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Blockchain voting systems offer transparency and security

The paper balloting system has been around for generations. However, countries around the world have been trying to replace the dated process with electronic voting, which is commonly referred to as e-voting.

The paper balloting system has been around for generations. However, countries around the world have been trying to replace the dated process with electronic voting, which is commonly referred to as e-voting.

There are two forms in which this voting method is used, using a machine in a polling station, rather than a ballot paper and pencil, or casting a vote over the internet.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), used in polling stations, have been cited in the past for their superiority over the archaic paper balloting. They are accessible for residents in rural areas, results are tabulated faster, they lower costs, and reduce environmental waste.

evm smIndia started using EVMs in 1998, and continue to do so today. The Election Commission of India stated that the suitcase sized machines were “infallible” and “perfect.” However, others deem the machines as sub standard.

The independent forum for promoting Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Indian Elections, VeTA, claims that EVMs are prone to tampering by both external hackers and insiders. “The danger of insider fixing of elections is recognized the world over. Hence mere faith in companies and a host of private players handling EVMs cannot be the basis for election results,” states the group.

An independent team of researchers looked into a used EVM from India, and found two ways in which the results could have been rigged. A display component could be replaced with a fake substitute, programmed to steal a percentage of the votes in favour of a chosen candidate, and stored votes could be changed between the election and the public counting session, with a pocket-sized device.

“Elections can be trusted only if the results are verifiable and auditable. Most developed countries have rejected or reformed direct-recording EVMs.“

  • VeTA

The United States has also faced issues with EVMs. A study co-authored by Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti, “America’s voting Machines at Risk,” revealed that 43 states in this year’s presidential elections will be using EVMs that are at least 10 years old. According to the study, current machines are “perilously close to the end of most systems’ expected lifespan.”

The study was conducted over 10 months, and included interviews with more than 100 election officials and specialists in all 50 states. Whilst observing the challenges associated with outdated equipment, the report states that new technologies are the answer to the “impending crisis.”

Brennan centre for justice

“Technology has changed dramatically in the last decade, but America’s voting machines are rapidly aging out.”

  • Brennan Center for Justice, America’s Voting Machines at Risk

Current EVMs do not appear to be the answer, nor e-voting. A voted ballot sent through the Internet is exposed to a number of security threats, including cyber-attacks such as modification in transit, denial of service, spoofing, automated vote buying, and viral attacks on voter PCs.

Blockchain companies have been exploring this puzzle, and some are offering cutting edge technology solutions. V-Initiative, a New York based company, has been focusing on delivering open-source voting solutions based on Bitcoin’s blockchain: “Our goal is to be able to distribute 100% fraud proof, 100% anonymous, digital votes so that we can re-imagine the way democracy works in a digital age.”

Although Bitcoin’s blockchain has a vast array of benefits, one drawback as an electoral tool is that it is not anonymous, but pseudonymous, which means that user identity is not fully protected from the public. Pseudonyms, user-IDs and IP addresses can be viewed and possibly traced by other users. To heighten privacy, V-Initiative safeguards voter anonymity by making use of Zero Coin, and zero-knowledge proof cryptography, partnered with the IP masking software, TOR.

“The implementation of such open source code in a voting blockchain scheme would allow for a system that could both verify the authenticity of each vote belonging to a registered voter while totally anonymizing said voter.”

Blockchain Technologies Corp (BTC) is another company hoping to replace temperamental voting systems. “America’s voting machine technology – or lack thereof – is a looming crisis,” states the company. BTC claims to conduct “secure, tamper resistant elections by using the blockchain as a high-tech audit trail to ensure voting records are transparently verifiable and all votes are unique.”

Nick Spanos“The blockchain enables so many great things that were never before possible. While many people are focused on financial applications, we are bringing the security and transparency it enables into the election process.”

  • Nick Spanos, CEO of Blockchain Technologies Corp.

The company have been showcasing their “Blockchain Apparatus” platform by conducting straw polls after GOP Republican debates around the USA. The voting platform creates non-financial distributed ledger records, and can be customized to accommodate different clients and their needs.

“The core of the technology is the use of the decentralized consensus to ensure integrity of information – the data – that current centralized and human-dependent systems cannot provide without the risk of corruption, malfeasance, or error.”

  • Blockchain Technologies Corp


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