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Denver Municipal Election: Another Small Stop on the Road to Universal Blockchain Voting

Despite widespread suspicion of the technology’s ability to underpin secure elections, some U.S. jurisdictions are pushing ahead with limited blockchain-enabled voting trials.

On March 7, news broke that Denver is slated to become the second United States jurisdiction to pilot a blockchain-powered mobile voting platform in its upcoming municipal election. Absentee voting will start on March 23 and will run until the Election Day, May 7. The announcement came almost exactly one year after the first initiative of this kind — deployment of mobile voting solution in West Virginia primaries and then midterm elections — was made public in March 2018.

Once again, it was the Tusk Philanthropy foundation that spearheaded the effort, while Boston-based technology company Voatz took care of the software side of it. This time around, the partnership also included the National Cybersecurity Center, a nonprofit that works to raise awareness of cyber threats to the integrity of election systems.

Whereas in West Virginia elections last year just about 150 people opted in to cast ballots via their mobile devices, the Denver campaign in May could see a much wider utilization of the technology. The target voting population is both service members and overseas citizen voters from the city and county of Denver, totaling around 4,000 people.

As the idea of using distributed ledger technology to record the expression of citizens’ electoral preference is still met with near-universal suspicion, this trial might become the largest blockchain-facilitated campaign to fill political offices in the United States to date.

County Snapshot / Denver County, United States

Forging the partnership

Tusk Philanthropies is on a mission to fix American democracy by means of dramatically increasing voter turnout — which should, in turn, improve the quality of political representation. They believe in mobile voting as a shortcut to more inclusive elections. Blockchain technology is an integral part of the organization’s strategy, due to the security and auditability that it brings to the process. At the same time, Sheila Nix, president of Tusk Philanthropies, made it clear in an email to Cointelegraph that the organization views the technology as an instrument rather than an end goal, and it remains open to an alternative solution, should it prove more useful:

“Blockchain is the most secure option that exists right now but we are vendor and technology agnostic and are open to new solution in the future. We think there is a lot of growth potential for blockchain-based voting — especially due to the auditability features.”

Always on the outlook of expanding their ambitious mobile voting program, the Tusk Philanthropies leadership began talking with the city of Denver and the National Cybersecurity Center last year. The foundation was attracted by the city’s “strong reputation in the area of elections” and saw the opportunity to move mobile voting ahead.

For Denver Elections Division, the two major selling points were convenience and security. Out of the two, security was paramount, so the city government engaged in a meticulous vetting process before giving the project a thumbs-up. As Jocelyn Bucaro, the unit’s deputy director of elections, recounted:

“We’ve been following the pilot in West Virginia very closely. We’ve conducted several demonstrations with Voatz and another vendor, and we ultimately decided, after talking with the West Virginia Secretary of State office, after Voatz went through a rigorous security review by our tech services team and after seeing the review conducted by Tusk Philanthropies of the security of the vendor, and after working with them to make improvements even over the West Virginia pilot last year to their application, we felt that it was appropriate for us to pilot this for our military and overseas citizen voters in municipal election cycle.”

Interestingly, the initiative took off without any involvement on behalf of the famously pro-blockchain Colorado Governor and former U.S. Representative Jared Polis, who hadn’t even announced his candidacy for governor at the time the project was conceived. Bucaro and her colleagues, however, sought some input from the Colorado Blockchain Council, whose several members were involved in the demonstrations.

Limited application

Bucaro also pointed out that mobile voting in the Denver election is not meant to replace paper-based ballots. Rather, it will be used to facilitate the process for a specific group of absentee voters — those who serve in the military or live overseas — and who are currently using email to return their ballots to election administrators:

“Military and overseas voters fall under an overseas statute that requires us to email them a ballot, if they choose to receive their ballot by email. Colorado law also permits them to return their ballot electronically. So this voting population was already able to receive a ballot that they could mark on a hosted website, and then generally they would email the ballot back to us as a PDF attachment to an email — which is not a very secure method of return, which is why this method using blockchain secure encryption, a distributed ledger that can’t be changed, offers a higher degree of security and auditability than simply an email attachment.”

