Benefits of Blockchain for the Voting Process
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
In the last few months, there’s been quite a lot of talk regarding leveraging Blockchain to count ballots and consequently eliminate electoral fraud. Since the early 2000s, electronic voting machines have been widely used in each election here in the United States. The problem though is that they’re highly vulnerable to hacking. As crazy as it sounds, the software on top of which some of those electronic voting machines run can be accessible remotely, online. As you know, elections must be entirely hermetic to external influence, which naturally includes the Internet… Can Blockchain solve this critical issue?
2016 U.S. Presidential Election: A Disturbing Reality
What follows is a list of dysfunctions that occurred during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, from the time early voting started (including absentee ballot voting) and the days that followed the results. They were reported by media, RNC and DNC observers, as well as independent observers:
About 100 million eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot. The fault to series of issues including long lines in key battleground states (in Ohio and Michigan), electronic poll books used to check voter registration failing (in Durham, North Carolina), portions of the state’s voter verification system going down (in Colorado) that forced officials to issue provisional ballots to an undisclosed number of voters. Basically, with a provisional ballot the person votes, and his or her ballot only counts after the problem is resolved… If it’s ever resolved in a timely manner, so it can count… With final results and one candidate conceding only a few hours away… Ultimately, how do we know the results are legitimate? In the case of a voting machine failing, how do we know whether votes were recorded accurately.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, thousands of mail-in ballots were rejected in Utah. Some were postmarked late; some weren’t signed. Ten ballots were even sent in from dead people.
Prior to the 2016 election, forty-eight states asked the Department of Homeland Security to help fix security weaknesses in voting machines.
The 2016 election might feel like a walk in the park though compared to the 2000 U.S. presidential election, were officials in Florida discovered irregular ballots. If you remember, the tedious and often times amusing (because utterly insane in America’s 21st century) manual recount lasted more than a month, with the case going to the Supreme Court.
How Can Blockchain Revolutionize the Voting Process?
A Blockchain network offers benefits that appear to be perfect fits to facilitate the technological management of the voting process on election day.
Decentralized and Distributed System: A blockchain is “distributed across and managed by peer-to-peer networks. Since it is a distributed ledger, it can exist without a centralized authority or server managing it, and its data quality can be maintained by database replication and computational trust.” In other words, a Blockchain network is a series of nodes inside which the same data is stored, hence the database replication. Why computational trust? Each peer (so everyone on the network) can view and verify the records. Applied to a voting process, each vote would connect to an individual voter, and any discrepancies would be solved by simply reviewing the ledger, ultimately reducing voter fraud and for sure eliminating any likeliness of being confronted to the nightmarish hanging chad on the 2000 Florida punched cards.
Privacy: The identity of each voter would be anonymous. They indeed would be masked behind an encrypted key of random numbers and letters. One main advantage of an encryption key? It would solve many issues pertaining to voter suppression, because when voters cannot be identified, they cannot be targeted. Eligible voters would cast their ballot anonymously on their laptop, tablet or cellphone using their encrypted key. The Blockchain would associate a ballot to its voter, establishing a permanent and immutable record.
Immutability: All records on a Blockchain network are permanent and cannot be compromised. If a node were to be hacked, the other nodes would immediately confirm the discrepancy and the erroneous data corrected. Every ballot would be final and recorded.
Security: To hack a single node of a Blockchain network requires a lot of computer power that itself requires significant resource of energy. Hackers would need to assess the arbitrage between the cost and the reward. And as of today, the reward isn’t worth it… yet.
Getting Excited for 2020?
Blockchain technology is not flawless, but doesn’t it sound way better than what we have in place today? Again, the use of a Blockchain network for electoral purpose would solve two major problems: voter access and voter fraud. Now, what it takes is a bit of willingness from our representatives in Washington DC. Just that…