There is no doubt that technology, when used wisely, can help humanity with a number of pressing issues. When blockchain tech came along, a lot of over-enthusiastic people referred to it as a universal remedy. Clearly, it is quite naive to think that blockchain technology could profoundly change how all things work, however some areas might really benefit from it.
Take, for example, our voting system. Smart contracts combined with an immutable distributed ledger, in theory, could truly help change the way we vote – we might make the current voting system not only cheaper, but also more efficient and transparent.
Or is it just another blockchain promise that was never meant to happen?
The Flaws of the Current Voting System
Ever since the first vote was held thousands of years ago, the actual process of it hasn’t changed that much: people come to a certain place, confirm their identity, specify their vote, and place it in a special box. We might have switched from colored stones to pieces of paper, and the whole system has become a little more complex, but in general, it pretty much comes down to this. However, as the population grew and everyone got the right to vote, the cost of such a voting system increased accordingly.
The main disadvantages of the modern-day voting system are mainly the following:
- High costs
- Bribery and manipulation
- Mistakes in calculations and cheating while counting the final votes
- The necessity to be physically present at a certain location to cast your vote
How about e-voting then?
Although electronic voting is not something entirely new, and some countries have tried to give it a shot, in the end nobody has decided to go through with it thus far. The possibility of system hacks and software errors are two huge drawbacks that won’t let e-voting become the next best thing.
Advantages of Blockchain Voting
Now, how about voting from the comfort of your own home, just using your mobile? When using blockchain technology, instead of transferring your vote via a piece of paper, you can simply transfer a token.
Ideally, blockchain can help solve a few of the aforementioned issues.
The results of the vote would be completely legitimate as anyone would be able to see how many votes were counted and even check the time when each vote was registered. At the same time, votes stay anonymous due to the use of public/private key pairs.
Another great thing about using blockchain technology for voting is transparency. Anyone is able to deploy a node and analyze its data.
The whole process would become less expensive and faster, and you would be able to cast your vote regardless of where you are.
So how come these advantages sound so promising, but blockchain voting hasn’t been applied yet?
Blockchain Voting in Practice
Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet. Although some countries like Colombia or Russia made a couple of brave attempt to implement the blockchain voting system for local elections, the results were not too impressive.
Blockchain tech is still in the early stage of development and we need to work out its major kinks before we can trust it with something as serious as our freedom and well-being.
First of all, security is still a big issue. When a few entities control the majority of blockchain nodes, they become security targets. Blockchain smart contracts are not the ideal tools for handling major processes like voting either – we’ve seen them fail many times. And then there is always the chance that malware could compromise your device or the device that is used to count the votes and instead of fighting against corruption, the blockchain-powered system would open the door to it.
And finally the obvious – it is always a tricky task to verify users’ identities when they are not physically present to vote. Biometrics such as fingerprints and face ID are often criticized as imperfect. Moreover, how can we be sure that these ‘remote’ voters cast their votes voluntarily and not as a result of pressure?
Although blockchain tech holds a great promise, some politicians remain skeptical.
But positive cases do exist.
Voatz, a project focused on a blockchain-based voting system, is working on simplifying the voting process for overseas voters. Their pilot mobile vote was hosted in West Virginia mainly for military personnel so they could cast an official ballot via their mobile phone. The platform uses the HyperLedger blockchain. In 2019, Voatz held a second trial and conducted the Denver Mobile Voting Pilot. The platform received quite positive feedback and plans to lead the charge.
“Since June 2016, more than 80,000 votes have been cast on the Voatz platform across more than 30 elections. Voatz has experience working with both major political parties, churches, unions, universities, towns, cities, and states, all in the effort to make it safe, convenient and easy to vote.”
The Bottom Line
As much as we want blockchain technology to make the world a better place, it is not a silver bullet. The tech can definitely help with several major issues such as cutting costs and collecting the votes of people living overseas. However, we still need to figure out blockchain’s major weak spots to provide maximum security until we see the blockchain voting platforms in general use.