With information secured in a network of computers in the blockchain, alteration or removal of the voter data is not possible.
With only few weeks left for the USA elections 2020, speculations are flaring out, regarding the fairness of these elections. The citizens of the USA, have not forgotten the incident of the Cambridge Analytica, which put President Donald Trump, under scrutiny. Despite the edge-on-edge fight between Democrats candidate Joe Biden, and Republican Candidate Donald Trump, the world will have eyes on how justified this election will be, with the COVID 19 crisis already looming as a threat to hinder the electoral process.
A report by NBC- the Wall States that most of the voters in America are not confident about the accuracy of these elections. The poll finds that 45% of the surveyed citizens have not shown confidence regarding, the accuracy of the election results, where as 34% of the surveyed citizens are hoping the same results like that of 2016.
Given the situation of COVID 19, the electoral authorities are rummaging many options, through which the Presidential elections can be conducted fairly. Many states have also sought the option of Mail-in votings, for increasing the use of absentee ballots, so that less crowd can be gathered in the polling stations. However, it has been observed, that the voters' opinion regarding the methodology of polling has been majorly governed by the partisan divide between the Democrats and Republicans. The report states that 73% of the Republicans are apprehensive to conduct voting through the mail, and have cited that the votes will not be counted accurately, while 65% democrats observe otherwise.
Taking cognizance of this tumultuous situation, the United States Postal Services (USPS), in February this year, filed an application for a patent Blockchain-based Secured Voting system.
Elections using Blockchain Technology
Once the user has identified himself/herself using the facial recognition technology and registering with the fingerprints, they can vote using Blockchain-based app. Blockchain has been recognized as the digital ledger by experts. With its decentralised system, it stores information about the user, after every transaction, in a separate box with ‘hash’ which is the digital signature and the identity of the user. This hash is a unique cryptographic code assigned to different blocks in a Blockchain, created by using a special algorithm. This means that every time, a voter registers himself/herself for voting, a unique hash will be generated that will act as their signature. This will be in alignment with the hash of the previous blocks, thus reducing the chances of tweaking the information of the voter.
As this technology is decentralised, it monitors the votes of every citizen which also become available publicly. With information secured in a network of systems in blockchain, alteration or removal of the data is not possible. Since every time, a voter utilizes the Blockchain, a cryptographic code is generated which will be unique to that particular block and will be maintained throughout the Blockchain, the possibility of tampering is minimal. In case of any new entry, or tampering, the hash will raise an alarm of conflict thus notifying the authorities.
With these attributes of the Blockchain technology, experts have been considerably optimistic that this will garner the involvement of many young voters, and will help in conducting free and fair elections. However, this will not be the first time, when authorities have acknowledged the utilization of Blockchain for conducting elections. A galore of incidents reflect utilization of Blockchain for conducting elections.
History Of Blockchain-Based Elections
Due to its decentralised system, Blockchain has been thought by many authorities as the ideal way to conduct elections with accuracy. The largest utilization of Blockchain technology for conducting elections is observed during the 2019 Moscow City elections, where three of the city’s twenty electoral presents agreed for deploying Blockchain technology to cast ballots using an Ethereum based mobile app so that elections can be free and accessible. However, despite its deployment, the technology failed, as the voting system crashed twice, despite an increase in the voter turnout. Later, investigations revealed that the use of Blockchain can also corrupt the code required for conducting elections with Blockchain, meaning that even though the technology is observed to be fascinating, it can be tweaked, with a potential inaccuracy in results.
In another incident, the 2018 US-federal elections, were also conducted using Blockchain technology, with an app Voatz, for the members of the military who were stationed overseas, to vote electronically. However, a study by MIT researchers reveals that due to the compromised cybersecurity of this Blockchain app, the results can be subjected to be hacking or altered in the long term.
It is true that, even though Blockchain has been utilized earlier, no elections the size that of USA has been conducted using this technology. With the sheer size of the population involved in the voting process, experts are sceptical for using Blockchain as the method to conduct US elections 2020. The examples of the past cited earlier only points at the many unbinding challenges associated with Blockchain technology when deployed during the electoral process.
The MIT researcher, James Koppel has pointed out that given the current situation, “running secure elections using the internet is not possible.”
Ideally, deploying Blockchain for conducting elections is an indisputable fact, but since the technology is still evolving, experts observe that the possibility of having an accurate result has more cons than pros.