Blockchain, the solution for fair elections?
Blockchain is a system that allows information to be shared but not modified. Why? Because the information stored in the “blockchain” is distributed between many nodes. Each block is a record of new transactions and every time a block is completed it is added to a chain. Each block contains its unique and unrepeatable code and also the code of the previous block so if any of the blocks is altered the codes no longer match. This is exactly what makes the blockchain system so secure and safe from hackers or any human tampering.
A priori it could seem a good method that could end the rigging elections but we are going to analyse it more deeply to see if it is really worth it.
Elections usually rely on in-person voting, but this year more than ever mail-in ballots (electronic vote) are being accepted in many countries due to the Covid-19 situation the whole World is facing. Any of those systems are susceptible to alteration since votes can be changed or stolen and electronic vote can be hacked. This means democracy is no longer assured.
Through the application of the blockchain system elections would be decentralized and would ensure that the historic record could not be modified. Also, it would increase voter confidence as they could have their own record of their vote. An increase in voter confidence could result in an increase in electoral participation which is a necessary condition for a system to be democratic and representative that guarantees the basic human and political rights.
This system would shift the power aside from the central actors, something similar to what happens with Bitcoin and some financial intermediaries. Probably you already know about this but in case you don’t here’s a short explanation. Bitcoin is a digital and decentralized currency that represents a huge change compared to the traditional banking system. While banks are centralized entities that keep a record of each account and their movements in the same “device”, Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general) uses the blockchain technology in order to improve the security of the information and to avoid corruption. Consequences are the same in the political and electoral field.
In addition to the advantages derived from the use of the blockchain system in the elections that I have already mentioned above, this system would reduce the cost of elections by eliminating ballots, voting machines…
In fact, some countries such as Kyrgyzstan have already shown their willingness to apply the blockchain system as a way to ensure fair elections, especially after the three revolutions after corrupt elections. They plan to implement this system in 3 to 6 months.
So far, everything seems to be advantages but the truth is that there are also big barriers to be faced before countries carry out elections through the blockchain system. The most basic one but yet important is Internet connexion and this is something not all the population has access to. This would make older people or people without enough financial resources to afford the Internet lie outside the political landscape.
It could have negative consequences such as the decrease of the electoral participation and the actual elimination of universal suffrage (as hard as it seems to believe, there are many people out there without internet conexion) These barriers could be destroyed with a good political performance. Political institutions could use the money they save by using the blockchain system to provide spaces with computers and internet conexion ( for anyone who wants to vote but does not have the means to do so. This measure would ensure equal voting rights for all the citizens but this is only one of (the)many possible solutions to this problem.
And now I want to know your opinion: Do you think the blockchain system would ensure fair elections? Do you have any proposals on how to ensure the right to vote while applying the block chain system? I read you!