A parallel voting system is one where people cast their votes in the official system and then do it again in the unofficial system. Nothing changes about the official vote process, but now, with the parallel vote, we have an independent check on the results reported by the official system. Done properly, data that meets legal-evidence standards can be gathered and stored. Discrepancies between the official and unofficial tallies can now be analyzed and used to challenge an election that might be in danger of being stolen.
Wanna Vote is a parallel voting system that requires two people to perform: a Voter who uses Wanna Vote to cast their parallel vote, and a Volunteer, who enables them to complete the process.
The Voter is any person who is eligible to vote and either voted or wanted to vote. The Voter fills out a form in the web browser on their mobile device (or a device provided by the Volunteer if they don’t have a mobile device). The form asks for the zip code where they’re registered to vote, some contact information (required) so their registration status can be confirmed and so they can be contacted later if necessary. They are then asked to affirm that they are voting the same way as how they voted on their official ballot. If they were prevented from voting they are asked to affirm that they are voting the same way they would have voted had they been able to vote.
They then enter a “virtual voting booth” where they can vote anonymously for the candidates at the top of the ballot (this year just the President and, if relevant in their state, Governor and/or Senator). They are also asked to provide a small amount of demographic information, which gives the unofficial tally more evidentiary power by allowing us to spot problems such as racial or geographic anomalies. All of this is optional.
The Voter’s contact information is encrypted before being stored in the database, using industry best practices. A copy of the vote is made to provide Democracy Counts with the ability to quickly tally votes. The original is encrypted using industry best practices to ensure that tampering is easy to detect.
If a potential Voter lacks a computer, smartphone, or internet access, they can contact Democracy Counts and request to participate in another way.
The Volunteer is a trusted person who has been vetted by Democracy Counts. Though any Voter may fill out the form and vote on the ballot, a Volunteer is required to actually submit the ballot and personal information. This helps to prevent bots and other bad actors from overwhelming the system. If we determine that a particular Volunteer was compromised or dishonest, we can exclude submissions that they collected and revisit the actual Voters to obtain their information again.
Let’s walk through a few sample submissions.
Voter1 has a smartphone and visits Wanna. Vote while waiting in line at the polling location. They fill out the forms, vote, provide the optional demographic information, and then are instructed to approach a Volunteer. Upon leaving the polling location, they see a Volunteer. Voter1 scans the unique QR code on the Volunteer’s device, which submits its unofficial ballot. The Volunteer is notified to approve the submission.
Voter2 voted by mail and doesn’t have a computer or internet access. Volunteer2, who is going door to door, carries a tablet, gives Voter2 the tablet (after sanitizing it and while maintaining safe distancing), and Voter2 fills out the information. Volunteer2 generates a unique QR code which is scanned by Voter2. Volunteer2 approves the submission.
Voter3 voted by mail and has a laptop and webcam. There are no Volunteers available in their region. They contact Democracy Counts and a video call is arranged. Once on the call, they fill out the ballot. Volunteer3 generates a unique QR code on their device and holds it up to a camera to be scanned by Voter3. If that doesn’t work, Volunteer3 provides the submission URL in the video call’s chat function.
The QR code is just a unique submission website address for each Voter; it is simply a shortcut. QR codes help reduce typing errors, speed up submissions, and help to make social distancing easier to manage. A very security-conscious individual can choose to skip the QR scan entirely if they wish and enter the URL provided by the Volunteer manually.