitable.
Regardless of whether or not you believe there are vulnerabilities with voting machines, the question remains... if there was another system that had the potential to eliminate risk of corruption in elections, would you support it?
Follow My Vote's Voting software can be trusted, as all the software we develop is completely 100% open source.
As a member of the Open Source Initiative by way of our relationship with the California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO), Follow My Vote is also advocating for all election systems software to be developed as open source software, so that anyone can audit the software’s code to ensure it can be trusted. To this end, Follow My Vote's software is developed under the GPLv3 open source software license.
Secure & Verifiable Online Voting Software
When we sat down to design the world's first honest voting system, we threw out all preconceived notions about how voting is done today and imagined how it should be down tomorrow.
It was immediately clear to us that, if an election needed to be verified from end-to-end to ensure legitimacy, there was no choice but to incorporate blockchain technology into our voting system's design and bring it online.
We also realized that, in order for our software to truly be end-to-end verifiable, our system must include ID Verification as a step in the process, prior to issuing voters their ballots in an anonymous way.
When designing these steps in our process, we had to be extremely careful to ensure that, once a voter casts their vote, there is no way that anyone else can tell how they voted. In the infographic below, we've illustrated exactly how this happens within our voting software:
By leveraging blockchain technology in combination with elliptic curve cryptography, we have broken open the ballot box to allow everyone to count the votes to ensure the legitimacy of the election, all without compromising privacy or security.
Debunking The Myth
Online voting has been tried before and failed due to the technological approach that was used. This only proves that online voting can be done wrong. Follow My Vote is here to prove that online voting can be done right, conducted safely and securely, when using blockchain technology.
Satoshi Nakamoto first developed blockchain technology in 2009, as the underlying technology behind Bitcoin, which already secures billions of dollars worth of value for people all over the world.
Blockchain technology is decentralized database storage that holds a ledger of transactions that are viewable by the public. All transactions that occur on a standard blockchain are verified and cryptographically signed to ensure privacy and security.
As illustrated above, a traditional processing network has one point of centralization, which is the point a hacker would attack to corrupt a system. In a decentralized system, there is no single point of weakness. This creates a system that is extremely low risk of being compromised.
To date, the Bitcoin blockchain has never been hacked. As a result of Bitcoin's success, blockchain technology has also achieved recognition worldwide as one of the most secure database management technologies that exists today.
By incorporating blockchain technology into our voting software's design, we are able to securely store ballots in a decentralized database while simultaneously providing transparency into the ballot box.
Our application of blockchain technology is considered so novel that we were recently featured in The Huffington Post claiming that we were perhaps the "most interesting" thing happening in the blockchain technology space.
How Blockchain Technology Works
To learn more about how blockchain technology works, check out the video below featuring Follow My Vote's CTO, Nathan Hourt:
Risks and challenges
1) What if our system gets hacked?
We are so confident in the adversarial model behind our verifiable blockchain-based voting software's design, we will be inviting highly skilled hackers from all over the world to try and hack our system. Although the blockchain itself has never been hacked, the way in which developers integrate their software with the blockchain can be tricky. Should our system get hacked, that vulnerability will be exposed. If and when this does happen, we'll go back to the drawing board and figure out how to fix it.
We are prepared to go back and forth, building, testing, and learning, which is often referred to in the startup community as the "Lean Startup Approach," in order to reach a point we've identified and addressed all of the vulnerabilities hackers are capable of identifying. This is all part of the process of developing great software that people love to use.
2) What if the User Interface (UI) and/or the User Experience (UX) is horrible and people don't like it?
We are consulting with many of the world's renowned experts on UI/UX design to ensure this doesn't happen. Should people dislike our system's design, will take the learnings from our demo and refine the design, features, and functionality to better improve the UI/UX for all.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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