Ever since the first historically documented votes were counted in ancient Athens, the same issues arise over voter fraud and security.
Similar concerns over trust in ballots come up in today’s digital world. The solution may be using blockchain as a platform for electronic voting as an enhancement to an old, unreliable system of casting paper ballots. However, there are risks associated with electronic voting that need to be addressed before a new system can be fully implemented at scale.
This article will talk about the risks and benefits of using the blockchain in an electoral process.
Risks of Electronic Voting
Estonia provides a good example of the risks that need to be planned for in advance of an election. Says this article written by The Guardian,
“…flaws were discovered by a team … [who] observed election officials downloading key software over insecure internet connections, typing PINS and passwords in view of cameras, and preparing election software on insecure PCs.” This highlights that user errors and lazy security affect more than just crypto traders. But it does not end there.
Another article written by The Guardian reveals Virginia state using touchscreen voting machines for 12 years with passwords such as “abcde” and “admin,” written all in lower case, giving rise to doubts about the validity and security of their election
If you have any experience in crypto, you will likely cringe at the security breaches mentioned above. You probably do not need to be reminded to use a strong password, to enable 2FA, to turn on your firewall, use a VPN and to make sure that no one is watching as you type in your passwords or PINs.
Maybe the positive side to all of this is that, if you are suffering huge losses during this bear trend, you could always present yourself to state governments as a security expert for extra income.
Benefits of Electronic Voting
Blockchain allows for voter identities to remain completely anonymous, while simultaneously ensuring that each person gets one vote. And because the blockchain is online, all votes can be cast anywhere with an internet connection, even on your smartphone on your way to work. This may be highly idealized, but it is a possibility for the future.
Moreover, the distributed ledger is stored over many computers all at once, theoretically making votes immutable and tamper-proof. This is especially true if the voting process leverages the security of the largest blockchain in the world; Bitcoin.
All of this combined greatly diminishes the chances of voter suppression, and fraudulent voting that is seen with a paper-ballot system.
Who are Taking the Steps?
Follow My Vote is a Virginia state-based startup looking to implement successful blockchain-based voting. Their aim is to provide “an online open-source voting platform that promises transparency and hassle-free electoral process.” Also, implementing this technology will dramatically lower the costs associated with elections.
The Alpha version for Follow My Vote has already been released, and is looking to be tested and peer-reviewed by experts. You can read more information here.
Vote Watcher is another startup that uses a combination of paper ballots and blockchain technology in electoral processes. They work with unions, businesses, co-ops as well as governments to create a highly auditable, transparent and efficient voting system
Satoshi Nakamoto gave us Bitcoin – a financial network that offers automated checks and balances and transparency. Because it was open-sourced, it can be changed and altered depending on the needs.
Votes are sensitive, highly valuable pieces of information that need to be safeguarded and while blockchain technology does not offer perfection in terms of security, it does offer much more than simply using paper ballots, which have proven to be too easy to tamper with. Blockchain technology seems to be the next step in protecting against voter fraud, as long as the associated risks are addressed. Risks include user error and lazy security measures (as well as hacking, malware and “bugs” seen in some cryptocurrencies).
However, the benefits of a scalable, transparent audit trail and immutability in votes promises to offer more security than has ever before seen in history. More tests and development needs to be conducted, and there are some startups already in the process of doing this.
Therefore, the future of voting may end up using electronic tokens to vote, where each ballot can be trusted to be unchanged, and updated in real time by the network, rather than using paper and pen in a ballot booth, counted by other individual humans.
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