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Bradley Tusk on online voting: The technology doesn’t exist ‘to accommodate millions of votes’ yet

Bradley Tusk from Tusk Ventures joins Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman, Brian Sozzi, and Myles Udland to discuss his thoughts on the November election and the developments with online and mobile voting.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Of course, a lot of investors are paying attention to what is going on with tomorrow and trying to anticipate what's going to happen with the election. I want to bring in someone now who is focused not just on the outcome of the election but on how we vote. Bradley Tusk is joining us now. He's the founder of Tusk Ventures and someone who is focused on mobile voting in particular. Bradley, thank you for being here.

BRADLEY TUSK: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

JULIE HYMAN: There is some mobile voting out there, right, but it's pretty limited. It's offered in a handful of states, and it's not offered to everyone. In your view, what is the biggest obstacle to getting more mobile and online voting in this country?

BRADLEY TUSK: I think it's a few things. So the first is scale. So right now, either deployed military or people with disabilities in five different states have the ability to vote on their phone, but it's limited to just those populations. I don't think the technology exists today to offer it to hundreds of thousands or millions or tens of millions of voters, so that still has to happen. In fact, we're working on construction of a new technology platform right now that we'll build to then give away to governments for free. It should be able to accommodate, you know, millions of votes. So that's number one.

Number two is the politics, which is if you benefit from the status quo, you're not necessarily looking to see everything change. So right now if you are say, the NRA on the right or the NEA on the left and you control what legislators do because their primaries are such low turnout that you can move votes and money there so they're terrified of you, you've got a lot of power, right? So all these different groups on both sides of the aisle, by the way, are going to have no interest in seeing their power diluted by making it easier for people to vote.

Now, they can't say I don't want people to vote, so they'll try to say it's not secure, hence the work going in to try to make sure that we have platforms that are incredibly secure. But we have so far conducted mobile voting elections in 15 jurisdictions over the last two years. They have all been independently audited by the National Cybersecurity Center, and they all come back clean. So so far, so good.

MYLES UDLAND: And then, Bradley, going off of that, thinking about-- you mentioned the status quo, the role that plays in so many different preferences. That really gets to the heart of the issue here where you have states running federal election processes, basically. Do you see any momentum or any desire for that to change? I think we've all thought a lot about how we vote in this country, and a lot of people are surprised at how scattershot it really is. Do you think there's any momentum for that to kind of change longer term?

BRADLEY TUSK: I don't think it'll be consolidated because that would require people to give up power, and one thing we've learned in politics is that nobody ever gives up power voluntarily. But the question is will local election officials say, hey, I'd like to offer my constituents a better way?

Some of them already have-- so places like Secretary State of West Virginia Mack Warner or Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers. So there are some people who have really done it well. But overall we're going to need to show them that's very little risk and a lot of upside.

And really what we need are younger people to demand that this is how they be able to vote. I think of my 14-year-old daughter who is a climate activist. And, you know, for all of the rallies and everything that she does online, unless we can change the political inputs that go into Congress, she's not going to get any major legislation through. And so I need to be able to sell her and all her peers on the notion that if you want really significant change, you've got to really change the way that we vote.

BRIAN SOZZI: Bradley, we always talk with you about Uber. You are an early investor in Uber. Talk us through Prop 22. If that goes against Uber and Lyft, how severe will the impact be to their bottom lines?

BRADLEY TUSK: It's pretty significant. So for the viewers who may not know this, Prop 22 is a referendum being pushed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and a couple of other platforms that would ensure that all people who work on their platforms are independent contractors, not full-time employees. California legislature last year passed a law that converted everyone to full-time employees.

If the proposition succeeds, then that allows these companies to operate kind of business as usual. But if it fails, the companies have said that it increases their operating costs by as much as 20%, and they have at least threatened to pull out of the California market entirely.

And look, if you think about ride sharing, neither Uber nor Lyft make any money right now. The unit economics of ride sharing are already bad. So then if you have to add in another 20% in cost-- however, Brian, if I can just throw out kind of an unconventional thesis here, but you guys usually seem up for unconventional ideas on the show.

If you're Uber, right now you're not making money. And the reason you're not making money is because you and Lyft are in a death match for every driver, every passenger, every everything, so you have to keep subsidizing drivers and keep fares low.

But let's say that everyone's now employees, not drivers. It does mean that your costs will go up, but you can say to all your drivers, look, you can't keep driving for us and for Lyft because you're my employee now. And, ultimately, if they can get people to drop off the Lyft platform, then wait times go up. Customers really only care about costs and wait time. Drivers only care about, you know, market share. And so more and more drivers and customers keep shifting over to Uber simply because they use their market power to drive drivers and customers off the Lyft platform. That eventually puts Lyft out of business entirely, and then all of sudden the unit economics of ride sharing work just fine.

Now, it's a very unconventional approach, and Uber's leadership these days is exceptionally conventional, so I think they would never do something like this. But I think losing Prop 22 could be a blessing in disguise.