Blockchain Voting Usecase
Key Takeaway: Blockchain could be the key to ushering in digital democracy through secure and transparent online elections and record keeping
E-voting is considered by many to be the future of democracy, the panacea if you will to sluggish voter participation. Elections today are, however, still largely conducted offline via paper ballots due to security and privacy concerns. Despite these lingering concerns, e-voting, and by extension blockchain-based voting and record management platforms, holds the key to speeding up, simplifying, and reducing the cost of elections. Blockchain could also theoretically reduce existing barriers to voting, leading to higher voter turnouts and the development of stronger democracies.
Governments, political parties, and other organizations have already begun to experiment with blockchain-based solutions. The Liberal Alliance, for example, is a political party in Denmark that in 2014 used a blockchain to conduct secure electronic voting at its annual meeting. Here are a few real-world examples of blockchain voting applications:
#1: Voter registration
Blockchain holds the most promise in supplementing, rather than completely replacing, existing voter registration methods. In this example citizens would still be able to register using existing paper, postal, or web forms. These forms, alongside other important information like current government identification, party affiliation, social security number, and home address, are used to create transactions on a dedicated voter blockchain. A blockchain thus provides an immutable record of voter transactions for each stage of the process.
Once an individual has successfully registered and authenticated their identity an automated miner can be used to analyze the transaction to verify the user and determine whether a vote has been already awarded or denied to the identity in question. Assuming a vote is awarded from the theoretically infinite pool of votes, the automated miner will order ballot cards to be sent for absentee or out-of-state voters or will generate a random password for poling stations. A blockchain would thus generate two transactions for each registrant. The first being at the time the citizen officially registers and the second when the government miner authorizes or denies that user’s right to vote. When used in this manner, so long as the voter blockchain is not used to record the actual vote or voter behavior in general, the blockchain would provide mechanisms to prevent data or vote manipulation and a new and enhanced way to keep digital transactions private.
#2: Proxy voting
Proxy voting, which is typically done at annual meetings or special sessions, is the process by which shareholders cast votes regarding both important and mundane changes in company operations, strategy, and leadership. A blockchain could be used to record these votes, improving the transparency of the process and increasing overall confidence in the handling of sensitive corporate data. As votes are cast, blockchain’s distributed ledger technology could provide real-time insight into vote progress, allowing solicitors and other stakeholders to adjust their strategy or response accordingly. Nasdaq, for example, recently completed a successful trial in Estonia that enabled company shareholders to use a blockchain-based voting system. Investor services firm Broadbridge, in partnership with JP Morgan, Northern Trust, and Banco Santander, recently completed a pilot that utilized a private ethereum blockchain as a backup system to traditional voting software.
#3: Public audits or recounts
Statewide recounts, such as in the case of the April 5th, 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court election, are an expensive, but not unheard of process. During a typical recount ordered by the Government Accountability Board in the United States, the people in charge of recounting the ballots are not the same people who originally counted the ballots on the night of the election. While most recounts only find minor differences due to ballot marking errors by voters or issues encountered with optical scanners, the lack of public transparency into both the original and recount process does little to instill confidence in voters during contentious elections, despite the best efforts of non-profit and government watchdogs and their equivalents across the globe.
A vote blockchain, which would be kept separate from a voter blockchain that records registration transactions, would provide a full auditable history of signed and time-stamped votes that could be viewed at will by the public, greatly increasing transparency and reducing the likelihood that voting records are duplicated, manipulated, or deleted. The likelihood of vote tampering is likewise reduced as the number of “eyes” on the records is greatly increased.