As a technology, blockchain is quickly becoming unrivaled. Although the Internet has long been familiar with other peer-to-peer applications for file sharing, music streaming, and more, the idea that these types of networks can provide their own security and resources has only been around since 2008. In the decade since its inception, blockchain was mostly tied to the success of the technology that created it, bitcoin.
In recent years, however, it has quickly become a star on its own. With the rise of the world’s favorite cryptocurrency, awareness of the mysterious and unique technology behind it also grew. Developers who recognized the value of blockchain are now racing to create new use cases for it and put their ideas into production.
Many are finding that blockchain’s primary value lies in its ability to improve old systems. Enterprising observers saw the technology’s potential from the start, as bitcoin offered a more secure and transparent payment processing and banking solution than existing ones. In recent years, the same people have used blockchain to revolutionize industries far and wide, including cloud storage, smart contracts, crowdfunding, and even healthcare. However, one of the biggest problems that blockchain’s decentralized muscle can solve is voter fraud.
- Blockchain technology provides a platform for creating a highly secure, decentralized, anonymized, yet auditable chain of record, used presently in cryptocurrency systems.
- This same technology could also be used to record and report votes and prevent many types of voter fraud in elections.
- Especially after the misinformation surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, the world may be ready for blockchain voting on larger scales.
Blockchain Serves the Voters
In its most basic form, blockchain is a digital ledger. The technology draws its power from the peers—or nodes—on its network to verify, process, and record all transactions across the system. This ledger is never stored, but rather exists on the “chain” supported by millions of nodes simultaneously. Thanks to encryption and decentralization, blockchain’s database of transactions is incorruptible, and each record is easily verifiable. The network cannot be taken down or influenced by a single party because it doesn’t exist in one place.
It’s not only financial transactions that work with blockchain, but any type of data transmission. This kind of system infrastructure is extremely useful for voting because a vote is a small piece of high-value data. Out of necessity, modern voting systems are largely stuck in the last century, and those that want to vote must leave their homes and submit paper ballots to a local authority. Why not bring this process online? Some have tried, but it has proven difficult to put faith in the results due to large gaps in security.
Blockchain can solve the many problems discovered in these early attempts at online voting. A blockchain-based voting application does not concern itself with the security of its Internet connection, because any hacker with access to the terminal will not be able to affect other nodes. Voters can effectively submit their vote without revealing their identity or political preferences to the public. Officials can count votes with absolute certainty, knowing that each ID can be attributed to one vote, no fakes can be created, and that tampering is impossible.
Bringing Elections into the 21st Century
There are already companies working to bring blockchain to the voting populace. One such firm is Horizon State, which has launched a unique solution to answer the question, “If democracy was designed with today’s technology, what would it look like?” The company believes its first product is the answer. The company is currently preparing an ICO, planned for October.
Horizon's secure digital ballot box represents a cost-effective and smart solution to the problems inherent in today’s voting procedures. Participants will use decision tokens (HST) to cast their votes from a mobile phone or PC, which are then logged into an immutable blockchain and used to reliably verify the outcome of the election. There can be no manipulation, recording errors, or tampering. More than voting, however, this system will be useful simply for making decisions in an environment where resources and authority are shared. It will also encourage participation.
Voter apathy has seen the number of people show up to cast their votes dwindle in recent years, even as it has become more important to do so. By providing an irrefutable and easy way to vote from one’s phone or PC, these numbers would likely rise. Even governments have a reason to change the status quo: a single vote currently costs between $7.00 and $25.00, when all factors are considered. A blockchain product like this costs just $0.50 per vote.
Horizon State co-founder Jamie Skella noted that “Democracy is the opportunity to share in the decision-making processes that relate to the shared matters which affect us. Democracy is about reaching a consensus on how to best use our shared resources to achieve the best outcomes for our partners, children, colleagues, staff, and fellow citizens. Where there are shared resources in any cooperative environment, there remains no question: we need better-shared decision-making tools and processes.”
Blockchain-based elections are being trialed in the real world. In November 2018, the Thai Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest political party, held a primary election to elect its new party leader using ZCoin, marking the first large-scale political election carried out using blockchain technology. The vote was concluded with a total of 127,479 votes that came from all over Thailand.
A True Democracy
Blockchain is paving the way for a direct democracy, where people can decide the course of policy themselves, rather than rely on representatives to do it for them. While the rules of a political election may have to be changed to make way for such a transparent system, blockchain is also ideal for informing business decisions, guiding general meetings, polling, censuses, and more.
The use cases for blockchain voting software are many and diverse. Its ability to engage and manage a constituency is crucial to the future of society, not just to produce a transparent outcome but to encourage all people to participate in their communities. Currently, the technology is still in its infancy, but it matures alongside the young voters it will one day help, and looks to be a key part of our collective future.