Eligible voters will be required to request an absentee ballot, install the Voatz application, and go through the biometric authentication process. Identity verification entails submitting a photograph of voter’s government-issued ID and a 10-second “selfie” video. Once this is out of the way, the app permits the user to cast their vote, which it records to a distributed ledger. This is where the convenience part comes in: Each stage of the procedure doesn’t require anything except a cell phone, in contrast to the trouble of printing out, filling out and scanning paper ballots before emailing them as a PDF attachment.

The initial response from Denver’s military and overseas voters was rather enthusiastic. In less than one day following the announcement, some 90 people signed up to vote via their phones in the upcoming municipal election cycle. This showing, as Jocelyn Bucaro notes, is a good reason to be optimistic:

“Generally speaking, our overseas voters tend to participate in municipal elections at much lower rate than in federal elections. They don’t live here, so they are not as connected to who’s on city council or who’s running for mayor, so these elections have a much lower turnout among that population. So we were pretty excited to see almost 90 people sign up in just the first day after we’ve sent this newsletter out.”

Scaling hurdles

Despite the Denver pilot being a step forward in terms of expanding the potential number of voters involved, it still confines the use of the mobile platform to a very specific and narrow population. Given the pushback against the idea of using blockchain as a primary technological infrastructure in mainstream voting on behalf of the majority of influential election technology experts, it would be too bold to predict that the future of ubiquitous mobile voting is just around the corner.

As Cointelegraph reported last year, even West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner, who exuberantly reported on the success of the state’s trailblazing effort, made a point to emphasize that he will never advocate for using blockchain-powered voting solutions beyond overseas absentees.

To be clear, this time, it is not only about blockchain. For example, the authors of a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences on the future of elections contend that no internet-based modality could provide better security than paper-based voting — since at the current level of technological development, there is no way to completely rule out the threat of DDoS attacks and malware intrusion. With regard to blockchain, the report holds that this technology is not compatible with the inevitably centralized nature of elections, which is hard to dispute. There is a fundamental disagreement between the character of today’s institutional politics and the ideology of blockchain governance, so shifting to elections run on distributed ledgers will require not just instrumental, but ideological transformation.

Still, more practical issues persist: Cryptographers and election technologists remain unimpressed by the extant identity-management functionality of blockchain-based systems, as well as by the idea that a voter might lose their right for democratic representation for good once they lose their cryptographic key.

Neither of these seems to be a show-stopper for blockchain-enhanced elections advocates. The Tusk Philanthropies’ campaign to promote mobile voting is picking up steam, according to Sheila Nix:

“We have begun conversations with several other cities and states and expect to have additional pilots later this year and in 2020. We are especially excited to test the mobile voting technology for those with accessibility needs.”

Targeting special groups of voters that could benefit from technological developments the most seems to be the dominant strategy for the near future of blockchain and mobile voting. Jocelyn Bucaro also shares this vision:

“We think there is a lot of potential to offer with this type of voting technology, assuming this pilot is successful, to not only our military and overseas citizen voters but also to voters with disabilities who may not be able to vote via a mailed paper ballot at home without assistance. We’d love to be able to offer them a convenient way to vote independently and privately at home as well.”

Blockchain-friendly as Colorado is, there is also hope for statewide adoption, Jocelyn Bucaro admits:

“We have worked closely with the secretary of state office here in Colorado through our mock election period, and we’re engaging with them, and they are closely monitoring how the pilot goes. It would be a decision of the state, and possibly even the state legislature, whether or not to implement it on a statewide basis. We are certainly going to report out broadly how the pilot goes.”

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Colorado: Bipartisan Bill Proposes Study of Blockchain in Agriculture

The official legislation portal of Colorado reveals that a bill proposing a study of blockchain use in agriculture has been introduced.

