Blockchain voting can offer a myriad of benefits that would completely transform the face of democracy in the 21st century. Nowadays, voting is mostly carried out using paper based systems which despite their inexpensiveness and accessibility have two major setbacks; firstly, paper voting systems are almost entirely dependent on the honesty and security of personnel supervising the procedure; secondly, paper voting systems have a scalability problem which can be reflected on the accuracy of the results of the voting procedure. On the other hand, combining paper voting systems with electronic voting can open the door for counterfeiting the results of the elections by the government or 3rd parties. Consequently, the blockchain technology represents a scalable solution to the problems affecting today’s voting systems via offering a fraud-proof mechanism for electronic voting.
Why Do We Need Blockchain Voting?
On the 9th of December, 2016, an article, published on The New York Times, stated that the CIA had solid evidence that Russian intelligence agencies had covertly acted in the 2016 US Presidential race to increase the winning chances of Donald Trump. Furthermore, Trump claimed that the presidential race was rigged, partly due to voter intimidation which illustrates how the security of the voting system in the US has become a crucial issue.
Many states use electronic voting machines (EVMs) to simplify the voting process. A study published by NYU School of Law discovered that the EVMs that were used in the 2016 US elections in 43 states were more than 10 years old. The study found out that these outdated EVMs are not only susceptible to crashes and system failures, but also vulnerable to malicious attacks that can tamper with the results of the voting process.
Votebook : An Effective Blockchain Based Voting Model:
In September 2016, The Economist partnered with Kaspersky Labs to organize a competition where MBA students from the USA and Britain competed to create voting systems that are built using the blockchain. The Votebook team won the competition and presented what can be considered an effective blockchain based voting system. Votebook is built using a group of eight design considerations which are:
- A voter can check whether or not his/her vote was counted in, but cannot see whom his/her neighbor has voted for.
- The model shouldn’t permit coerce voting.
- The model can be adjusted to show or conceal interim results.
- The model should permit voter abstinence.
- The model should be audible.
- Not all voters can access the internet.
- Voting will only be available to citizens.
- The most practical voting model will need minimum changes of voting behavior from voters.
Votebook create a blockchain voting model that closely resembles the present system, utilizing voting booths and stations while backing up the voting process, which took place on the blockchain, via paperwork. According to the Votebook team, this represents the best approach as cybersecurity voting experts recommend utilizing a physical audit trail via paperwork.
Votebook requires a blockchain that is similar to that of bitcoin with one big difference. Votebook’s blockchain will not be public, so that any node can connect and start verifying transactions; instead, a central authority will grant permission to nodes, via encryption keys, to connect to the network. Accordingly, nodes will be forms of voting machines that received a permission to act as so, creating what is known as a “permissioned blockchain”.
Votbeook’s voting machines will act as nodes that connect to a blockchain. As polls start, voting machines will operate via collecting votes and arranging them onto a “block”, preparing them to be verified by the blockchain protocol. Once created, a block will be broadcast to the network so that every node can verify its components by means of their public key that matches the ID of the presenting node, to decipher the hash and check a possible match. According to the blockchain script, the hash of the proceeding block will be verified by the receiving nodes to ensure that no fraud has been attempted. Whenever all these conditions were verified, the existing database will be appended by the receiving nodes with the new node. Moreover, another separate blockchain will be used to document all voters.
Although voters’ experience in Votebook’s blockchain based voting model will closely resemble the present voting experience using EVMs in the USA, it will be way more secure, reliable and hack-proof. So, the blockchain technology cannot only change the way we vote, but it can also totally introduce democracy to a whole new level.