FAB Use Case: Voting & Referenda

In this series, we tackle different potential use cases of Fast Access Blockchain and how we can build a better world through our solutions.

New Applications, New Business Models, New Possibilities

Applications which are an ideal fit for blockchain technology have the following characteristics:

  • Involve multiple organizations
  • Where trust is key, or trust is presently severely eroded
  • Proof is key
  • Involve exchange/transfer of assets or value
  • Involve data sharing or presently suffers from silo’d data
  • Benefit from micro transactions/streaming
  • Have opportunities for new business models, products or services

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Security and Trust

The first and most worrying aspect of voting is trust within the system. Voting of course started with paper ballots and is still conducted with them in many countries. The problem with paper voting is that there needs to be acentral authority to count the ballots. This system is rife with issues including corruption on the individual level with ballot counters, but also on the government level. There have been many cases of votes being destroyed or not counted at all, with many famous examples of irregularities and counting disputes in the United States, Ukraine, and many African, Asian and Latin American countries.

To combat these trust issues and potential for in-country corruption, many countries moved to electronic voting machines. This created new unforeseen and far-reaching issues for vote security. Most competent hackers can make quick work of standard voting machines used in the United States or other countries.

More worryingly, many nation-states have known these issues for a long time and have been exploiting them. In the news recently, there has been reports of Russian operatives attempted and succeeding in hacking election databases and voting machines at the State and Federal level in the US, as well as in other countries. Russia is not the only country putting a lot of investment and effort into hacking voting records in other countries to cause political unrest, distrust in the voting system, in-fighting and to even manipulate the election results of sovereign countries.

On a less urgent but still serious level, corporate shareholder is plagued by many of the same problems as well. In 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators put forth a report stating that the current shareholder voting system within the country is fragmented and obsolete. Current standards cause errors in proxy vote counting, even so far as to have instances of over-voting.

Cost and Time

Elections and referenda are costly and time-consuming today. In an age where virtually everyone has a smartphone or internet access, they should not be. For example, the cost of conducting UK’s Brexit referendum was over £142 million. The estimated cost of just the lost productivity due to voters waiting in line to vote in the 2012 US presidential election was $544 million. In today’s rapidly changing society, more frequent, fast, and inexpensive referenda on many important issues could mean that quick, frequent democratic decision making occurs rather than years of political infighting, and competition between lobbyists, activists and special interest groups with no real progress.

Countries like Estonia are leading the way, with its i-voting system based on an electronic ID card for all residents that also gives them access to banking and public services (although Estonia’s system is not based on blockchain).

The immutable, privacy preserving and transparent nature of blockchain based systems allows vote tallying to be performed in an audit-able and incorruptible fashion. Electronic voting can be done from anywhere, and should increase voter participation.

A secure, digital identity system based on blockchain technology is now within reach that could bring much needed transformation to this area. What is also needed is cryptographic proof that a person is a member of a given group, whether that be an eligible voters list for elections, a permanent resident for access to healthcare services, or a corporate shareholder for shareholder voting.

A related use case is petitions based on verifiable signatures on a blockchain. This would eliminate artificial inflation of the number of signatures using fake identities and duplicates, as has often been reported.

This space looks to be an area where blockchain can be implemented quickly, efficiently and with the most real value added.

References:

https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Fact_Sheet_Voting_System_Security.pdf

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