Good Enough Voter Verification & Other Identity Architecture Schemes for Online Communities

Accepted Session
Long Form
Scheduled: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 from 10:00 – 11:45am in B201


This talk is a deep dive into considerations for Identity Architecture for online communities. It's most specifically applications for political action, civic engagement, or virtual nations. I'll talk about pragmatic solutions for voter verification using the state voter registration database, schemes for peer to peer authentication, offline/online identification, Impartial Identity Architecture to control conflict, and more. The discussion is high level and appropriate for beginners, but there will be links to code and big ideas.


Two years ago I spoke at Open Source Bridge in a short session called Citizens Online: Open Source Politics. This is a follow up to that talk; a deep dive into one of the most important components of software engineering for online communities. Identity Architecture considerations for civic engagement applications will be presented via a number of schemes. Impartial Identity Architecture is a theory of designing identity inspired by the gaming industry to minimize existing conflict models or maximize productive conflict. Push Tagging is a tagging model that allows a community to define their own vocabulary for efficient search and prioritization. Other schemes include peer to peer authentication, chaining, and physical artifacts to identify online users offline without compromising sensitive information.

In 2012 I was part of an online think tank trying to design standards for infrastructure for political action applications. Voter verification is a critical piece of this conversation since politicians don’t actually care what people think, they care about VOTER opinion. Most of the suggestions involved enormously expensive, hard to secure, centralized databases which no one non-profit or non-government had the resources to build or maintain. Rejecting this approach, I started thinking about cheap, imperfect solutions that would be accessible to open source civic hackers as a way to get our foot in the door. This year, working with database developer Jeff Orr, we forked Passport, an authentication middleware for Node.js, and started working on one such scheme. Passport with Voter Verification is an open source project to verify voters with a Paypal account against the state voter registration database. While deeply flawed democratically (not every voter has a credit card!), it’s still very pragmatic, doesn’t permanently store any personal information, and could be useful in certain use cases. The constraints (response bias, etc.) are transparent, and you can produce analytics against the general voting population via percentages of response. Are solutions like this ‘good enough’ to have influence?

It’s a long session, but the presentation will be an hour with the rest of the session open for your comments, questions, and applications. Last time I spoke at OS Bridge, I learned a great deal from the attendees at my talk and their specific use cases. Bring your ideas and I’ll consult off the cuff.


civic engagement, politics, online deliberation, identity architecture, Activism, voting

Speaking experience

I was a speaker at Open Source Bridge presenting my undergraduate research in 2013 in the session 'Citizens Online: Open Source Politics'. I gave a talk last year about online activism tools for mental health advocacy at NARPA 2014. I present a few times a year at meet ups, and will have an article published this summer on Participative Budgeting in Open Innovation magazine.


  • Ele Mooney



    Ele Mooney (alias Munjeli) has a computer science degree from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. While there, she did undergraduate research supervised by Doug Schuler in Software Engineering for Online Deliberation, a field of applications which aspire to provide tooling for Electronic Democracy efforts. She is a member of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, specifically working to map offline practices to online communities. She was a speaker for NARPA 2014 on the topic of online activism for mental health advocates, and a presenter at OS Bridge 2013. Currently she works as a DevOps engineer automating all the things in a scalable, high availability infrastructure for Socrata, the world leader in cloud solutions for open data and data driven governments.