A Blockchain paper (available in Blockchain News Library) written by Analyst Philip Boucher from the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) called “What if Blockchain technology revolutionised voting? ” takes a hard look to ask is Blockchain the revolution in security and transparency that is needed to enable e-voting and, if so, what are the implications for the future of democracy?
Many experts in the past have agreed that e-voting would require revolutionary developments in security systems but today the debate has shifted – and many wonder whether Blockchain technology will represent a transformative or merely incremental development.
The Blockchain protocol is a means of logging and verifying records that is transparent and distributed among users. Usually, votes are recorded, managed, counted and checked by a central authority.
Blockchain-enabled e-voting (BEV) would empower voters to do these tasks themselves, by allowing them to hold a copy of the voting record. The historic record could then not be changed because other voters would see that the record differs from theirs.
Illegitimate votes could not be added, because other voters would be able to scrutinise whether votes were compatible with the rules (perhaps because they have already been counted, or are not associated with a valid voter record). BEV would shift power and trust away from central actors, such as electoral authorities, and foster the development of a tech-enabled community consensus.
One way of developing BEV systems for e-voting is to create a new, bespoke system, designed to reflect the specific characteristics of the election and electorate. A second approach that may be cheaper and easier is to ‘piggyback’, running the election on a more established Blockchain, such as that used by the virtual currency, bitcoin.
Given that the security of a Blockchain ledger relies upon the breadth of its user base, this piggyback approach may also be more secure for elections with a small number of voters.
Taking the concept a step further, Blockchain voting could be combined with smart contracts, to automatically take action under certain agreed conditions.
BEV would not only digitise the traditional voting process, but also proposes an alternative framework with a completely different set of values and political basis that is bottom up rather than top down.
While participation in traditional elections reinforces the authority of the state, participation in BEV asserts the primacy of the people. In this light, it is not surprising that links are drawn between BEV and transitions towards a more direct, decentralised and bottom-up democracy. As such, the extent to which blockchain technology will flourish in the area of evoting may depend upon the extent to which it can reflect the values and structure of society, politics and democracy.