How do you provide anonymous, deadly accurate, provable, fraud proof voting… Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency technologies.
Buckminster Fuller stated, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete“.
Traditional voting systems are in desperate need of change. As the world evolves, the current way in which we elect leaders has become antiquated. The original November Election Cycle in the United States was created with the intent to garner maximum involvement from property owners and farmers who chose to respect the seasons and the Sabbath, being unwilling to travel a full day to a polling place on a Sunday. This is now highly irrelevant in modern society, the 21st century. Transportation has evolved. Economics have evolved. The voting system has yet to adapt. Much like a Census, this has got to change. But what does that new system look like? Let us explore the use of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency in Voting.
Traditional voting proposes a few critical problems. We need to look at the two ends of the spectrum: corrupt countries and less corrupt countries or systems. In less corrupt nations, the apathy is almost palpable. People believe oftentimes that their votes will not matter. Then there is also a partisan system for political elections in which it is widely assumed that a vote any other than bipartisan is just a throw-away vote. That is not the full truth, but the current political voting system in the first world certainly deems it so.
The early nineteenth century voting was performed by voters telling their vote verbally to a judge to be tallied on a piece of paper. It was easy to pay off people to vote multiple times, vote once, back in line and vote a second time. There were disagreements on how many votes were counted, there was no way to validate truth or fiction. The error was gross inaccuracy due to inability to recount.
Later in the nineteenth century came early paper ballots printed in local newspaper and then cut out. This progressed to ticket ballots which were printed and the party ballot of choice was marked and put in the ballot box at a local municipal location, not always neutral. If a person could bring one ballot, why not ten? Parties would print ballots in different colors, but it was easy to espouse fraudulent data. Corruption has long been the crux of voting. After all what makes government possible? People, money, elections.
Technology and political reform led us into the twentieth century, where the debate is how to guarantee accurate vote count if no individual person or party is trusted. Voting today, particularly in the United States, is a broken system. We deal with accuracy in identification, voter eligibility, actual versus idealistic registration. The Australian paper ballot method has been around in several forms for the past 120 years (oddly about as long as the current monetary system). Voter registration didn’t exist in any quality before this Australian system. Now one representative of each party is at the registration table. This can help to avoid ballot box stuffing. Now there are private curtains and multiple persons watching bow many ballots go in. This is technology at work! But where are we going?
People often do not know where they are supposed to cast a vote and many are unsure or apathetic about issues on a given ballot, which can differ regionally and locally. In countries outside the US, there is a complete loss of trust in the governments. Millions must also consider social ramifications, sanctions, the rights and restrictions of people to vote in both the corrupt and less corrupt areas. For some, casting a vote is not a reality currently due to persecution, human rights and equality issues, lack of proper identification and even transportation. It can be difficult to travel to and from in a war-torn region.
Many modern voting machines are supporting a computer program. The program, however, can decide who wins the election. Whatever the program computes is what the end result is. When the computer program is working on non-election votes, it must still collect data. On Election Day, it can still count votes and shift them into a new category. A program can be written to cheat only when it’s not being tested. While the user interface may not change and the testing and logic may not suspect this, a program can be loaded into a voting machine to ensure that votes cast are lumped into a certain category regardless of original intent or the original vote. Without regular software updates or audits, algorithms can become dysfunctional and unsecure.
Accuracy and privacy not trivial; they require technology. . It is vitally important to be unable learn how a person votes. Votes need to be recorded and counted accurately. Sometimes the ‘party’ is running an election. We need a protocol that works in a trustless system. We need to be able to trust that we are voting and that others are voting without necessarily having to trust the other persons who are voting.
The optimal solution now with the advent of Blockchain Technology is digitization of the voting system, employing the Bitcoin immutable ledger as either the foundation or the model for a way ahead. This is the best way to exist in a trustless system and reduce the impact of corruption, nepotism, fraud, illegality and loss of sovereignty, while yet increasing access and participation in voting.
Let’s also not limit voting issues to political contests. Suppose we could apply Blockchain voting to corporations. How much more fair and balanced would this be for shareholders, how much easier for distribution of prospectus and return of votes by proxy? A vote requires institutional commitment and differentiates based upon proper identity.
Voting can mean using an up vote on reddit, heart on Instagram, link of website on post, spending money, donating money to crowdfunding, facebook likes, twitter tweets and retweets, steemit re-steems, thumbs up on a YouTube video.
