Blockchain and the ballot box

After the collapse of the power sharing government in NI Assembly and the calling of an election by James Brokenshire, most of us in NI, trudged our way to our local polling station. Places we probably only go once we are summoned. As I approached the polling station, a group of canvassers met me, attempting a last ditch chance to score a preference vote, they pushed a plethora of flyers and soggy scraps of paper in my direction. Once inside with the rest of the damp democrats, who had also been soaked from car to polling station, we queued.

At the top of the queue we were directed to lunch hall tables, where we had to undergo an unconvincing I.D check, to be presented with our ballot papers, a single sheet to be taken to a public stall to be filled out in ‘private’ and in pencil. Underwhelmed by our candidates and selections, we then returned to the ‘official’ lunch hall table to post our ballots in an overflowing ballot box, a ballot box in which someone had accidentally posted their passport that day. I left, civic duty fulfilled.

Voting closed at 10pm, 2nd March, but there was no final result for days, with results still being announced on 4th March, this is followed by a negotiation process which is expected to last weeks. Looking at this complete process, I can’t help but feel, surely there must be a better way.

With the increase of public services being made available online, why must we follow this archaic ritual for what is undoubtedly the most important public act?

With an online service voters could complete this process in minutes, in private and in the comfort of their own homes. Knowing their votes cannot be erased and miscalculated, results would be instant.

In the first initial phases of online voting there have been instances where the validity of the results have been questioned, with allegations of hacking and corruption rife. A solution is now available, with the adoption of blockchain technology for voting, results could be trusted and verified, with voters able to ensure that their vote was cast and counted. Blockchain is the underlying technology of bitcoin, which boasts the accolade of ‘never been hacked’. With blockchain all votes would be traceable in an audit trail, that would verify no votes were changed or removed and no illegitimate votes were added. This would achieve a greater level of transparency and security, ensuring the integrity of the result without sacrificing the privacy of the voters.

Working with a team of developers and product designers in Belfast, we developed a Ballot Application, built on blockchain technology, that enabled us to create ballots, cast votes and obtain results instantly. The proof of concept was created in a couple of weeks and was an opportunity to showcase blockchain technology and it’s usage in real world problems. It works, but it’s reserved for important decisions, like where we should venture for lunch.