Can Blockchain Make Our Elections Transparent?

Sagar Vishnoi

July 23rd, 2018 / 5:14 PM

Blockchain

Representational Image: India Today, Smart Nation

One of the most advanced and latest technologies today is Blockchain. Regardless of whether you haven’t caught wind of Blockchain, you must have heard about Bitcoin; which is one of the utilization of Blockchain. Several countries are now looking at Blockchain as a way to make the elections transparent.


Mistrust on EVM-Ballot

Political parties in India are putting allegations on the Election Commission of India (ECI) for EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) tampering for quite a while now; however ECI has denied reports every time that EVMs have equipment or programming vulnerabilities that can be abused to confer election malpractices, but these charges have unquestionably planted seeds of doubt among the mass. Even VVPAT is brought to use by ECI for providing an audit trail to voters but the mistrust is overpowering such machinery modifications. Parties have started to go back towards time taking, costly and ineffective ballot paper. Perhaps, Blockchain can resolve these issues.


What is blockchain?

Before we dive into how blockchain can be applied into voting, let’s first understand what blockchain is. The blockchain is a decentralized design of a ledger. Information is stored on the user’s system; where there is no centralized database because when the authority is centralized, the security risk is also high. A similar database is repeated in each system in the chain. Each database has blocks of data which are similar to each other.

In blockchain, when a transaction is posted in the chain, it is added as a block in a row identical to the previous one, and a hacker cannot attempt to alter the database. Another critical component is immutability. Each change is performed as an addition to the new block. No alteration/modification can occur.


Voting using Blockchain 

In blockchain voting, a vote would be taken into account via blockchain, online ledger where every vote will be registered. Every vote will be added as a block where each one is verified by every stakeholder based on agreed algorithms. Vote, rather being kept at a single location, an identical copy of the blockchain is stored on every user’s server. The anonymity of voters, Public key encryption and Audit trail are notable features of Blockchain based voting.

But the question lies, is our nation prepared to embrace blockchain innovation for elections? Without a doubt, there are a few framework challenges. In any case, the projects, for example, Aadhar, e-KYC frameworks which have reached mass on a vast scale, gives an optimistic outlook that there are positive conditions for the implementation of Blockchain. As a first step, it can be practiced for small-scale voting in universities, and in council elections on trial. There are several platforms and applications that are testing and allowing their product to use for blockchain voting.


Movement has begun: Elections on Blockchain

Few nations like the USAustralia, Denmark, and Estonia have begun trials with Block-chain based voting. A few years ago, Colombia allowed Blockchain based referendum for the peace treaty to allow expatriates a voice in the country. In March 2018, Sierra Leone got a lot of attention about voting that had been “blockchain-powered”. Sadly, this was inaccurate. Agora, a Swiss organization with a blockchain-based voting framework provider, was one of the “authorised observer” who independently counted votes and compared it to the main tally in few districts of the nation. It generated a huge hullabaloo for the organization; however, it wasn’t a blockchain voting example. On July 2, 2018, The Municipality Zug, the Swiss city reported that their first localized Blockchain based voting was fruitful.

Agora and different organisations like Horizon State, Votem, and Voatz are building the blockchain innovation arrangements that will enable people to vote in a protected environment, terror-free, with their identity secured and a guarantee that their vote won’t be manipulated. The core of the blockchain in voting is: verifiability, security, and immutability of votes.


Challenges & road ahead

There are a few practical challenges as well. There should be identity confirmation before an individual can cast vote like retina-thumbprint verification, also if votes are being cast from an electronic gadget there should be an alternative for people who requires an option. Also, getting the people to trust and use the new system in our country is going to be the biggest challenge. 

Practicalities of voting through blockchain are interesting. It offers the capacity to run elections on low cost, save money on paper ballot, resources, more security, and so forth with enhanced real time results. Russia, Sweden and Switzerland have all been researching on the possibilities to conduct elections on blockchain for better decision making.

Practically, it might be utilized as a mix with traditional voting methods (as people in the UK can vote by post or in person) however, where the majority of voting mass has accessibility to internet, it is a sensible step forward. Time is not far when we would become the last generation to use the EVMs, VVPAT and indelible ink.


Also read: Blockchain Gets New Boost In Budget 2018, Cryptocurrency Not A Legal Tender


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Edited by : Abhinav Joshi

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