Blockchain technology is being explored and developed at a rapid pace in multiple distinct industries ranging from agriculture to esports. But what can the technology offer the electoral system?
The technology was originally popularized by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In its most basic form, blockchain technology is an immutable ledger that records and tracks transactions. This system lends itself to a task that requires the utmost security and efficiency in as simple a gesture as pressing a button.
The reason voters mill to polling stations is because anonymous voting in person is the best way to ensure integrity and privacy. In the past digital voting systems faced issues due to the conflict between verifying voter integrity and protecting voter anonymity.
Blockchain assuages these issues with ease.
Blockchain is exactly like casting a ballot, but more secure and more efficient. After registering and proving citizenship—through a myriad of ways—potential voters would be linked to an account on the network being used. Voters would then have a token distributed to their accounts and would send the token to a candidate of their choice. This process would of course be kept under an attractive user-interface.
The issue of anonymity obviously arises.
Blockchain is based on a decentralized approach, but the registration and logging of identifying information obviously relies on a central authority. When a citizen walks into a polling station to cast a ballot their vote isn’t associated with their identity, it’s just another piece of paper in the stack. In order to accurately protect the system from compromising there must be a central authority—the polling station—to log and record who gains access to the system.
It’s a trade-off.
A central authority will have the ability to associate your account with your identification, making it possible for this central authority to associate a vote with your identity. At the same time, foreign disruptors and domestic meddlers would have a much harder time affecting the outcome of an election and blockchain can make the entire system more secure and transparent.
Imagine the dictatorships around the world propped up by rigged elections. In corrupt governments blockchain could bring forth true democracy.
So what are the implications of blockchain?
Real-time tracking of data would allow for a much more transparent process. Although you trust your paper ballot to not be altered, there is really no way of knowing. Through the blockchain there is a tangible way to track where the vote goes and the transaction would exist on the blockchain forever. As a voter casts their vote they are able to see their ballot counted live.
With this transparency also comes a much reduced risk of election meddling/rigging. This secure identification requirement shrinks the possibility of cheating to a marginal figure and assuages fears that your vote is being countered by a fraudulent one.
Ease-of-access offered by this form of secure voting would greatly increase voter turnout and make it easier for potential voters to cast their ballots. With the advent of blockchain-based voting, voters would be able to cast their vote from home and it would be as easy as logging into the service and pressing a button.
Bitcoin still has a long road to acceptance and implementation.
However with slow rollouts happening around the globe from Estonia to West Virginia, it is easy to see a future where our elections occur and are secured on the blockchain. Once blockchain is legitimized voting could become more secure, more transparent and offer a greater ease-of-access to the voter.