Bradley Tusk, mobile voting booster, is spending another $ 10 million to build a new system


Written by Benjamin Freed

Bradley Tusk, the political strategist who turned venture capitalist and has funded a series of sometimes controversial pilots that test the feasibility of voting on an internet-connected mobile device, said Thursday that he plans to raise at least an additional $ 10 million Dollars for the development of. to issue a new voting system that he hopes will address many of the security concerns his previous efforts have raised.

In an interview with StateScoop, Tusk said that this latest project will aim to develop mobile voting technology that can be more widely deployed than about 20 pilots he has funded who have been restricted to small groups of voters – typically deployed military personnel or people with physical disabilities . As of 2018, a handful of state and local election officials in West Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Delaware, and elsewhere worked with Tusk, who funded their use of programs like Voatz, a mobile app that uses blockchain encryption, only in response to objections from election security analysts that voting on the internet is inherently insecure.

This time around, however, Tusk is working with some of his former critics. Tusk Philanthropies announced that it has hired the Open Source Election Technology Institute and Assembly Voting, a Danish software company, to develop a new mobile system that offers end-to-end voting verification. That would be a departure from Voatz, whose proprietary code was vulnerable to audits and academic reviews.

Tusk chose OSET and Assembly Voting after posting a call for proposals, the responses of which were evaluated by the ethics hacking firm Synack. While Tusk said that every choice that used Voatz was independently reviewed and verified as correct, he acknowledged the company’s shortcomings.

“There was clearly a concern,” he said. “In elections with 1,000 voters, Voatz was fine. But I want to be able to process hundreds of thousands of votes or millions of votes. “

The announcement also represents a rethinking for a group like OSET, which only in October of last year recognized Tusk’s enthusiasm for mobile voting as “dangerous distraction“Now, the organization’s chief operating officer, Gregory Miller, says there may be a place in the electoral infrastructure for digitally delivered ballots.”

“The technical challenges for a verifiable, precise and as secure as possible remote voting are enormous, but must be solved. This project showcases the kind of research and development that our nonprofit is funded for, ”Miller said in a press release from Tusk Philanthropies. Müller too said NPR News, who first reported on Tusk’s new investment, that this new company “sounds like the right approach”.

‘Whatever Works’

In addition to working with OSET, Tusk said he was also ready to accept recommendations from a panel convened last month at the University of California, Berkeley. This group, led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and made up of several election experts and technologists who have historically been critical of mobile voting, plans to issue a report within 12 to 18 months on whether remote voting has a future for voters big written.

Tusk’s schedule is a little earlier – he wants an electoral system that can be tested in time for next year’s elections – but he said he was technology agnostic.

“I don’t care if it’s blockchain or cloud,” he said. “Whatever works, you have complete freedom to work it out.”

OSET is responsible for developing the voting slip system, while Assembly is developing the end-to-end verification. Assembly’s technology has been used extensively in its home country Denmark, nonprofits, and international bodies such as the European Parliament, but the company has no experience with US elections.

Tusk, who made his fortune with an early investment in Uber and once told StateScoop that he believed his mobile vote was “one of the crucial things we can do to save democracy,” said Thursday that the events of the past two years only increased the need for more choices.

“COVID has, to some extent, brought the reality that we live in a world that is a little precarious and people have shifted their lives more online,” he said. “Something you or I was aware of before COVID-19 became a much more obvious proposition in my opinion.”

“We have to create a movement”

However, Tusk acknowledged that there were institutional barriers to why mobile voting is still a widely criticized feature and not a norm.

“The big polling companies wouldn’t invest until they saw the demand,” he said. “The officers didn’t want to ask until they saw it was safe. I don’t have any investors. Thats only me.”

Tusk also suggested that in addition to funding the development of a new mobile voting platform, he is willing to eventually spend money lobbying lawmakers to better accept the technology, and possibly even voting initiatives to confirm people’s support .

“We have to do three things in the next 7 to 10 years,” he said. “We have to develop the right technology. We will have to pass many laws in many places. Forget the people who are against it now who are just the cryptographers. There will be a lot of resistance. That means three: We have to create a movement. “

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