The official Colorado legislation portal reveals that a bipartisan bill proposing a study of blockchain use in agriculture has been introduced on March 15.

The bill, jointly filed by four Colorado representative and senators, proposes that the commissioner of the department of agriculture should assemble an advisory group to study blockchain application in the industry. The document also specifies some potential use cases that should be studied, including end product tracking, inventory management and monitoring of in-field conditions.

Moreover, the proposed regulation also suggests researching blockchain systems for equipment records storage, data verification and certification of organic products, as well as input resources tracking. Lastly, the document also considers the use of blockchain for asset exchange systems, including payments for sales and storage of products.

Per the bill, the advisory group would have to report the feasibility of the applications and its recommendations by Jan. 15 next year.

As Cointelegraph recently reported, the Malaysian state of Penang is also considering the use of blockchain technology in food and agricultural products supply chains.

Also, in February, French President Emmanuel Macron advocated the use of blockchain to innovate supply chain management in the European agriculture industry when speaking at the 56th International Agriculture Fair in Paris.

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This is Why Colorado Signed the Pro-Blockchain Digital Token Act

That the crypto wave is sweeping across the US is true. From presidential candidates from both sides of the divide supporting cryptocurrencies and accepting Bitcoin or ETH donations, tthe once demonized coin now stands to be in held in the same breath as the USD. Well, after a disastrous Non-Farm Payment Roll came in at just 20,000 crashing expectations of 180,000, something has to be done—quickly. A slowdown in job creation points to a weakness in the overall economy but there is an open window where blockchain and crypto provide endless opportunities.

Read: Ripple (XRP) Killer? 60 Japanese Banks Create A Digital Payment Platform

To that end, Colorado is following the Wyoming route and with the ever vibrant, pro-blockchain Governor Jared Polis signing the Digital Token Act on the Friday of Mar 8, he heralded a new era where blockchains are free to roll their products aware that they are except from the state’s security laws unless otherwise.

Similarly, liquidity creators as crypto broker dealers and salespersons need not to be licensed under limited circumstances. The question now is, why is the state taking such a drastic and news grabbing decision? Is Jared seeing an unexploited opportunity that places his state ahead of the pack? From what we can glean, the decision was taken after the state’s general assembly determination.

Reason for Signing the Digital Token Act

After extensive commenting and deliberation, the states find that:

  • Crypto-economic systems operating off decentralized platforms form an important component of the blockchain technology. In turn, blockchain as a technology has the potential to create the web 3.0 which obviously has several advantages over existing internet systems.
  • Because of the advantages of blockchain and crypto-economic systems, Colorado is increasingly becoming a hub for blockchain companies. As a result, there is need to open up funding channels for these projects and the fastest way of doing that is to reduce consumptive regulatory requirement under Article 51.

Since the advantages of restricted market investment are many and outweighs the “costs and complexities of state securities registration”, there is need to eliminate regulatory uncertainty especially for Colorado businesses keen on utilizing blockchain and issue utility tokens.

“hereby promoting the formation and growth of local companies and the accompanying job creation and helping make Colorado a hub for companies that are building new forms of decentralized “web 3.0″platforms and applications.”

Applicable Rules for Exemption

However, there are rules for exemption, clear for token issuers. They include:

  1. The issuer must file a notice of intent with the SEC
  2. Token must be a utility, used for consumptive purposes
  3. The token must not be marketed in any way or used for speculation
  4. The token must be rolled out and find use within six months after initial sale or transfer
  5. Buyers must provide proof that they are buying the tokens for use and not for speculation
  6. Initial buyers must not transfer the token until after 180 days have elapsed

Also Read: UK Regulator: Most Crypto Investors Driven By “Get Rich Quick” Mindset

The act will be enforceable beginning August 2 and it is clear that not only is the Governor keen on creating new jobs but wants to create a blockchain hub out of Colorado where investors can legally invest in crypto projects. It also came as a surprise because not long ago, the SEC filed 12 cases against blockchain projects after the ICO Task Force determined that they fraudulently raised funds.

