What Is Blockchain Voting?

March 21, 2024

What Is Blockchain Voting?

Blockchain voting is a crucial innovation in elections, addressing the need for trust and transparency. Traditional voting systems have faced challenges related to trust and transparency. One example is the 2020 US Presidential Election, which was one of the most controversial elections in recent history. Former President Donald Trump and his supporters claimed that the election was rigged and that there was widespread voter fraud. This led to a lack of trust in the election results and a storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Blockchain technology, known for its secure and transparent nature, offers a solution.

In blockchain voting, each voter's choice is recorded in a secure and unchangeable digital ledger. This ledger is distributed across a network of computers, ensuring that no single entity can manipulate the results. The transparency of blockchain technology builds trust in the voting process. So, as a technology that upholds transparency, blockchain voting has the potential to revolutionize the future of elections. This will make it more secure and reliable. It's a vital step towards ensuring that every vote counts and that elections are fair and trustworthy.

Origin and History of Blockchain Voting

The history of blockchain voting can be traced back to 2012 when the visionary and protagonist, Adam Kaleb Ernest, proposed a system called "Follow My Vote." This system used blockchain technology to allow voters to track their ballots from the moment they were cast until the votes were counted. The Follow My Vote system uses cryptography to ensure that ballots are secure and that voters can verify that their votes have been counted correctly. The system also uses a distributed ledger to store the results of the election, which makes it difficult to tamper with the results.

Since the Follow My Vote proposal, a number of other blockchain-based voting systems have been developed. Some of these systems are already being used in real-world elections, while others are still in the development or testing phase.

Examples are Voatz and Agora. Voatz is a mobile voting software that uses blockchain technology to secure and verify votes. It has been used in several small-scale elections in the United States, including the 2018 West Virginia primary election. Agora is a blockchain-based voting software that the Estonian government developed. It has been used in Estonian elections since 2014, including the 2019 parliamentary election.

How Blockchain Voting Works

How blockchain voting works
How blockchain voting works. Source: MDPI

Blockchain voting works when people or governments make use of blockchain technology to record and secure votes. Below is a simplified explanation of how it works:

  1. Voter verification. Before voting, a voter's identity is verified through a secure process. This may involve authentication methods such as biometrics, smart cards, or unique login credentials.
  2. Vote submission. Once verified, the voter casts their ballot electronically. They make their selections for various candidates or issues using a user-friendly interface.
  3. Vote encryption. Each vote is encrypted to protect the voter's privacy. Encryption ensures that the vote remains confidential and cannot be deciphered by unauthorized parties.
  4. Blockchain recording. The encrypted votes are stored as transactions in a blockchain, forming a tamper-proof ledger.
  5. Decentralization. The blockchain ledger is distributed across a network of computers (nodes). These nodes maintain copies of the entire blockchain, ensuring that there's no central authority. For example, if there are 1,000 nodes in the network, each node has a complete copy of the blockchain, making it challenging for any single entity to manipulate the data.
  6. Consensus mechanism. The network uses a consensus mechanism to validate votes. Common mechanisms include Proof of Work (PoW) or Proof of Stake (PoS), where participants in the network agree on the accuracy of the transactions.
  7. Verification and transparency. Voters can independently verify that their votes are recorded correctly by checking the blockchain. This transparency enhances trust in the voting process.
  8. Results and security. As the votes are securely stored in the blockchain, the results are accurate, and the system is resilient to fraud.

Benefits of Blockchain Voting

Blockchain voting brings several notable benefits to the world of elections. These advantages are straightforward and impactful, contributing to a more secure and transparent voting process.

Enhanced Security

Blockchain voting is like a digital fortress. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, it helps shield votes with strong encryption and decentralization. This makes it highly resistant to hacking or tampering. It assures voters that their choices remain confidential and secure.

Transparency and Trust

Trust in the voting process is vital. Blockchain's transparency means anyone can verify the results. According to ScienceDirect, voters can ensure their votes are counted accurately, reducing doubts and enhancing faith in elections.

Reduced Fraud

With blockchain, fraudulent activities face a formidable opponent. It's extremely difficult to manipulate or duplicate votes, safeguarding the integrity of the election.

