Exactly a year ago, on January, 6, 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Jeh Johnson, redesignated the US election system as part of our nation's "critical infrastructure." This decision was again reaffirmed by John Kelly during his 2017 tenure as the DHS Secretary.
The designation of "critical infrastructure" is a DHS classification established under the Patriot Act of 2001. It is a governmental label, overseen by DHS, given to "systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters."
Although the US Government is acting in the best interest of its citizens by applying the critical infrastructure designation to our voting system, the bureaucratic wheels of power may not be spinning fast enough. In order for America to gain traction and move the heated voting debate in our country, the United States needs to capitalize on technology that stands ready to help fix many of the issues currently plaguing our electoral system.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, only 47 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 were sure they would "definitely" vote for president. Regardless of why such a significant portion of our democratic society doesn't feel the need to uphold this relatively simple civic duty, no one can deny that enhancing the voting system's overall effectiveness would at least dispense with the rationale that the system is rigged, or that individual votes are somehow lost amidst millions of paper ballots and rudimentary electronic voting machines.
If faith is going to be restored, the US government must do more than harden the voting infrastructure against attack – the government must recognize that there is a bigger threat to our democracy than outside aggression. We could potentially lose everything if the distrust in our own voting system continues to grow. The debate is no longer just about security. It's about trust. And the answer is closer than the government might think.
On December 12, 2017, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 became public law. Amendment number 1055 of this new law requires a report on blockchain technology, stating, "Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the heads of such other agencies and departments as the Secretary considers appropriate, shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report on the potential offensive and defensive cyber applications of blockchain technology and other distributed database technologies and an assessment of efforts by foreign powers, extremist organizations, and criminal networks to utilize these technologies."
This is something the US government should already be well versed in, considering that distributed systems were deployed by the US military to guard against the possibility of a cold war nuclear attack cutting the lines of communication between the government, the military, and the civilian population.
Since the United States has a rich history and knowledge base for understanding blockchain technology and distributed systems, Congress doesn't necessarily need a new study or briefing on what they are. In fact, if the US government fails to draw upon the domestic expertise it already has, Congress may end up being briefed about "efforts by foreign powers" that pose no threat to our country, but rather economically and politically out-compete us.
People like Mick Mulvaney have the knowledge the government is looking for. As the former head of the congressional blockchain caucus, Mulvaney knows blockchain is a transformative technology perfect for voting, yet he did not carry this message to the White House when he was appointed by the president as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Nor has Mulvaney spoken up about blockchain after taking the reins at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an oversight institution directly responsible for protecting American consumers in the financial sector.
Perhaps the problem is that cryptocurrencies are always stealing blockchain's spotlight. Regardless, when will the US government recognize that blockchain technology is the trust machine around which we need to base our voting system?
No one knows for sure, but it will happen faster if American citizens demand better.