How Block Chain Technology Could Usher in Digital Democracy

September 28, 2017

In the digital age, it seems strange that people all around the world still use paper to vote. Of course, given bitcoin’s promise to remove paper from the financial system, many in the industry are beginning to ask if the same blockchain technology can be applied to help modernize the democratic process. There is good reason, as the traditional paper voting system has its flaws. Security of digital voting is always the biggest concern when considering to implement a digital voting system. With such monumental decisions at stake, there can be no doubt about the system’s ability to secure data and defend against potential attacks. One way the security issues can be potentially solved is through the technology of blockchains.

Blockchain security

Blocks in a block chain are ‘sealed’ with a cryptographic hash, which can be used to verify the contents of that block at a later date. If anyone tries to alter the historical record of transactions in a network, or to introduce new ones, then they has have to go back and alter that block in the blockchain. That would create a new hash that wouldn’t match the existing hash on record for that block.

The fraudster could simply replace that hash with a new one, but it takes a lot of computing power to calculate a hash on the bitcoin network. And the hash for a bitcoin block is used to help compute the hash of the next block in the blockchain. That means that the further back in time you try to alter a transaction, the more hashes you’d have to recalculate, and the more computing power it would take.

Voting on the blockchain

That is how bitcoin is able to guarantee its validity as a public ledger for all transactions in its history. But, if you can do that for financial transactions, the argument goes, then why can’t you do it for votes? After all, votes are another kind of transaction that has to be recorded. The Liberal Alliance party in Denmark is said to be in favour of a block chain-based vote.

BitCongress is using the Ethereum platform to build a scrypt-based altcoin called votecoin, that will use its network to hash and verify votes. It will use an application, Axiomity, both to organise and decide the parameters for votes, and to handle the voting process, explains founder Morgan Rockwell, who is also behind Bitcoin Kinetics.

How blockchain technology could be used for e-voting

The blockchain protocol is a means of logging and verifying records that is transparent and distributed among users. Usually, votes are recorded, managed, counted and checked by a central authority. Blockchain-enabled e-voting (BEV) would empower voters to do these tasks themselves, by allowing them to hold a copy of the voting record. The historic record could then not be changed because other voters would see that the record differs from theirs. Illegitimate votes could not be

Illegitimate votes could not be added, because other voters would be able to scrutinise whether votes were compatible with the rules (perhaps because they have already been counted, or are not associated with a valid voter record). BEV would shift power and trust away from central actors, such as electoral authorities, and foster the development of a tech-enabled community consensus. One way of developing BEV systems for e-voting is to create a new, bespoke system, designed to reflect the specific characteristics of the election and electorate. A second approach that may be cheaper and easier is to ‘piggyback’, running the election on a more established blockchain, such as that used by the virtual currency, bitcoin. Given that the security of a blockchain ledger relies upon the breadth of its user base, this piggyback approach may also be more secure for elections with a small number of voters. Blockchain experts are discussing a new generation of ‘techno-democratic systems’, and we can already see the emergence of virtual equivalents of national administrations, based upon blockchain technology. However, in the near term, BEV’s strongest potential may be in organisational rather than national contexts. Indeed, they have been used for the internal elections of political parties, and shareholder votes

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