Beyond the Bitcoin: Are Blockchain-Powered Elections the future?

Beyond the Bitcoin: Are Blockchain-Powered Elections the future?

In 2014, four days before the national election in Ukraine, a group of hackers compromised the computers at the Ukrainian Central Election Commission office. These hackers destroyed files that were necessary to count the votes in the election. Volodymyr Zverev, head of the State Service for Special Communication and Information Security, released a statement after the incident explaining that “the virus was unleashed into the system from the computer of a CEC system administrator and the passwords were entered correctly from the first attempt.” Zverev goes on to blame the Ukrainian government’s anti-virus software.

When May 25th came around, the Ukrainian government stumbled into more issues. Websites that were designated to send vote counts were hit with a Denial-Of-Service attack (known as a DDOS attack), which in turn delayed the vote count by numerous hours. Immediately following the election, experts found malware in the government’s computers that would have incorrectly determined the winner of the election. The Ukrainian government went on to claim that the malware was removed well before the official election projections were released.

To think that the United States will not be susceptible to similar cyber security threats is a type ignorant optimism. The issue of election integrity is a challenge that all nations will eventually face, or have already faced in the 21st century. As one of the founding  fathers, Thomas Paine was a political activist that helped shape and revolutionize the United States that we know today. Over 200 years ago, Thomas Paine wrote that “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery.” Elections that utilize a secret ballot for each eligible citizen must be protected. However, election fraud has been ubiquitous for many years in the United States with the most recent incident being in Colorado.  An effective and long-lasting solution will require specialized technology, such as blockchain technology. With this technology, these strategies can be realized today in the form of Blockchain-based voting systems.

A blockchain is a digital and public ledger that is used to record information across many computers. These computers record information in ways that make the data immutable without the alteration of all subsequent pieces of information. In a blockchain, each block is a chunk of data or information. Inside of each block, there are smaller bits of data that refer to the previous block, which creates a chain all the way back to the first block (commonly referred to as the Genesis Block). Blocks can only be updated by consensus of a majority of the computers participating in the network. This technology enables individuals to transfer data securely to anyone (money, information, signatures etc.) without the need for a centralized third party.

As long as 51% of the computers on the network are honest, they will continue to validate information faster than any malicious attacker. For example, let us assume there is a hacker trying to change votes on a Blockchain-based digital voting system. If a hacker wanted to compromise a single vote, they would first need to obtain 51% of the computational power on the voting network. After this, the hacker would then need to rewrite the most recent vote and all subsequent votes before the next vote is validated by honest computers. Blockchains are built to be ruled by consensus. Action does not take place without a consensus first.

Blockchain, mostly known for Bitcoin and other digital currencies, is without a doubt the most talked-about technology on the market today. While some of it may be just hype, there are other parts of it that point to solutions for pressing issues. Many people are wondering, “what can Blockchain do for my industry?”.  Blockchain is crucial for voting infrastructure in the United States. Today’s voting systems are slow, expensive, and vulnerable to manipulation. A year has passed since the previous presidential election but, there are still concerns regarding security. By using a Blockchain-based digital voting solution, we can create a new voting culture that is modern, secure, and cost-effective.

The idea to use Blockchain-based voting solutions has already been put into practice in a few areas around the world. Here is one example, such as in 2016. Colombia partnered with the tech non-profit Democracy Earth Foundation. The foundation was  able to test and launch a Blockchain-based voting platform to allow Colombians abroad to cast votes for a Peace plebiscite in a safe, secure, and cost-efficient way. After the test of the platform, the Colombian Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies stated that “Blockchain is an expression towards a new kind of collaboration, in this case jointly generated security”.

Overall, blockchain technology has the potential to completely eradicate voter fraud around the globe. Corrupt governments will have nowhere to run, no citizens to manipulate, and no way of compromising an election. The application of blockchain-based voting solutions dictated by the rules of mathematics and computer science will only be possible through the adoption of voting systems that are not managed by a central authority. Veracity is both the greatest issue in centralized elections and the biggest opportunity in blockchain technology. Solve it, and you may be the one creating a true democratic future.


 

Sources:

Gorchinskaya, Katya, et al. “Hackers Foiled in Bid to Rig Election.” KyivPost, 25 May 2014,      www.kyivpost.com/article/content/may-25-presidential-election/authorities-hackers-foiled-in-bid-to-rig-ukraine-presidential-election-results-349288.html.

Corry, Charles E. “Introductory Comments On Voting Problems by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.” Equal Justice Foundation, 14 June 9AD, www.ejfi.org/Voting/Voting-5.htm#pgfId-1399102.

Berryhill, Jamie, and Piret Tonurist. “Embracing Innovation in Government: Global Trends 2018.” Oecd.org, 1 Jan. 2018, www.oecd.org/gov/innovative-government/innovation2018.htm.

Lukasiewicz, Jaron. “Agora | Blockchain Voting Technology for Credible Elections.” Agora.vote, 1 Jan. 2018, agora.vote/.

Ernst, Douglas. “Colorado Voter Fraud Revealed: Slew of Ballots Cast by the Dead Spark Investigation.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 23 Sept. 2016, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/sep/23/colorado-voter-fraud-revealed-slew-of-ballots-cast/.

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