Blockchain is a distributed registry technology that allows users to store and transfer information without centralization. Its unique feature, which the idea to introduce the blockchain technology to the voting process is based on, is the inability to change or delete information from blocks. This way, the process can remain anonymous, but at the same time become absolutely transparent and honest, which is extremely important in the political scandalous settings related to elections in different countries.
Despite the fact that it sounds somewhat fantastic, today’s technologies are all set and ready to execute even the most large-scale elections on the blockchain.
Blockchain Voting Advantages
Election committees around the world face three main problems: low voter turnout, the danger of results falsification and the highly complex procedure of vote counting. The blockchain technology can save elections from all these difficulties at once.
It has been long since Western countries came to the conclusion that electronic voting can significantly increase voter turnout. Although, calling it a turnout might even be a stretch — people are asked to vote from home or from any other place via the Internet, without wasting their time on visiting the polling station. But electronic voting does not necessarily mean voting on the blockchain. So why do we need this technology, if a simple internet poll can solely increase the turnout?
Over the last ten years, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and few other countries have had unsuccessful experience in conducting elections through the Internet due to hacker attacks and system failures. In addition, one must remember about the complexity of electronic protocols and vulnerabilities in software, which should not be discarded. Here comes to light the next advantage of the blockchain, namely reliability and transparency.
Every voter, not to mention numerous commissions, some of which should definitely remain, can conduct a detailed audit of the voting process at any time. Fraud, ballot stuffing and all kinds of frauds become impossible, since you cannot change information in blocks. This is how the process becomes transparent and secure.
Technically, the election process on the blockchain is very similar to a common act of buying or selling crypto currency. The simplest example can be as follows. Before the voting process, citizens receive special “colored” coins from the election commission that are suitable only for a specific vote. Then each elector transfers his or her voice in the form of a coin to a special account assigned to one or another candidate. In order to determine the winner, the election commission only needs to check the balance of each candidate’s account.
After or even while the voting takes place anyone can be able to analyze public blockchain and to control where their votes were submitted. Preserving anonymity during voting also cannot be considered as a problem, since the solution already exists — a ‘blind signature’. It is a cryptographic protocol technology which allows one party to sign a document being unaware of its content. Such approach will maintain transparency of votes distribution as well as anonymity of voters.
What officials think
A member of European Parliament Philippe Nicolas Buchse in 2016 presented a document on implementation of blockchain technology in voting process. Buchse asserts, “Transparency of the technology might considerably enhance integrity of elections. So we must put aside all questions concerning whether blockchain should be used for elections or not, and must focus on just one question: how to apply the technology to the current process”. MEP is convinced that the distributed ledger technology could benefit democracy.
Boris Titov the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of Entrepreneurs at the President of the Russian Federation believes, “Even a partial application of blockchain technology can significantly increase trust of the voters in the process”. The ombudsman also confirmed that the respective institutes are already working on the distributed ledger technology for elections.
George Givishvili the Marketing Director at Bitfury blockchain company has said that their company is willing to provide the Ukrainian government with a technical solution to hold elections operating on distributed ledger technology in the shortest possible time. The representative of the company informed that the system had already been tested and is likely to be approved on the part of the Ukrainian government.
Only for the last two years there have been several major election-related scandals that blew up the Internet. In 2016 a group of Philippine hackers released over the Internet a database of passport data of more than 50 million voters. The same year during elections in Turkey there was a leak of the majority of citizens’ passport data. Let alone the biggest scandal ever over interference of Russian hackers in the US elections and Donald Trump’s victory. All these examples underline the urgency of reformation of election process.
Blockchain has already been used for voting by some Parliaments for intra-party elections. Denmark has been using the distributed ledger technology for annual meetings since 2014 when one of liberal parties put forward such a proposal. Representatives of that party say that they opted for blockchain technology due to its autonomy and the possibility to examine in detail the whole voting process since it is completely transparent.
In early 2016 representatives of the Libertarian Party of the United States announced their intention to introduce distributed registry technology into the election process and counting votes for internal party posts in Texas. The idea of the party was realized due to software and hardware provided by the american Blockchain Technologies corporation. During the voting, there were used special ballots with QR-codes. After they were scanned, the data was recorded into the blockchain to exclude any possibility of forgery. The company, which provided equipment for counting and recording votes on the blockchain, believes that this equipment will be in direct competition with traditional machines for counting votes soon.
A few months earlier, the same experiment was conducted by the Republican Party in Utah.The primaries were voted on with help of a blockchain . Thanks to support of the british company Smartmatic, almost 60,000 Republicans of the state could participate in the blockchain-election.
The real implementation of the blockchain in the elections process has a serious deterrent connected with the peoples’ habits. It’s simpler and more effective to carry out voting remotely using digital technologies, Internet and computers, but then a significant part of the elderly voters will be left out this process, because many of them are uncertainly interacting with electronics.
Still the organization of blockchain elections is not just the introduction of modern technology. It is about the implementation of its principles — decentralization, transparency and anonymity, coupled with reliable protection from hacker attacks during the voting process.
In the long term, effective and reliable distributed registry technology will be the impetus by which electronic voting can transform and bring the electoral process to perfection because of voters control over it.