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Voting on the blockchain technology can save democracy

Story Highlights

  • Protection from unauthorized access

  • Transparent and non-replaceable data

Fair elections

In many countries, the security of voting has become a serious problem. Some argue that blockchain voting systems can solve election security problems and activate democratic governance.

Secure and reliable elections

Democracy is a governance system in which those who are governed are involved in this process, usually by electing representatives. For democracy to function, fair and safe voting methods must exist. While traditional bulletin-based voting is affordable and inexpensive, it has two main problems:

  • It does not scale. Paper voting is best suited for small forms of local government. There are serious problems with ensuring accuracy when the method is used on a large scale.
  • Paper voting is increasingly combined with electronic voting systems, which are much more susceptible to various security vulnerabilities and facilitate the possibility of various manipulations with elections.

Some argue that blockchain technology can solve these problems. Firstly, because it is scalable and secondly, because it is protected from unauthorized access. Is it true? Can the blockchain technology offer a safe and reliable voting method suitable for modern countries?

To understand why the blockchain is protected from unauthorized access, it takes a little deeper to penetrate the technology. When the first block of a chain is added, it is marked with a hash function. As the second block is added, it is also marked with a hash function, which contains part of the hash function of the first block. Therefore, when a node sends a new block to the chain, if the node has changed any database transaction included in the previous blocks, the hash function of this block will also need to be changed. When this modified block is added to the blockchain, all other nodes realize that its hash function is incorrect (and that the changes should have been made on previous blocks), and the update is rejected. This fundamental aspect of the blockchain is what makes the technology protected from unauthorized access and safe. Thus, the Blockchain technology allows you to create transparent and non-replaceable data that cannot be controlled by a single entity, which makes it a potentially ideal platform for digital voting.

Several different voting systems on the blockchain were suggested. Voting was developed by students at the University of New York. A Votebook system that does not use remote voting due to security vulnerabilities: authentication is difficult and easily compromised, voters ’personal computers can be compromised, it’s easier to intimidate voters remotely, auditing remotely is much more difficult, and, most worryingly, the developers found that even a minimally resourced adversary can launch a DDoS attack.

This is why Votebook, as well as most cybersecurity experts, prefer paper-based audits. The Votebook system includes voting machines that look like traditional voting booths, but act like blockchain-based nodes. On election day, voting machines read votes at the moment when they are thrown into the ballot box and formed into a “block”. The block is transmitted to the network, and all nodes in the network verify the reliability of all components using the public key to decrypt the hash and verify compliance. The receiving nodes then check the hash of the previous block in the database to ensure that no interference occurred. With the help of the Votebook system, the voting experience is almost identical to the current voting experience, being more secure and reliable than the existing e-voting options.

Based on a review of the difficulties with traditional voting methods and various solutions for blockchain voting, which have been developed so far, the most realistic method of converting votes using blockchain technology would be to use physical voting to mobilize blockchain technology to count and keep accurate records of newsletters.