At a time when the integrity of elections is under attack in the United States and other countries, the relevance of using blockchain for elections is very high. Will elections organized and conducted on the blockchain be able to replace the traditional voting system?
Greenland is exploring voting options
Greenland is exploring the possibility of creating an online platform for voting in its national elections. Among the options under consideration there is a system based on blockchain.
Electronic voting, or e-voting, has long been considered as a promising option for using blockchain technology.
Using blockchain technology, online voting can simultaneously increase voter participation in elections and restore public confidence in the electoral process and democracy.
Elections in the United States and in a number of other countries are accompanied by numerous scandals, which significantly reduces the confidence of voters in the election results and in the electoral system itself.
Now this issue has become very relevant again, as a significant part of the world's population is increasingly raising questions about the integrity of elections. This is especially evident in the United States and in other countries such as Brazil. Pay attention to the numerous protests of voters who disagree with the election results.
Increasingly, there are statements that elections using blockchain technology are much more progressive and honest compared to how most elections are conducted today.
Voting machines break down, software fails, and election irregularities often create uncertainty and doubt among the voting public.
With a public blockchain, it is much easier for voters to track their vote and audit the elections themselves. Thanks to this, people will be more confident that their voice is taken into account. Trust will increase along with the rise of attendance. Many do not go to the polls, because they do not believe in their results.
If something really bad happens during the voting process, it is easier to identify it in a decentralized registry with thousands of nodes and an open system than in existing vote counting systems, where counting is done behind closed doors.
Despite the fact that the potential of blockchain technology in relation to public elections has been actively studied in many countries, no state has yet used blockchain technology in national elections.
Several countries, such as Estonia, are experimenting with systems that allow people to vote online. However, so far these countries have not advanced further than experiments.
At the same time, the Netherlands rejected the idea of electronic voting due to some concerns about the security and authenticity of votes.
There is sparsely populated Greenland, where huge distances make it difficult for people to vote in person. According to a Concordium press release, a group of researchers from Concordium Blockchain, Aarhus University, the Alexandra Institute and the IT University will soon investigate whether a blockchain-based system will be more reliable for electronic elections on the world's largest island.
Any voting system requires trust, which consists of the following elements:
whitelists: ensuring the participation of only eligible voters
identification: voters need to confirm their identity when voting
anonymity: voting is made privately and cannot be traced to the voter
security: location is controlled by the government
immutability: votes cast cannot be changed
A public decentralized blockchain ensures immutability by default, since any recorded transaction can never be deleted. The system is protected by cryptography, transactions are anonymous, but open for verification by anyone in the world.
On the one hand, it is necessary to preserve confidentiality and anonymity, on the other hand, to ensure that any voter who has the right to vote can cast his vote only once.
The issue of privacy is particularly difficult when it comes to public elections.
It is necessary to make sure and, if necessary, prove that only eligible voters voted. Therefore, it is required to collect some information, such as addresses and citizen status.
Until now, the technical implementation of these processes raises questions from experts and requires further careful study.
Practical use of blockchain for Voting in Moscow
In 2014, the electronic voting platform "Active Citizen" of the city of Moscow was created, allowing Muscovites to speak out when making non-political municipal decisions. In 2017, it used the Ethereum blockchain for a series of surveys.
220,000 citizens took part in the largest of them, and the voting results were available for public inspection. This revealed some scaling limitations and the following problems of practical implementation of voting on the blockchain.
The platform based on the PoW algorithm has peaked at about 1,000 transactions per minute or 16.7 transactions per second.
It would not be easy for the platform to cope with such a volume if most of the 12 million citizens of Moscow participated in the voting.
Buterin stated in 2021 that security is still a problem of the organization of elections.
For this reason, in the short term, any form of voting on the blockchain should be limited to small experiments.
Governments can start on a small scale and first test concepts for individual non-critical elections.
Technology is not the only obstacle that needs to be eliminated before blockchain voting becomes widespread. There are also political and social problems.
Most of the voters are not technically experienced. They do not know and do not understand the technology, and this reduces confidence in it.
Greenland, which is experiencing difficulties with participating in general elections primarily due to the long distances that its citizens have to travel to vote, is now actively exploring the possibilities of blockchain.
It is extremely important that people trust their voting system, whether it is manual, electronic or blockchain-based, and it takes time to build trust.
As more and more people get used to accessing public services online, electronic voting should become more widespread in different parts of the world.
Once that happens, blockchain voting could gain popularity, given its well-documented benefits of allowing individuals to verify their own votes.
Although this has not yet become the norm, governments around the world are increasingly starting to think about the value that online voting systems on the blockchain can offer in terms of efficiency, accessibility, speed, security and transparency.