11 June 2020

Long gone are the times in which people doubted the potential of blockchain. Blockchain became a trend in a matter of seconds – so much of a trend that it quickly became a buzzword for marketers. It came to a point where nobody knew what was fiction and what was real. In this tide of possible uses for the blockchain, we found a very unique one.

Can the blockchain change how people vote in democratic elections?

The Basis For Blockchain-Based Voting

How could the blockchain and the electoral processes be linked?

In an electoral process, integrity, privacy, and the immutability of the vote are elements that cannot be missing. Blockchain offers this like no other technology.

The transmission of election data would be secure, and no one would be able to rig it. If someone alters the data, the electoral system would have to verify and confirm that change in the record. We could even reach a point where we do not have to go to a polling station to exercise our democratic right to vote. The electoral commission would deliver a unique virtual identity for every voter. This would also be anonymous. The transmission of data would be done in a matter of seconds. People could follow the election results live.

There are some other benefits of blockchain-based elections, too. The blockchain would oppose mail voting. Mail voting is often slow, and it is not as transparent as it should be. With blockchain, voting would be faster. There is a traceability element also involved. People would know for a fact that their vote would count.

This process would be simple, and it starts with the voter opting to vote with this new system. Once all the requests have been received, it will be determined how many voters opted for this system. Then, every voter would receive a hash identifier, in which they will ‘deposit’ their vote. This record would have all related information, including the time and date of the vote. Having this in the blockchain would ensure the voters know the status of their votes. People that can’t make it to the polling station could vote. Nobody would lose their democratic rights.

Real Life Voting And Blockchain

This is not a hypothesis, though – this is a reality. West Virginia saw a first pilot test in 2018. 150 military overseas were able to vote in the state’s primary elections. This was possible thanks to the Voatz platform, a product developed by Hyperledger. Later in 2019, Denver also announced its first pilot test with Voatz for its municipal elections.

The USA is not the only example there is. Estonia often called the digital nation of Europe, has already embraced it. Estonia has been using something called i-Voting since 2005. It is a secure system in which people vote through the internet. The voter logs into the system with an ID card or a mobile ID and casts their vote.

This process is recorded digitally. The voter’s identity is removed before the information reaches the Estonian Election Commission. Once again, user trust is what makes the system work. Around 44% of the Estonian people vote through i-Voting. All in all, Estonia has continued its project of e-governance, in which 99% of all processes can be done online. This brings transparency in an unprecedented way to Estonia.

Estonia is an example of what embracing technology can do – that’s why they have embraced blockchain in their projects. They are one of the first countries to use it in healthcare, and they surely will continue to embrace it.

Of course, things are not as easy as they look. There needs to be a heavy investment if a country wants to put in place this kind of system. Problems around the anonymity of the vote still need to be sorted out before going public. Yet, it is one of those risks worth taking.

In a post-pandemic world, this seems like an essential tool for democracy.

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Edmund McCormack
Tech industry veteran and blockchain technology investor. Simplifying cryptocurrency for almost a decade.

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