The Challenge


How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone? read the brief


Credit Card Voting using Mobile Phones

Use Credit Cards to Vote Securely using any Mobile Phone.
Credit Cards can be used to vote securely using any mobile phone. Jack Dorsey's payment system Square can be adapted for this purpose.
Mission #4 Learn from Analogies


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Katsuyoshi Ueno

February 12, 2012, 10:59AM
Hi Avi,

This is very helpful for election organizers because they can use an existing authorization system and just need to distribute a simple device for each. (I am a web developer and currently researching about credit card companies for my e-commerce development project.)

I wonder if there is a way to help people to understand this advanced system. I imagine people who need this voting method, like elderly, are not so familiar with digital devices. Perhaps when people received this Square device, someone needs to provide an explanation for each and make sure him/her fully understand the voting method.

I also imagine people want to know soon after voting whether their votes have successfully sent or not. When I observe people who rarely use the internet, they always worry a lot about their form submission. Maybe people want to have live chat support via Skype or telephone so that the operator can confirm his/her vote immediately?

I think this inspiration has a very interesting point of view. Thanks for sharing it!

Nina Gannes

January 31, 2012, 21:29PM
This is a great idea! If we can eliminate the burden of the time required to vote (eg, leave work early, get to the church, wait in line, drive home) we can make the voting process more inclusive to people who care about it less. Many people don't care enough about voting to devote 1 hour of their day to it, but these same people might be willing to devote 5 min to vote from home.

Ashley Jablow

January 27, 2012, 20:11PM
Hi Avi, nice idea. Be sure to hold on to it for the Concepting round – we've got quite a bit of the Inspiration phase to work through first! :)

Steve Chessin

January 27, 2012, 19:50PM
I guess you've never had your credit card number stolen. (Not that I have, either, although I did receive a letter and a new card from my credit card company saying that, for security purposes, they were changing my number.)

Avi Solomon

January 27, 2012, 23:35PM
Steve, there is a physical signature associated with the credit card transaction.

Steve Chessin

January 28, 2012, 02:05AM
And when does that get checked? What do I do when I pull out my phone to vote ten minutes before the polls close, swipe my card, and get back a message back saying "It seems you've already voted."?

You have an interesting idea, but the devil is in the details.

A physical signature on a credit card transaction (which, BTW, doesn't exist for telephone or internet transactions) allows me, when a fraudulent charge appears on my bill, to successfully challenge that charge and have it reversed (with the merchant and/or the credit card company absorbing the loss). You need to work out the analogy for reversing (or preventing) a fraudulent vote.

One possibility: All mobile phone votes become provisional votes, not counted until after the signature has been checked. They get timestamped, and if more than one comes in from the same voter, they all get flagged for special attention. Perhaps the voter gets contacted and asked to come in to verify which signature is really theirs, in case staff can't tell from comparison with the signature on file. If there's more than one with a truly valid signature, the one with the earliest timestamp is the one that's counted.

Of course, when a credit card number is stolen by a store employee, they also have access to your signature, as it's on the slip that the merchant retains. I could imagine someone being paid to capture an image with their cell phone, and the buyer having access to an expert forger. Or not even an expert forger; just print out the image of the signature, place it on top of the screen of the voting phone, and trace it.

(There's also the lack of an auditable paper record, the same defect that affects proposals for internet voting.)

Avi Solomon

January 28, 2012, 13:06PM
Hey Steve,
Thanks for your suggestions - Part of the inspiration phase is throwing out uncritical wild ideas while working out the "crinks" in the concept phase.

I'm a fan of paper myself and am well aware of the possibility of credit card fraud (having been a victim once). Of course there would be some supervisory mechanism and some blending of physical paper in the process.

BTW both paper and electronic ballots are subject to fraud:

Paul Reader

February 12, 2012, 12:33PM
It's an interesting technology Avi, that no doubt could be adapted to read a range of 'encoded plastic' including the Indian National ID card described elsewhere.
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