The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented on people’s lives. It has not only upended the regularity of normal living but has significantly changed the government-citizen dynamics and democratic machinery. Besides affecting the healthcare and global economy, coronavirus also had a major impact on the recent United States presidential election.
Owing to social distancing, a large number of US voters opted to vote by mail, which increased vote-counting time. The entire process caused the Republican candidate and acting President Donald Trump to raise questions regarding the efficacy and integrity of the electoral process. His campaign has challenged the results in a number of the battleground states, alleging voter scam and demanding a recount of votes. Although admitting the win of Democrat Joe Biden, Trump is yet to concede his defeat. The happenings following the US Presidential elections have triggered intense debates about the veracity and legitimacy of the current American electoral system.
But America is not the only sufferer of the traditional election process falling short to uphold the sanctity and integrity of the process. Other countries have faced the same issues time and again, which is causing the general public to lose their faith in democracy. That being said, experts believe that the problem can be solved by integrating the present voting system with blockchain technology.
An Alternative Blockchain-Integrated Voting System
At present many are proposing mobile voting or e-voting as a more compatible alternative system of conducting elections, considering the COVID situation. It will enable people to implement their democratic right within the safe confines of their houses. The advent of the digital Era had already blurred the lines between the virtual and the physical worlds. We can buy things and pay for services online. Due to the pandemic, significant jobs have shifted to the remote model, most of which will continue with that structure in the coming days as well. All these developments make one question if the electoral process can be undertaken through remote means as well, making the entire process simpler and safer.
To make it secure and to uphold the integrity of the voting process, experts have come up with the blockchain solution, to be incorporated within the present infrastructure, fortifying it at the same time. Blockchain can bring confidence into the electoral system and peace to the electoral process, strengthening people’s faith in the system.
Combining cryptography with sequential hashing in a decentralized and distributed architecture enables the privacy of the voters’ identity. Being verifiable all votes recorded in the blockchain platform creates a transparent and secure voting ecosystem powered by electoral ballot monitoring. Such a system will allow you to check if your ballot was counted for the candidate that you chose while ensuring that the secrecy of the process is upheld.
Electoral jurisdictions across multiple states in the US have piloted blockchain-based voting apps for federal, municipal, and state elections, even before the pandemic. The idea was to allow the military and citizens living abroad to cast their ballots remotely using tablets or smartphones, instead of the usual mail and fax methods. West Virginia allowed mobile voting via a blockchain app for its federal and state elections in 2018. Besides that, Utah County (Utah), Denver (Colorado), and 2 counties in Oregon have also pilot-tested similar apps for their 2019 municipal elections. Utah used the same app to vote for the recent US Presidential Election as well, becoming the first-ever to do so for electing a President. As of yet, 29 counties across 5 states have piloted a mobile blockchain-based voting app during elections.
What the American Politicians have to Say About Mobile Voting
Notable personalities in the American political circles like Bradley Tusk (American businessman, political strategist, and philanthropist), Jocelyn Bucaro (Director of elections, Denver), and Mike Queen (Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State, West Virginia), has been championing the cause of undertaking elections by using a blockchain-based mobile voting app.
That being said, there is a significant number of people who are not that keen about making elections and ballot casting a mobile affair. One of the notable names in the against-blockchain-based-mobile-voting-app list is Jeremy Epstein (Member, Association for Computing Machinery’s US Technology Policy Committee). Nevertheless, the attitude is gradually changing across the US political landscape.
The Issue of Cyber Security in a Blockchain System
Every software and technological marvel is susceptible to vulnerabilities. In the case of mobile voting denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed, denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are legitimate vulnerabilities. Hence, one must look for backup methods to counter any possible infrastructure failure is there is a DoS attack.
That being said, but blockchain technology is one of the very few which is hard to breach and crack. It is so far the most sophisticated security architecture thanks to advanced cryptographic encryption. From the security standpoint, the blockchain part of the process is the least worrying. It is one of the many components of the voting application that includes the essential steps of identity verification, validation, and security. Blockchain is great for operations streamlining such as the distribution of voting records, making it that difficult to be attacked remotely. That it has a cryptographic audit for each transaction, only strengthens the process. The main risk to security in blockchain-voting is in the electoral jurisdiction interface, where the ballots are printed with an encrypted key or hash on the top. After storing, it is digitized finally within the electoral systems and the software-based ballot-reading systems.
From what has been witnessed so far, it is not at all exaggerating to imagine that in the near future, many countries will see blockchain technology as an ideal voting method for a society that is increasingly digitizing its infrastructures faster than ever, especially in the wake of the recent pandemic.