Now we are in a Digital Revolution. Many tech gurus have asked if we would be wise to migrate all voting to the Internet. It is a source of much debate. This is a juncture at which the latest technology is absolutely necessary. This can, in theory, be done with end to end encryption so that votes cannot be hacked. But who installs the program that uses the algorithms to count winning votes? The operating system is just the first in many layers of software. Will officials remember to do software updates? Would that even be fail-safe? Legitimate? Pertaining to vote cheating, what can be done when votes don’t get counted or if votes are erroneously transferred from one candidate to another? All are pertinent questions. At least when there is an under vote, you can tap into that and fix the election protocols.
What if someone hacked a vote tabulating server? In 2010 this happened in Washington, D.C.2 Votes were counted online on a server and hacked. Not only is this a risk, but imagine how much data is available and how many things can be harvested from a hack which verifies identification! Biometrics, medical records, addresses, smart phone analytics, email addresses, passwords, vehicle registrations, phone numbers, billing account numbers, literally everything in life boils down to data.
When it comes to client vulnerability, is private client software or user interface controlling the votes sent? What about the OS developers? Is an online hacker changing what personal client software does? Are the ballots transmitted correctly? Does server software tabulate votes correctly? Is the real server software installed currently? What of PIN numbers and some fallible voting credentials?
To accurately conduct elections without trusting and guaranteeing a counted ballot it becomes imperative to use the ultimate cryptographic interface. This necessitates migrating away from proprietary voting systems. Enter the Bitcoin Blockchain.
With this Blockchain, the probability to guarantee accurate counting of votes and being able to tell you voted without exposing your identity increases exponentially. The Bitcoin Blockchain is the first immutable ledger and the most solid, its emanation dating back to January 3, 2009. This highlights the absolute value in the distributed ledger. It is now available to billions of people around the world and could be acquired in small amounts in order to enter the ledger to use for functions such as voting and drafting or transmitting smart contracts. This becomes important since final outcomes of elections ought to be fully transparent, easily tabulated, and verifiable in real time and permanently recorded in a way that can ultimately be accessed without negative ramifications to any parties involved.
Pierre Noizat1 addresses some underlying technical issues in his writings on Blockchain electronic voting, stating, “The recommended setup process to avoid paying fees to the miners is to use 0.01 BTC as the transaction amount for each voter and to fund Address B at least 1 day before Election Day. The challenge is about paying minimal mining fees while ensuring that the transactions will be confirmed. It should be anticipated that, in the future, miners’ fees will evolve from rule-driven fees to market-driven fees, turning the above fee-avoiding recommendation into a fee-minimizing strategy.”
A voter with a set of public keys generated by the Bitcoin Blockchain can create a secure cryptographic multisignature address that can be used to cast a vote, confirm a vote and yet retain anonymity while checking the results of a particular election. That voter can also return to change the vote but that change will also be immutably recorded. Of course there is a learning curve for all individuals, but adoption, education and awareness of the technology excites that desire to learn and move forward. Learning about the Blockchain is personal. But then, so is every true revolution.
There is tremendous impact and potential in this Revolution. You could know how many voters would be able to vote per polling station and the distributed ledger would verify and record those numbers.
The future of Democracy is very much tied to the future of money, the internet of money. Why stop at digitizing democracy on the Blockchain? The same transparency can be employed in capitalist systems to unmask corporate buybacks, reduce insider trading, exposing algorithm trades and manipulation of large corporations and the effects on shareholders end user consumers. Bitcoin is an organic democracy. A transaction in Bitcoin is also a message. TRUST is the building block of every worldly institution. But trust is hard to come by. Bitcoin redefines the nature of law and trust.
Instead of per capita territorial grouping, there grows potential to choose representatives much more fairly, bypassing the debate about the redistribution of governance and democracy. This further perpetuates a repeatable and constant peer review. This, in essence, is a glorious smack-down of any Kakistocracy.
Where is this already happening? Residents in Zug, Switzerland3, also known as Crypto Valley, will soon be using electronic Blockchain based voting systems. Mayor of Zug in 2016 said “With Bitcoin we’re sending a message: We and Zug want to get out in front of future technologies”. To pay for parking, library books and voting on referendums. Currently, 200 residents use this Blockchain system and for now it is experimental. This is one to watch closely.
However we start, we will need rapid testing and auditing and to make 10x improvement at least to government! The future is greater individual sovereignty, anonymous validation online, accurate identity validation and the use of private keys and Blockchain confirmations in a trustless world.
- Chapter 22 Blockchain Electronic VotePierre NoizatCo-founder of Paymium, Bitcoin Exchange and provider of e-commerce solutions, Paris, France https://www.weusecoins.com/assets/pdf/library/blockchain-electronic-vote.pdf
- To read deeper, visit https://www.wired.com/2016/08/americas-voting-machines-arent-ready-election/
- Zug and Dolfi Muller https://blockchain-documentary.com/dolfi-mueller-cryptovalley-zug/