Meet Santiago Siri, the Man With a Radical Plan for Blockchain Voting

“We are not in the business of selling e-voting machines or helping modernize governments with internet voting,” Siri says. “We want to empower people down to the individual level without asking for the permission of governments.”

If the dream of bitcoin, the token generated by Satoshi Nakamoto’s blockchain, was to free money from central bank control, then the dream of Sovereign is to free politics from central government control.

Siri’s complicated, multilayered solution to democratic dysfunction raises a host of questions and paradoxes. There is no shortage of secure-voting-systems experts who believe that radical blockchain democracy could cause more problems than it solves, and is in fact an invitation to gaming and manipulation at odds with the idea of transparent, fraud-free voting.

Still others question how Democracy.Earth plans to solve the gnarliest quandaries faced by any voting system: How does one simultaneously ensure transparency in the voting process while guaranteeing the anonymity of the voter? How can one enfranchise direct voting without running the risk of a feckless tyranny of the majority motivated by short-term passions making terrible decisions?

But nothing raises more eyebrows than the jewel in Democracy.Earth’s crown: the vote token. Because—like bitcoin, like Ether, and like so many of the cryptocurrency tokens sold by blockchain startups in initial coin offerings, known as ICOs, to fund their own operations—the Democracy.Earth vote token has a financial value.

According to Siri, early in 2018 Democracy.Earth raised $1.5 million in a vote-token “presale.” It has plans to mint “a maximum” of 500 million tokens, provisionally priced at 12 cents each, for a company valuation of $60 million. Democracy.Earth employees will be compensated for their labor with tokens. The bottom line: There will be a financial market for the mechanism that Democracy.Earth users employ to vote.

And that’s a headscratcher.

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“Ask yourself,” says Joseph Kiniry, CEO of Free & Fair, a company that provides secure election services, “if combining the idea of an ICO and democratic elections sounds fishy or not.”

The Trojan horse that rolled through Buenos Aires in 2013 was designed, like its ancient Greek forebear, to catch the unsuspecting eye. Towed down the streets by a car, 20 feet high and exquisitely carpentered, it caused an immediate sensation. Kids ran alongside. An excited crowd gathered when it came to a halt in front of the Palace of the Argentina National Congress, the political heart of the South American country.

Argentina’s Partido de la Red—Party of the Internet—used a flamboyant Trojan horse to symbolize its entrance into the nation’s politics.

 

Courtesy of Santiago Siri

The publicity stunt aimed to spread awareness of an upstart new force in Argentinan politics, the Partido de la Red. “Until then, we were just the guys from Twitter, the nerds, playing politics,” says Siri, a cofounder of the party. “But then everyone was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ People started taking selfies. It became a symbol of the campaign.”

Partido de la Red means “Party of the Net”—as in, the internet. It was founded to represent the interests of an emerging generation of millennial, always-online activists thoroughly dissatisfied with decades of Argentina’s endemic political corruption and spectacular financial crises. Its affiliation with the internet was meant to signal faith in a new kind of collaborative democracy. One of its primary goals was to elect politicians who would commit to uphold decisions made by party members in open, online debates. No more closed-door maneuvering. No more voting according to who delivered the most cash.

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