A Digital Democracy Hackathon with Australia’s Mivote

Our core theme of documenting ‘World Class Digital Government’ means both highlighting world class innovations at a local Scottish level, and of course sharing best practices from around the world.

This sharing will be achieved through online articles and also face to face meet ups and workshops, the first being a perfect example of this international dimension, as our guests are flying in from Australia.

Mivote

Joining us for the weekend of 2-5th Feb will be Adam Jacoby and Charlie Caruso of Mivote, an Australian startup pioneering a new form of Blockchain-enabled Digital Democracy.

Read more in this intro blog.


Agenda

The agenda for this weekend is to begin a nationwide exercise in co-designing a new Digital Democracy for Scotland.

Scotland’s Democratic Future: Exploring Electronic Voting

At a headline level our goal is a nationwide collaboration, that interfaces with and builds on the existing work and programs of others, such as the recent Edinburgh University event Scotland’s Democratic Future: Exploring Electronic Voting.

Blockchain and Digital Voting Security

A centrepiece foundation will be public trust in a new digital voting system, a considerable task given the significant resistance to the concept as a general principle.

Notable case studies like E-Estonia have been somewhat vilified for pioneering e-voting – ‘Experts’ have called it unsafe in the press and even through dedicated research web sites, and with Estonia recently experiencing a cryptography security issue it’s a topic easily whipped into a frenzy. There is a general public sentiment of ‘better the devil you know’, and that online voting is fallible to wholesale fraud (ie large scale vote changes), versus traditional paper ballets, and so these issues easily connect with voter concerns.

So, what can be done to move forward on both the best core designs and also public perception engagement?

Electoral Reform

A major work item will be to collaborate on a response to the Scottish Government’s current Consultation on Electoral Reform, which describes:

“The Scottish Government is committed to increasing participation in elections both in terms of voter turnout and encouraging citizens to stand for election. Democratic participation challenges the inequalities of power and influence that exist in society. 

We need an electoral system that supports and empowers the engagement of the Scottish people in their own elections. Many organisations, including the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Management Board, political parties and local authorities have import ant roles to play in realising this aim of full engagement. The Scottish Government and Parliament have a specific role to play to ensure that electoral law supports increased participation and removes barriers to voter empowerment.”

The Consultation asks for inputs on a number of issues that in essence undertakes a process of wholesale democratic review – For example the scope includes asking if the Returning Officers should fall under the remit of Local Government, becoming part of the CEO’s job description. It also expands into areas of boundary jurisdictions, voter eligibility and so forth – In short a blueprint for ‘how the whole thing works’.

It also includes a specific technology section, covering points such as:

  • Voting Machines: Would you be happy to use an electronic voting machine in a polling place instead of a traditional ballot paper?
  • Would you like voting to be possible on more than one day?
  • Would you like to be able to vote at any polling place in Scotland?
  • If internet or mobile phone voting was available, would you choose to use that rather than vote at a polling place or by post?
  • If internet or mobile phone voting was available, would you be more likely to vote?

Thus for the purposes of our agenda, we can ask in what way can new technology platforms like Mivote, address these immediate capabilities, and within what overall context of democratic reform, as defined by the question areas of the Consultation?

Balbirnie House

The weekend workshop will be held at Balbirnie House. Register here on Meetup.

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