Democracy.earth: improving democracy with Blockchain

Published : 17 January 2019

Voting is essential for a well-functioning democracy. And due to corruption or imperfect voting methods, the results may not always be trusted. Depending where you live, you may even take this fundamental right for granted. And as with many other areas, Blockchain technology can improve voting as well.Democracy.earth logo

Blockchain removes intermediaries, which are basically points of failure. And in the context of voting, corruptible points of failure. We will focus here on the free open-source voting platform Sovereign – a solution by Democracy.earth, a non-profit.

Piloting the Sovereign platform
Democracy.earth has already shown how specifically Blockchain can aid in improving voting. In 2016, after a surprising “no” referendum result regarding a peace accord between the Colombian government and the marxist narco-guerillas, the organisation piloted their Sovereign platform. Instead of a binary yes/no option, it was possible to vote on several of the sub-themes of the proposed treaty. Moreover, one could delegate their vote to someone they trust. Roughly 6 million expatriate citizens participated, and as this symbolic vote showed, all except one of the points was accepted by the public. Therefore, if this one condition wasn’t a part of the treaty, the referendum may have have ended in a strong “yes”.

Democracy.earth’s pilot digital plebiscite, with a highlighted official referendum question.

Sovereign platform
Democracy.earth aims to make existing voting models obsolete. And instead, create an alternative platform that anybody can join. It is free to use, and you can get early access via their main page.

The Sovereign platform resembles to some extent traditional social media. You can post content (usually in the form of a question people can vote for), comment, and interact with other posts. You can engage with posts and comments with upvotes or downvotes, which correspond to giving the commenter a vote, or taking it away (when you downvote you either take your vote back, or a vote is taken away and moved to organisation’s pool).

As can be seen, forms of engagement are similar to those of traditional social media, which make it easier to get a handle on the platform. However, contrary to the social platforms you know, on Sovereign your engagement is tokenised. The vote token has monetary value, and thus when you upvote (give vote/votes to a given person or initiative) you’re literally putting your money where your mouth is. What’s great is that these tokens are still yours, you’re still “hodling” them, but they have a secondary purpose of expressing your political views. So you can hold your tokens, while expressing your opinion at the same time. The $vote token will launch in Q1 2019 (i.e. coming soon!) on the Ethereum mainnet. You can read more about the tokenomics of the $vote token here.

Voting flexibility
In a truly Blockchain fashion, Democracy.earth leaves a lot of freedom to users. When you create a vote, you may choose whether participants can vote only once, or several times (to underline how much they care on a given initiative). The tools to create any kind of democracy are yours.

The platform also offers various ways of utilizing your vote (tokens). You can naturally vote directly on issues you choose. However, ability to vote is one thing, but it’s also important that decisions are made by people who are knowledgeable in the area that a given vote concerns. Naturally, no one is an expert at everything. Therefore, delegation of votes is readily available on the platform. This represents liquid democracy, the most flexible form of democracy that technology can bring. You can delegate your vote to someone, who can then also delegate them (so-called transitive delegation); unless you don’t want that, in which case you can opt out of that option. Furthermore, you can delegate your votes relating to certain issues to specific people using hashtags (e.g. #environment). As such, you can delegate your votes on sustainability to person X, taxes to person Y, etc. Should they vote contrary to what you want, you can always override their choice. You will always have the final say in relation to your votes.

Dealing with vote buying and coercion
If a vote can be easily delegated, wouldn’t that incentivise vote buying or vote coercion? Yes. And thankfully Sovereign has some pretty nifty systems in place to prevent exactly that.

For example: someone puts a knife to your back and tells you how to vote. What do you do? Easy. You do what they want, you go home, and then you change your vote. You can change your vote as many times as you wish before the deadline (if there is one).

Quadratic voting is another clever way of dealing with excessive delegation to a single person. It works by decreasing the marginal benefit of additional votes. It works as follows: if you want a given initiative to receive one vote, then you vote on it once. But if you want the initiative to get two votes, it will cost you four votes. If you want an issue to receive a 100 votes, you would need to spend 10.000 votes. In short – quadratic voting disincentivizes monopolising power. The more votes has been delegated to someone, the less each additional one is worth. Therefore, if you want to delegate your vote, it will be worth more to delegate to someone who has relatively fewer votes instead of for example to a celebrity who holds thousands of them.

Conclusion
Democracy.earth is definitely a project worth following. They have already shown their value and the potential of this Blockchain solution with their Colombian pilot project, and are continuously improving the Sovereign platform. And if you believe in their values and business approach, described in their Whitepaper, you can also join their presale here.

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