Vote of Confidence: Polling Places Tragedies

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in Afghanistan who were senselessly killed as they stood in line to register to vote. It is our sincere hope that our work at Votem will help create a future where is mass violence against voters is a thing of the past.

This past Sunday, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on a voter registration center in Kabul’s Dashte Barchi neighborhood.  As last reported, the suicide bomber in question killed at least 57 people, including women and children.  Those murdered and injured were registering to vote in October’s legislative elections. ISIS stated that the attack was targeted towards the Shi’ites who occupy the specific neighborhood of Kabul.  Underneath this convenient pretense, ISIS and other terrorist organizations are terrified of the democratic process. There is nothing that undermines the goals of tyrannical regimes more than a constituent casting a peaceful ballot.

Afghan elections in the past 20 years have been plagued by attacks by both the Taliban and ISIS and, despite the obvious risk democratic participation poses, citizens still line up.  It is a failure of modern society that we do not provide citizens who demonstrate the bravery simply to participate in their local elections with an option that is safer and more accessible.  

In this blog, we have explained why paper based systems are inaccessible, insecure, and expensive.  We have not discussed, however, the inherent danger posed by in-person balloting in conflict-stricken parts of the world.  According to a recent Broadcasting Board of Governors report, approximately 81% of all Afghanis have access to a mobile device.  One can only assume that percentage has increased in the past five to six years as, in 2002, the number was zero.  We believe that mobile voting, secured by the blockchain, could have given those innocent people the ability vote safely without the risk of a mass killing like the one that happened.

Giving Afghani citizens the ability to cast their vote remotely takes away a terrorist organization’s ability to undermine an election and, undoubtedly, will save hundreds, if not thousands of lives over time.  

Not so far from home.

In a separate but related article in ElectionLine, election judges in Hartford County, MD are taking an active shooter training program.  The training is now mandatory for all election judges in Hartford County and their response has been overwhelmingly positive.  

It is a sad state of affairs that election judges, almost all of whom are unpaid volunteers, must be prepared to deal with a mass murderer.  Preparation is good, but prevention is always better. Active shooters will target places like polling stations because they know they are full of innocent, unarmed individuals.

The article does raise the question, where are we in our democracy that volunteers need to be trained with firearms in preparation for a “what if?” situation?  While these concerns are far more glaring in a place like Afghanistan, these trainings are proof that an attack on a polling place is not a remote notion anywhere.

Mobile voting technology is at the point where we do not need to secure  our polling places with armed volunteers. While the change to mobile voting may not be swift, it should be a worthwhile concern for paper advocates who see no other way forward other than in-person voting. Together with our blockchain voting platform, we can make exercising our constitutional right a safer and more secure experience in the U.S. and around the world.

see no other way forward other than in-person voting. The human toll posed by traditional polling places is not acceptable.

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