Blockchain: Does every vote count? Yes you can!


November 9, 2020: In light of the ongoing elections controversies in the United States, Gavin Brown, a fintech academic and accountant, expects to implement new blockchain-style voting methods, giving us indisputable results in hours rather than days or weeks.

When I qualified as an ACA chartered accountant about 14 years ago, a close friend remarked that “the problem with accountants is they don’t beat or throw, they just keep the score!” Harsh and probably unfair. However, it is the ability to maintain the score in this week’s US elections that is the cornerstone of the outcome and the basis for alleged voter fraud between rival Republican and Democratic parties.

Our belief in democratic systems depends on the perceived fairness and fairness of our ability to choose (or not choose) elected officials as we see fit. It is the power of the vote that is the voice of the people, giving rise to the recent #counteveryvote as the greatest democracy struggles with itself for a legitimate leader. It is not the first time that the supremacy of the global superpower has been reduced to the thinnest of margins. The Florida tale in 2000 in Bush vs Gore, where Bush prevailed by just 537 votes.

Proving to be the bane of pollsters, similar close votes appear to be an emerging trend such as Brexit in the UK (51.9% vs 48.1%), Australia’s 2019 election (Lib / Nat Coalition 51.5% vs Labor 48.5%), the 2019 presidential election in Poland (Duda 51.0% vs Trzaskowski 49.0%), and although irrelevant to the actual result, the popular vote in the last US elections (Clinton 48.2% against Trump 46.1%).

How do you know that the vote you cast has been recorded and counted?

It’s a fair question and I doubt many registered voters have ever considered it before. It is fundamental and beyond debate, but in a global environment of increasingly polarized societies, the pressure on this grassroots democratic tenant has increased. Coupling this with the current global COVID-19 pandemic pushing us to vote by mail and we have a situation where the fairness of the democratic process could, and indeed has been, disproved.

Include blockchain voting as a potential solution. The same technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin may be able to provide a decentralized and immutable solution. Blockchain voting has already been used by Democratic and Republican parties in the United States for their state conventions in Michigan and Arizona respectively. This provided the transparency of the audit of the results so that authorized viewers could see the votes cast and counted. Indeed, similar technologies have previously been proposed for use in the accounting industry for recording real-time accounting of double (even triple!) Revenue, as conceived by Ijiri in 1982.

Blockchain voting solutions currently include; Vocdoni, Acora Vote, Voatz and Votem.

A radical change in the desire of companies to vote on the blockchain

Security experts warn that the apparent panacea that is blockchain voting still presents a considerable obstacle. Such internet-based electoral systems are always open to attack, particularly in verifying the identity of candidate voters and their eligibility to vote. Such attacks are known as “Sybil attacks” in which the integrity of a data retention system is undermined by the creation of multiple fake identities.

There are digital identity verifications to mitigate eligibility fraud that include ERC-725, a blockchain-based smart contract written on the open source Ethereum blockchain platform. A blockchain Know your customer (KYC), if you like.

Each vote must count therefore each vote must be counted

We will probably be far from apps that allow us to cast our votes electronically in real time for the presidential and general elections.

However, given the increased focus on counting, I predict that new blockchain-type voting methods will likely be implemented in the next 5-10 years, giving us indisputable results in hours rather than days or weeks, and perhaps serving as a protector of our future democratic lifestyle. .

Gavin Brown is Associate Professor of Financial Technology at the University of Liverpool and an ICAEW Fellow as a Chartered Accountant.

ICAEW Insights opinion pieces are intended to stimulate reflection and stimulate debate. The views expressed in these opinion articles are not necessarily shared by ICAEW.

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