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Is Blockchain Technology the Key to Ensuring Electoral Integrity?

Is Blockchain Technology the Key to Ensuring Electoral Integrity?

Blockchain can also be considered when it comes to voting

[Leer en español]

In the past few decades, “vote by mail” has not been a topic of much concern to many. Leaving aside those staunch absentee-ballot voters, a vast majority of individuals have historically preferred to cast their vote physically in the ballot box.

However, the past infamous year opened the door to relentless promotion of vote by mail for those who legitimately could not be present at the polling station, namely the physically disabled or individuals who were abroad. But the encouragement of voting by mail was also extended to those who had no reason not to vote in person.

In Poland, for instance, a complete vote-by-mail system was almost implemented for its presidential election held last summer. Meanwhile, in the U.S., just as it happened in the parliamentary elections in Spain, elections were held as they normally happened.

Yet, a high non-presential participation was expected, which was discouraged by the team of former President Trump, as well as by personalities such as former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, as they feared irregularities in the electoral system.

In fact, a large amount of the American society is suspicious about the integrity of the electoral process of last November 3 (there is talk about an alleged mismanagement on the part of the postal service, just as there is some forensic report pointing out that Dominion’s software did not make very reliable calculations).

Moreover, this week, an electoral recount was arranged in Maricopa County, in the state of Arizona (some 2.1 million ballots could be “affected”), in which, according to the final data published, the winner was the Democratic Party. But that is not all.

The Republican Party is proposing reforms to the postal vote by mail system in a dozen American states. For example, in Florida, ballots could only be sent to those voters who have requested to participate through “absentee voting” with sufficient frequency.

Now, the topic of election integrity in the electoral process is not the main focus of this article. Although I have made a small historical exposition by way of introduction and contextualization, I rather believe that there is an opportunity to propose alternative solutions, which resort, “coincidentally”, to the network of networks.

Is Blockchain Technology the Key to Ensuring Electoral Integrity?
Absentee ballot requests for Catalan elections on February 14, 2021 (Image: EFE)

Electronic voting, but difficult to control by the State

Electronic voting (remote and carried out via the Internet, as with other procedures) has its pros and cons. As the system currently stands, it can serve to open the window of opportunity for the misapplication of Big Data (opportunities for invasion of privacy, with greater or lesser severity).

In fact, in general, electoral systems depend directly, whether or not they have private sector providers, on the same state entities whose “renewal” is intended, to explain it in some way, with electoral processes, (the question may be another if it is a referendum consultation).

But we know or we have to know that it is not even necessary to have client-server infrastructures (lato sensu), whether or not they depend on the IT paradigm of distributed computing. The Internet itself has a paradigm that obeys decentralization and, therefore, it is possible that there are technologies that respect this.

Blockchain can also be considered when it comes to voting

We know about the existence of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, which connected different nodes (computers) without any central intermediary, long before the birth of Satoshi Nakamoto’s project that caused a “revolution” in these digital formulas in favor of monetary freedom.

Well, the blockchain to which we are going to start referring (the so-called blockchain) is not only useful for issuing and facilitating transactions with currencies, whose value does not depend on the artificial political criteria of central banks (thus breaking with concepts such as the fraudulent fractional reserve).

In November 2020, the company Waves Enterprise announced the launch of an electronic voting system based on blockchain, using homomorphic encryption, which allows algebra operations to be performed without accessing the secret key of the tokens and other data involved.

Tohere are several schemes of this type of encryption: partial (single gate, either for an addition or a multiplication), random (can evaluate circuits with gates of any type of arithmetic operation, but with restrictions on the depth) or full (no limits on circuit depth, which “validates” it for deep learning).

In this way, there would not be any kind of “administrator user” or “privileged roles” that could decrypt the results or target specific ballot boxes. Therefore, the possibility of falsifying the results or monitoring the voter is somewhat nullified.

The validation of voters, in order to avoid “counting” people without the right to vote, with alternative residence or already deceased, results from smart contracts in which public and private keys are generated (these are stored in the voters’ devices, which can modify their choices within the deadline).

In fact, the above is intended to be improved in the future, through the development of technological solutions that help certify the identity of each user, although they do not consider it necessary because, a priori, the customer segment is not in any government institution, but in private entities.

Promoting Swiss direct democracy?

In an article published by Investopedia in December 2020, it is said that blockchain can foster the so-called “direct democracy” (possibility to vote on any policy in the pipeline).

In Switzerland, they are very used to this modality. It is usual for any regulation, whether or not resulting from a popular initiative, to have the final endorsement of the citizenry in an electoral process (referendum). In fact, there are usually several a year, regardless of the scope of the reform.

In Liechtenstein, there is also a mechanism of this type, although here there is the counterweight of the prince (we are talking about a monarchy in which there is a right of veto, unlike the rest of the models currently in force in Europe), except in the case of his own dismissal.

But I do not find the interest of blockchain in direct democracy itself. As far as this article is concerned, the important thing is that it can ensure the integrity of electoral processes, as it does not depend on entities directly controlled by certain political sectors with spurious strategies.

In any case, let us not forget that blockchains can not only change an electoral system for the better, but also cause changes in politics as we know it today, since decentralization and economic freedom will be promoted, and validations will not be as tedious as bureaucracy.

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