Blockchain voting. The future of Elections
Blockchain voting has been widely debated as an alternative to our current voting system in the United States. Many proponents of Blockchain voting systems point out that such a system would allow for more trust and transparency in elections. As we head into uncertain times Blockchain voting seems to be getting traction with lawmakers and government agencies. It is for this reason that it is almost inevitable some sort of Blockchain based voting system will eventually replace our current voting system. Listed below are some of the reasons Blockchain voting systems are an eventuality for the U.S. and the world.
USPS files patent for Blockchain voting system
The United States Patent and Trademark Office received an official patent request from the United States Postal Service for a “Secure Voting System” using blockchain technology to confirm the authenticity, and trust of votes cast by citizens. This patent (Publication Number US 2020/0258338A1) explains how the same underlying technology utilized by Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies can be adapted to “track and secure the vote by mail system” According to the patent application:
“those holding elections wish to be able to ensure that election results have not been tampered with and that the results actually correspond to the votes that were cast. In some embodiments, a blockchain allows the tracking of the various types of necessary data in a way that is secure and allows others to easily confirms that data has not been altered.”
Russia is already experamenting with blockchain voting systems
Last month Russia utilized a blockchain voting system when voting on a referendum that allowed Vladimir Putin to continue running Russia. The system that was utilized in Russia’s voting system relied on zero-knowledge proofs among other cryptographic primitives. The system utilized five different encryption keys that later are combined into a single master key that is used to encrypt all the blockchain transactions. When asked how these keys are generated an official responded with the following:
“They generate encryption keys, these keys are being generated in a decentralized fashion by blockchain nodes that run cryptographic services. The public keys get published on the blockchain.”
Russia has long been accused of holding unfair and non transparent elections. This move towards a blockchain based voting system seems to fly in direct opposition to that accusation which has lead some skeptics to wonder if the voting system implemented in Russia could still be tampered with. When asked about wether this system could be trusted Artem Kalikhov, Cheif Product Officer at Waves Enterprises; the company behind the voting system, had this to say:
Actually, it may sound surprising, but our partners from Rostelecom, they are really keen on making everything transparent and verifiable.
Kalikhov is currently focused on scaling the Blockchain voting system to service tens of Millions of voters. After the success of the voting system in a small sample of the population, this newly developed platform is expected to become the backbone of the Russian online electoral process. Russia seems dead set on becoming one of the first major countries to implement a nationwide blockchain voting system.
The list of countries investigating the possibility of blockchain voting systems are growing daily
Besides the US and Russia Sierra Leon, Norway, Australia, Canada, and France are all looking into their own implementations for Blockchain based voting systems. With the growing popularity of such systems it is almost inevitable that adoption is imminent.
Conclusion and potential risks
Blockchain voting systems have the potential and traction to fundamentally change the way global elections are held. The verifiable and public way the Blockchain records transactions will allow for voting systems that are more transparent and secure for everybody. However there is a risk posed by these systems. Since they record votes as “transactions” on a digital ledger ther eis the possibility of these votes being hacked and / or hackers adding fradulent votes into the system. This is already something that has happened in a few of the test cases for such systems. It is for this reason that officials have to be very careful with the way they implement Blockchain voting. However, even with these risks blockchain voting systems are still hundreds of times more secure than our current system and they allow for public accountability in the form of a public ledger which serves as an official tally of all votes cast by every citizen.