The post This is Why Colorado Signed the Pro-Blockchain Digital Token Act appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Three Crypto Firms Ordered to Show Cause by Colorado State Securities Commissioner

Colorado Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome has ordered three crypto firms alleged of promoting unregistered Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to show cause, according to a press release August 28. An order to show cause is a court order that compels a party or individual in a case to justify, prove, or explain something in court.

The orders come as part of a state investigation into “what has become a trend of allegedly fraudulent companies looking to make quick money,” according to the press release. The investigations are being conducted under the purview of the of the Division of Securities, which is part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).

Bionic Coin, Sybrelabs Ltd., and Global Pay Net (also known as GLPN Coin and GPN Token) received orders. DORA has previously submitted orders to EstateX, Bitconnect Ltd., Magma Foundation, and Bitcoin Investments Ltd.

According to the press release, the firms made hyperbolic and misleading statements to investors regarding their products. Bionic claimed that “Bionic will grow your money without any effort.” The firm also listed Forbes as a media partner, but investigators could not find any reference to the company on the sites supposedly promoting it. The site also claimed that individuals who promote the project on social media and blogs will receive up to ten thousand tokens per post.

Sybrelabs promoted an unregistered security to Colorado residents via a type of investment pool which reportedly allowed for trading on crypto exchanges through what was advertised as a “cryptoarbitrage robot.”

Global Pay Net sells GLPN Coins, which reportedly provide an international financial platform based on blockchain technology. The press release quotes a description of GPLN coins as “full-value assets that represent one’s share in the business” and that “investors receive 80 percent of the company’s profits.” The site also lists multiple crypto professionals, two of whom have denied involvement in the project.

In May, DORA announced its investigation into two companies for promoting unlawful ICOs to Colorado residents. The Colorado Securities Commissioner said that California-based Linda Healthcare Corp. and Washington-based Broad Investments LLC could possibly be violating securities laws by promoting unregistered ICOs.

Within the course of DORA’s investigation, officials found that Linda Healthcare was not in operation, while Broad Investments’ “math-oriented value system” on their website was also not operational. DORA officials said that neither company provided information on the risks of investing in ICOs.

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Regulated Trader Templum Hosts Security Token Sale for Luxury Resort

Token trading platform Templum Markets has launched a sale of a security token on behalf of a popular Colorado resort.

Accredited investors can now indirectly own shares in the St. Regis Aspen Resort by purchasing so-called “Aspen coins” through the regulated broker, the company announced Wednesday. Templum will accept U.S. dollars, bitcoin and ethereum from investors looking to own shares in the company.

Aspen coins represent shares in the resort through a holding company, according to a press release. In other words, each token is backed by the resort itself, though it is actually owned by a holding company and operated by asset management firm Elevated Returns.

Templum Markets CEO Vince Molinari told CoinDesk that accredited investors can access a private placement sale for the Aspen coins by signing up through the startup’s platform.

“Each token grants investors the economic interest equal to one common share of the Aspen Digital, Inc. single asset REIT, inclusive of voting rights and the REIT’s income distributions, he said.”

Elevated Returns founder and president Stephane De Baets said in a statement that the coins represent a “transformative way to invest in real estate,” as well as a unique way of storing wealth.

She added:

“We believe that the real estate tokenization model has tremendous potential in that it brings liquidity and disintermediation to the world’s largest asset class.”

St. Regis Resort sign image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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US Government Backs DLT-Based Energy Grid With $1 Million Grant

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has announced it will award a grant of nearly $1 million to a blockchain startup in an effort to advance the development of a decentralized energy grid infrastructure.

The Colorado-based Grid7 is among the 95 grant recipients announced by the DoE on Monday, who won the agency’s second phase Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which will cover a period of two years.

According to the DoE, Grid7 will be awarded with $999,363, which is part of the total $95 million that the DoE will grant to small businesses in 26 U.S. states, in a bid to advance the country’s energy sector using nascent technologies.

