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In every democratic nation, elections constitute a crucial democratic process, and therefore, its security is a matter of national security. With elections playing a crucial role in a country’s future and citizens’ lives, governments must employ efficient electoral systems that achieve a free, fair, and non-fraudulent representative election. Different nations worldwide employ different election mechanisms, including secret ballot-based voting, purely electronic methods, and electronic voting machines.
Nonetheless, more often than not, elections employing these mechanisms are often disputed due to flawed transparency or a low level of voter confidence in the results generated by these systems. While electronic voting machines have widely been regarded as a solution to election cheating, they have serious flaws that can compromise election transparency. Anyone with physical access to the electronic voting machine and manipulate the results to match their intentions. This guide will delve into blockchain technology in achieving a transparent, efficient, and cost-effective election.
Blockchain Technology Use in Election
With a failed electoral system, blockchain technology seems to be the next frontier in achieving a secure and fair election and provides an accessible means for voters to cast their ballots. Previously implemented in the financial sector, blockchain is an upcoming technology that leverages a distributed system to create an immutable and incorruptible peer-to-peer network.
With a distributed system, blockchain goes a long way in ensuring that information is decentralized. All data has copies, ensuring that information is not lost, and there is no chance of cyberattacks for a transparent and efficient voting process.
Data collected through blockchain are encrypted, timestamped, and “locked” to prevent tampering. Essentially, blockchain is a peer-to-peer network that provides a validation mechanism aimed at protecting data integrity that may be obtained through the electioneering process harbored in each block.
Core Feature of Blockchain That Makes it Usable in Voting
As previously mentioned, blockchain technology is a public ledger or peer-to-peer network that is immutable, incontrovertible, and the public with the below features.
- Ledger exists in many different locations. Thus, there is no single point of failure in the maintenance of the distributed ledger.
- There is distributed control. Thus anyone can append new transactions to the public ledger.
- Any proposed “new block” to the ledger must reference the ledger’s previous version, in turn, creating an immutable chain. This prevents tampering with the integrity of previous entries.
- A majority of the network nodes must reach a consensus before a proposed new block of entries is accepted to become a permanent part of the ledger.
With the above features, blockchain is the perfect tool to transform modern-day voting into a smooth, transparent, and fair democratic process.
Blockchain Use in E-Voting
In e-voting or mobile-based voting, blockchain technology will have widespread use in the different election process stages. The first step in implementing blockchain use in elections is defining a smart contract. This stage involves identifying the roles, components, or transactions that are involved in the election agreement. Regarding the election role, multiple institutions and individuals can be enrolled in the same role, such as:
- Election administrators– Their role in an election is to manage the entire election process. Election administrators may include institutions or companies responsible for specifying the election type, configuring ballots, registering voters, and assigning permissioned nodes.
- Voters– In the blockchain-based election process, voters are responsible for voting and verifying their votes after an election. Voters may be rewarded for voting with tokens when they cast their votes.
- District nodes-In a blockchain-based election process, each ballot smart contract represents each voting district deployed onto the blockchain. When the ballot smart contracts are created, each of the corresponding district nodes can interact with their corresponding ballot smart contract. Therefore, when a voter casts his/her vote from their corresponding ballot smart contract, the vote data is verified by all of the corresponding district nodes. Consequently, every vote they agree on is appended onto the blockchain when the block time has been reached.
- Bootnodes- Bootnodes are hosted by each institution with permissioned access to the network. Bootnodes assists the district nodes in discovering each other and communicating.
How will Blockchain Be Implemented in the Various Steps of the Electoral Process?
The electoral process constitutes five main stages: election process, voter registration, vote transaction, tallying, and vote verification. Each of these processes is represented by a set of smart contracts, which are instantiated on the election administrators’ blockchain.
- Election creation– In the blockchain-based election, election administrators first create election ballots using a decentralized app (dApp). The dApp interacts with an election creation smart contract where the administrator defines a list of candidates and voting districts. The smart contract then creates a set of ballot smart contracts and deploys them onto the blockchain, with a list of the candidates, for each voting district.
- The election administrators conduct voter registration- Registration of voters. When an election is created, the election administrators must define a deterministic list of eligible voters. The government must be able to authenticate and authorize eligible individuals to vote securely.
- Vote transaction– On voting, a voter interacts with a ballot smart contract with the same voting district as is defined for any individual voter. The smart contract interacts with the blockchain via the corresponding district node, which appends the blockchain’s vote if consensus is reached between most of the corresponding district nodes. Each vote is stored as a transaction on the blockchain, with the voter receiving the transaction ID for verification purposes.
- Results Tallying– Tallying of the election is done on the fly in smart contracts. Each ballot smart contract does its own tally for its corresponding location in its own storage. When the election is concluded, the final results for each smart contract is published.
- Vote Verification– The transaction ID given to each voter is used in the vote verification process. The blockchain can be accessed using district nodes by an authorized person, maybe a government official, to locate the transaction with the blockchain’s corresponding transaction ID. Therefore, the voter can see his vote on the blockchain, verifying that it was counted correctly.
How will Blockchain Enhance Election Outcomes
Blockchain-based e-voting will have a positive impact on elections across the globe in the following ways.
- Increased voter accessibility
- Blockchain is immutable to cyber-attacks and will provide a secure system if the vote is properly inputted.
- Enhanced vendor security to maintain vote integrity and prevent user discrimination.
- Electronic transmission without interference will ensure all votes are submitted on time and are counted by the deadline. A predetermined ballot structure with software that prevents voter error when filling out a ballot will be employed, hence decreasing ballot invalidation chances.
- Blockchain technology in elections will provide a sense of security and mitigate vote manipulation fears, thus enhancing voter confidence.
- Improve voter privacy to reduce the threat of voter coercion, vote-buying, vote tampering, or even voter harassment.
- Cut down on high election costs.
Blockchain technology offers several perks when implemented in the electoral process, often marked by mistrust, irregularities, and controversies such as cheating claims. Blockchain is a public ledger accessed across a peer-to-peer network, making it immutable to cyber-attacks and impossible to change an accepted transaction, i.e., votes. In the coming days, governments should strive to implement blockchain technology in the electoral process from election creation, voter registration to vote verification for secure, transparent, and efficient voting crucial for upholding democracy and peace.