Smartphone voting could revolutionize American politics, venture capitalist says

David Knowles
Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: Getty, AP
Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: Getty, AP

SAN FRANCISCO — Letting citizens vote with their cellphones would transform American politics, according to venture capitalist Bradley Tusk.

“We have an election system that was designed 250 years ago for a totally agrarian society,” Tusk told Grant Burningham, host of the Yahoo News podcast “Bots & Ballots.” “We vote on Tuesdays because that’s what was good for the farmers way back when. And it doesn’t work. People don’t show up for the polls, but we carry technology in our pockets that would allow us all to participate in elections and, thanks to blockchain voting, can be done both mobilely, securely and with much greater participation.”

Through his foundation, Tusk Montgomery Philanthropies, the former Uber adviser has helped launch a pilot program for blockchain encrypted mobile phone voting for members of the U.S. military in West Virginia that he hopes will someday become the way Americans elect politicians. That technological leap, Tusk said, would have huge policy implications.

“Say you’re a Republican congressman from Florida and turnout in your district is 12 percent. You probably know that an assault weapons ban is a good idea,” said Tusk, who also served as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign manager. “It’s not a great idea to have people toting around AK-47s on the streets, but if half of that 12 percent are NRA members, you’re not going to pass legislation that bans assault weapons because you’re going to get penalized for that in the next election. If turnout was 60 percent because people can vote on their phone, the NRA would now be 10 percent of the electorate instead of 50 percent, and then all of a sudden the politics would flip completely, and it would make sense to support an assault weapons ban.”

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For more on Tusk’s plan to try to realize his goal of allowing “everyone to vote on their phones” as well as his views on whether government should regulate social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, listen to Tusk’s full interview.


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