Libertarian Convention
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The Libertarian Party of Texas will today log the results of a wide range of ballot initiatives on three separate blockchains, the most recent in a line of projects integrating the technology into the voting process.

Results of everything from ballot initiatives proposed on the spot to the selection of the state’s US presidential electors will be logged on the blockchains in what a party leader says is a step toward politicians being held accountable to voters in a new way.

John Wilford, treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Texas, told CoinDesk:

"The idea is that after the balloting is collected, the records will be uploaded to the blockchain for future generations and accountability."

At the two-day event, which kicks off today in San Antonio, Texas, votes by 250 delegates and 100 alternatives on all of the state’s nominations will be logged on a private blockchain created by Libertarian Party partner Blockchain Technologies Corporation (BTC), as well as the Florincoin blockchain. The final tally will also be logged in the bitcoin blockchain.

"Every ballot is going to be logged in Florincoin," said Nick Spanos, founder of BTC. "We also hash all that out and put it on the bitcoin blockchain. But on the Florincoin, you can read every single ballot."

Spanos said he was attracted to Florincoin for the project because of its metadata limit of 528 bytes, compared to bitcoin’s 80 bytes. The extra space makes it perfect for storing ballot information, he said.

Joseph Fiscella, who joined Florincoin after its June 2013 debut, told CoinDesk:

"Florincoin was purposely created for data storage so developers will always support the data, while other blockchains were made for value exchanges."

On the convention floor

To make the idea of using a blockchain less daunting to the convention attendees, paper ballots will be used to actually mark the votes. Each ballot will then be digitally uploaded using two scanners with a third back-up using BTC’s patent-pending technology.

Published in January of this year, the patent application for the voting machine describes how the device uses private keys to digitally sign voting data and broadcast the results along with a public key to the distributed network. The signed voting data is then stored with its public key on a blockchain database managed by the voting machines.

Decided at the three-day conference will be Texas’s Libertarian officers including chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, and treasurer. Delegates to the national convention, and presidential electors who will help determine the national party’s presidential nominee, will also be voted on.

The national candidate will be formally selected at the Libertarian party national convention in Orlando, Florida, which runs from 27th May to 30th May.

Concern over voter fraud

While the Libertarian party’s ballots are still on paper, BTC’s Spanos, who is also the co-founder of the Bitcoin Center in New York City, said an indelible method for logging the votes on a blockchain has the potential to change voter perceptions about the frequency of voter fraud.

"In an election everybody has to feel confident. Especially the losing candidates," said Spanos. "This is a way to make sure that happens."

While the actual frequency of voter fraud is still a hotly contested issue, the perception of voter fraud is very real. In 2012, Loyola law professor Justin Levitt, who is currently on leave to work at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, estimated that over the previous twelve years, the fraud rate was 0.000002%.

That percentage came from nine instances of specific allegations of voter fraud during a time when approximately 400 million people voted. But according to a 2014 study by Marquette University, 39 percent of voters from a Wisconsin state-wide poll believed that voter fraud affected “a few thousand votes" each election.

Putting on the pressure

To help battle that perception, a batch of blockchain applications to voter technology have cropped up around the world. California-based BitCongress uses blockchain tech for voting, legislating and budgeting. In Virginia, Follow My Vote takes BTC’s process a step further by integrating what it describes as cryptographically secure ID verification to a online voting process.

Overseas, Danish political party, Liberal Alliance, and Australia’s newly formed Flux Party have both already expressed interest in using blockchain-based voting systems.

Back in Texas, the first day of the three-day convention is scheduled to end this evening with a sold-out Presidential Debate between five invited candidates: New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, anesthesiologist, Marc Feldman, McAfee Security founder John McAfee, Libertarian academic Austin Petersen, and pastor Shawna Sterling.

In true free-market fashion the party invited its US Presidential candidate speakers based on a straw-poll that literally let people vote with their dollars. Johnson won the straw-poll with $2,276.07 worth of votes cast compared to Sterling, who won the final position with $703.49 worth of votes.

While Spanos and his team will be studying the process of logging votes on the three blockchains to keep an eye out for ways to increase user trust in the technology, the treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Texas said he is watching for something else.

In conversation with CoinDesk, Wilford said he hopes the demonstration inspires attendees to put pressure on party leaders at the national level to take similar steps.

Wilford said:

"We’re supportive of any free market technology of which bitcoin definitely counts. It’s the next step of a long process."

Libertarian Party of Texas Convention 2012 image via LP Texas.

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