Based on data from the SBIR program, Grid7, with a three-man team, already received a grant of around $150,000 in 2017 through the program’s first phase competition.

The DoE explained startups that “demonstrated technical feasibility for innovations during their Phase I grants competed for funding for prototype or processes development during Phase II.”

According to Grid7’s website, the project aims to develop a decentralized solar power system that can connect energy data from homes, buildings and electric grids in a distributed manner. The goal is to ensure a safe power plant control against cyber attacks, the DoE added.

The agency’s effort also comes amid a blockchain-friendly environment recently fostered by lawmakers in the Colorado state.

As previously reported by CoinDesk, the Colorado Senate introduced a bill in January to push for blockchain use in replacing the state’s existing data collection and maintenance process for higher level of data security.

Public data shows that the bill was subsequently approved by the state’s senate in May and later took effect with the governor’s final signature.

Electric grid image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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US Government Backs Decentralized Energy Grid With $1 Million Grant

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has announced it will award a grant of nearly $1 million to a blockchain startup in a move aimed to advance the development of a decentralized energy grid.

The Colorado-based Grid7 is one of 95 grant recipients announced by the DoE on Monday, which all won the second phase of the department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The grants are intended to fund the projects over a period of two years.

According to the DoE, Grid7 is being awarded $999,363, which is part of the total $95 million that the DoE will grant to small businesses across 26 U.S. states in a bid to advance the country’s energy sector using new technologies.

Based on data from the SBIR program, Grid7, with its three-person team, already received a grant of around $150,000 in 2017 through the program’s first phase.

The DoE explained that startups which “demonstrated technical feasibility for innovations during their Phase I grants competed for funding for prototype or processes development during Phase II.”

According to Grid7’s website, the project aims to develop a decentralized solar power system that can share energy data from homes, buildings and electric grids in a distributed manner. The goal is to improve power supply efficiency and provide security against cyber-attacks, the DoE added.

The energy department’s effort comes as lawmakers in Colorado state working to build a more blockchain-friendly environment.

As reported by CoinDesk in January, the Colorado Senate introduced a bill to allow for use of blockchain tech in replacing the state’s existing data collection and maintenance processes, a move aimed to achieve higher levels of data security.

The bill was subsequently approved by the Senate in May and later took effect following the governor’s final signature.

Electric grid image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Ex-Denver Post Journalists, Editors Launch New Blockchain-Powered Colorado News Outlet

Former Denver Post reporters and editors plan to launch a new local media outlet in partnership with ConsenSys-backed blockchain startup Civil Media Company, The New York Times reports today, June 17.

According to the Times, the group left The Denver Post to create a new local state online newspaper, The Colorado Sun, after newsroom layoffs and deteriorating morale following newspaper’s change in ownership. New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital took control of The Denver Post after acquiring its parent company, MediaNews Group, and manages it through a subsidiary, Digital First Media, the Times reports.

The Colorado Sun will use blockchain technology via Civil to store data, with initial funding via a grant from Civil, the Times reports. Once the new outlet is up-and-running, The Colorado Sun intends to be “a community-supported, journalist-owned team focused on investigative, explanatory and narrative journalism for a state in the midst of a massive evolution,” and will be completely ad-free, according to the company’s website.

There is currently a Kickstarter campaign for the fledgling outlet, which hopes to raise $75,000 over the next month. A statement on the campaign page implies that the new outlet will be subscription based, as well as relying on “local supporters” to keep the platform free of advertising.

Emerging media platforms like The Colorado Sun purportedly seek to address the problems of an ad-driven media economy, and shareholder interest-driven content. Civil Media Company — which the Times reports aims to open 1,000 publications in the U.S. by the end of the year — will operate on the Ethereum network using a decentralized governance model, powered by Civil’s upcoming native token CVL, that holds publications in the system to a particular set of ethical and professional standards.