Chapter 7. Voatz: Blockchain-Based Voting

I will make sure you guys never succeed, because I don’t believe elections should ever be electronic. They should all be on paper, because that is the safest thing in the world.1

Nimit Sawhney, cofounder of the blockchain voting platform Voatz, was surprised to hear this from an elderly woman the first time his app was publicly demonstrated, but it led to an important realization: simply having a great technology is not enough. You have to earn the public’s trust.

The Story of Voatz

Nimit grew up in a Sikh family in India during the turbulent 1980s, when the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to a religious backlash against Sikhs. Although not yet old enough to vote, Nimit tagged along with his grandfather to the polls on election day. There, he witnessed people, including his grandfather, forced to vote at gunpoint, with their thumbs being pressed against an inkpad to verify their votes—vivid memories that he still carries to this day. Although he couldn’t comprehend the full scope of what he was seeing, he knew that this was something bad and that he should work to prevent it from happening again.

Fast-forward to 2014. While Nimit and his brother Simer were attending the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, they accidentally stumbled upon a hackathon entitled “Hack for the Future,” with the goal of generating ideas for a better future. Drawing upon his childhood memory for inspiration ...

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