The United States is in dire need of new electoral technology. Is it time for Blockchain?


I know you don’t want to hear how blockchain technology can fix elections, solve cold fusion, restore confidence in the United States, bring global peace, and invent a new way of slicing bread.

I’m also quite tired of the blockchain hype cycle.

But if there is one thing that proves that current electoral technology is essentially garbage, it is the 2020 US presidential election. Days later, we still don’t know for sure who won or lost, there are allegations of fraud or miscalculations. and already multiple legal challenges to the results. Without foundation or not, our current electoral process and our technology spur the challenge and provide the fodder for conspiracy theories.

Can digital voting solve this problem? Can blockchain help?

Well, it could hardly be worse.

“Trust builds up incrementally over time, very slowly, but is lost instantly,” Tim Goggin, CEO of the Australian election technology company State of the horizon he told me in a recent TechFirst Podcast. “In an event like this it is necessary to start looking for new solutions to start rebuilding that relationship between the people who are governed and the people who are governing.”

Horizon State builds blockchain-based election technology that an Australian regional government actually used in an election, so it’s not your typical blockchain vaporware. Additionally, the company was selected as the World Economic Forum’s technology pioneer.

According to Goggin, there are at least four things necessary for visible and transparent electoral success.

Accessibility is key, especially during a pandemic. While mail is typically the spearhead of election technology right now, it’s not reliable. People move. I am in vacation. Mail is not tracked and traced. It is accidentally delivered to the wrong address.

On the other hand, the internet is what is most accessible for most people.

Authentication is also crucial. Sometimes mailing forms must be signed by a third party, but not in all districts. Even if it is done, what does it take to prevent fraud in this circumstance? In-person ballot papers require identification, but election officials often spend as much time examining identity documents as a bouncer at a club.

Hear the interview behind this story on TechFirst Podcast:

Security is a must, and while there is no perfect security in technology-based systems, when paired with transparent and redundant logging systems, you have an obvious responsibility.

While blockchain is probably not a perfect fit for everything it was advertised for, this sounds just like blockchain alley. In theory, anyone can check the votes in a blockchain-based system and check the ones that look suspicious.

There is also persistence and resistance to hacking of the results. Blockchain ensures that voting data cannot be changed to suit one candidate or another.

“Once the information is entered on a blockchain, it is extremely difficult or impossible to change it later,” says Goggin. “Imagine walking into a restaurant … and I yell really, really loud,” My name is Tim. “I leave and then someone else walks in five minutes later and they say,” I heard someone scream earlier – what did he say? “And let’s say someone – lying – says ‘His name is Simone.’ You’ll have 29 other people in that room. They’ll go ‘No, no. He said his name was Tim.'”

“And if that person walks around the room, talks to everyone, they will be pretty sure that the name was Tim and not Simon … blockchains are essentially a database that is very difficult to change and they are to agree on what the real state is. of history “.

Of course, moving from here – paper ballots, mail and physical identity documents – to a future digital voting state is easier said than done.

A secure digital ID is required, which many governments such as Australia and New Zealand are working on. Sweden has a digital identification initiative, as does Argentina. Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and other countries have ongoing initiatives or solutions already launched, such as e-KTP in Indonesia, which has been in existence since 2011. Individual states in the US are also working on identity technology, including Oklahoma, often partnering with real ID, which is Homeland Security’s identification protocol.

Ultimately, the goal is for everyone to one day cast their vote, have it recorded and tabulated immediately and accurately, and anyone with any concerns about the reliability of any election can analyze each vote in near real time.

There are some challenges, of course.

“Governments are often very slow to make changes,” says Goggin. “So it’s just like big business.”

For those who say digital voting is risky and we can’t take the risk of getting it wrong, Goggin has a fairly immediate comeback by focusing on this current U.S. election.

“You have a big one right there that could have been dealt with so much better. We may see more of these scenarios … more and more ordinary people will probably start saying to elected officials: we have to start looking for a new solution, a new way of doing it. “

I’m not holding my breath But maybe in another decade or two long and controversial elections they could be a thing of the past.

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