Accessibility

Blockchain voting can expand access to voting. People in remote areas or those with mobility challenges can vote conveniently from their own devices, increasing participation.

Efficiency

Blockchain streamlines the voting process. Counting and verifying votes are quicker, reducing the time needed to declare election results.

Cost Savings

Traditional elections involve printing ballots, staffing polling stations, and more. According to research by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, blockchain voting can reduce these costs significantly, making elections more budget-friendly.

Immutable Record

How immutability benefits the blockchain voting system
How immutability benefits the blockchain voting system. Source: SoluLab

Once a vote is recorded on the blockchain, it can't be altered. This unchangeable ledger ensures the accuracy and permanence of the election results.

Global Applicability

Blockchain voting can be applied in various election scenarios, from national elections to corporate board votes. It's a versatile solution with worldwide potential.

Trust in Results

When results are stored on the blockchain, there's no room for suspicion or dispute. It makes election outcomes clear and indisputable.

Future-Proofing

As technology evolves, blockchain voting remains relevant. It adapts to new challenges and security measures, making it a promising solution for the future.

Challenges of Blockchain Voting

Blockchain voting comes with its set of challenges, which, while not overwhelming, need careful consideration. David Jefferson, a computer scientist and election security expert, argued that blockchain cannot deliver the security guarantees required for safe online elections. Below are some of the top concerns and challenges of blockchain voting.

Technological Barriers

Not everyone is tech-savvy. Some may find it difficult to use blockchain voting systems, potentially excluding certain demographics, like older people or those with limited access to technology.

Voter Privacy Concerns

While blockchain voting ensures vote privacy, some voters worry about revealing their choices electronically. They fear the digital footprint could compromise their anonymity.

Vulnerability to Device Compromises

The security of the voter's device is crucial. If their device is compromised, their vote could be manipulated before it's even recorded on the blockchain. Ben Adida, the executive director of VotingWorks, a nonprofit that is trying to modernize voting, has argued that blockchain technology does little to solve the fundamental security issues of elections and may introduce additional security vulnerabilities.

Initial Setup Complexity

Implementing blockchain voting systems requires considerable setup and investment. Governments and organizations must go through the complexities of integrating this technology into existing election infrastructure.

Identity Verification Issues

Confirming a voter's identity in the digital realm is challenging. Making sure that each vote comes from an eligible voter is critical to the integrity of the system.

Network Vulnerabilities

The network that maintains the blockchain must be secure. Any weaknesses in network security could expose the voting data to potential threats.

Resistance to Change

People may be resistant to a shift from traditional voting methods. Overcoming this resistance and building trust in the new system is a big challenge.

Legislation and Regulation

Creating clear and effective laws and regulations around blockchain voting is vital. Ensuring that the technology adheres to legal and ethical standards can be complex.

Scalability

As the number of voters increases, the blockchain's capacity to handle a large volume of transactions must be addressed. Ensuring scalability without compromising security is a challenge.

Factors causing scalability issues
Factors causing blockchain voting scalability issues. Source: Phemex

Educating Voters

Voters need to understand the new system to use it effectively. Providing comprehensive voter education is crucial, and it can be a significant undertaking.

Future of Blockchain Voting

Blockchain voting holds promise for the future of elections. Kees Leune, a cybersecurity expert and professor at Adelphi University, has made a dual-blockchain architecture that stands to revolutionize election processes. This innovation aims to amplify election transparency, security, and equity. Blockchain, with its inherent security and decentralized nature, is seen as an ideal solution for electronic voting systems.

The potential impact is not limited to cybersecurity experts alone. The Brookings Institution, a distinguished think tank in Washington, D.C., has underlined blockchain voting's potential to tackle critical issues, including combating voter fraud and ensuring the counting of every vote. The strength of blockchain lies in its capacity to securely store and transmit information, reinforcing the foundation of a fair and trustworthy electoral system.

As technology continues to evolve, the future of blockchain voting appears promising. It offers a path toward enhanced trust, accessibility, and the resilience of election systems, ensuring that the democratic process remains secure and transparent for all.

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