The use of blockchain in the
public sector reached another milestone this month when West Virginia became
the first U.S.
state to allow internet voting by blockchain in primary elections. While the
voter participation through this platform was estimated to be small, the
intention of the administrators was to test the technology in a pilot project
with no immediate plans to implement it at a larger scale.
The idea of using blockchain
for elections is worth more than just an experiment, however. Mobile voting
using a safe and tested interface could eliminate voter fraud and boost
turnout. It will make it more convenient for citizens to vote while abroad,
irrespective of the distance and time. It is also a beneficial tool for the
election commission to maintain transparency in the electoral process, minimize
the cost of conducting elections, streamline the process of counting votes and
ensure that all votes are counted.
Under the technology that
was used in the West Virginia elections, a voter’s identity is verified using
biometric tools like a thumbprint scan before voting on a mobile device. Each
vote forms part of a chain of votes, where it is mathematically proven by the
third party participant. Using blockchain, all data of the election process can
be recorded on a publicly verifiable ledger while maintaining the anonymity of
voters, with results available instantly.
OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE FOR
The use of blockchain in
voting for elections can be further streamlined by using open source blockchain
voting platforms. An open source platform does not have any proprietary
elements to it, allowing any citizen or agency to audit the functionality of
the application and contribute to improve its security. Rather, an open-source
system is necessary to
have a fool-proof election. There are several start-ups like Democracy Earth Foundation, Follow My Vote, democracyos.org, VoteWatcher, Milvum and VotoSocial that have sprouted in
the recent years working in the area of open source online voting application following
the open data philosophy.
At a time when elections—even
in advanced democracies—are tainted with allegations of fraud or outside
influence, use of technology to eliminate rigging is imperative. However, there
is still skepticismaround
using blockchain for this purpose. For blockchain to be a viable option for
conducting elections, certain challenges must be overcome. Public officials
will have to understand the nuances of the technology and evaluate feedback
received from voters and administrators alike.
The National Conference of
State Legislatures describes several
considerations for adopting electronic transmission of ballots, including privacy,
security of the election process, security of the voter’s computer, denial of
service attack, voter coercion, auditability, authentication and inconvenience
for the local election official. Blockchain has to be tested, be available at
an optimum cost and be able to scale up for higher numbers of users. Political
will to support a new technology is also necessary.
This highlights a need to
create awareness among the government officials and build the technological
capabilities for making possible a technology-driven, transparent electoral
process. According to Pete Martin, CEO of Votem and
a proponent of online voting, we are two years
away from major online elections running on blockchain in the U.S. As
governments change, the process of electing such governments is bound to change
too—and blockchain may have a part to play.
here for the original article from Brookings.