Researchers have proposed Blockchain-Based Voting as a fix which can provide more security and privacy to the voter . While there are several security flaws in the electronic voting devices used in the US, the idea of mobile application-based voting raises questions about voter verification and raises worries about election fraud.
As technology permeates every part of our lives, there is growing interest in using electronic voting in elections because, according to those who support it, it can increase voting security and speed up the voting process.But even while it would appear as simple as modernising the antiquated paper voting procedure, the switch to electronic voting has not been without issues.
The idea is that it becomes far more difficult to tamper with electronic voting by using blockchain, a decentralised distributed ledger technology that records transactions in a way that ensures they can’t be altered without the permission of all participants.
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With different degrees of success, blockchain was tested in several election systems between 2017 and 2018, and governments and municipal authorities have continued to test the technology over the past year.
Zug, dubbed the “Crypto Valley” of Switzerland, tested a blockchain-based electronic voting system last summer, allowing 220 voters with registered digital IDs to cast their ballots on a platform created by Luxoft and Hochschule Luzern’s Blockchain Lab.
Four out of five Zug locals said they were in favour of using electronic voting in the city after the trial, according to a survey conducted afterward. However, opinions on whether blockchain increases or decreases the security of electronic voting were divided. Only 21% of respondents indicated they thought blockchain technology made electronic voting more secure, and 16% said they were concerned about security.
Many voters also wanted the option to vote by conventional mail as long as e-voting technology is still developing.
Advocates for blockchain voting point out that it helps protect electronic voting from manipulation, hacking, and other outside interference as one of its main advantages. Blockchain-based voting systems have been discovered to have security weaknesses in a number of instances, nevertheless.
A security researcher discovered a serious flaw in the Ethereum-based voting system that was going to be used in the Moscow City Duma election in August. In the worst situation, the flaw might allow users of the system—which was created by the Moscow Department of Information Technology—to see the votes they’ve cast. The department promised to address the vulnerability before the vote after being made aware of the problem.
Election security and computerised voting are top priorities as the 2020 US Presidential election approaches. There have been a few small-scale local trials of blockchain-based voting as the US gears up for Vote 2020, with counties in West Virginia among those evaluating the technology.
Participants in the trial—most of whom were deployed military personnel—used a blockchain smartphone app created by a startup named Voatz.
Users had to provide their phone number and an eight-digit code after downloading the programme from the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, as well as validating their identities using photo ID and facial recognition software.
Once the software is operational, users can cast electronic ballots while using fingerprint or facial recognition to confirm their identification. During the midterm elections last year, the Voatz blockchain software was used by about 150 users in 24 counties.
Even though no votes were viewed, edited, or otherwise impacted, it was later discovered that someone had attempted to obtain unauthorised access to the system. Senator Ron Wyden has since written to the Department of Defense to request that the Pentagon evaluate Voatz, expressing worries that the programme doesn’t go far enough to safeguard against outside intervention. Senator Wyden hasn’t contacted Voatz, according to a statement, and the company indicated it would welcome any audit.
However, if the technology underlying blockchain-based voting can be undermined, then raises concerns about the security of a system that proponents believe can stop that specific type of fraud and tampering.
Even if a user takes all the necessary precautions to verify themselves on their device, it won’t matter if the back end has been compromised since, although it’s challenging to change the blockchain, it isn’t completely impossible.
“There is no such thing as absolute immutability; the only variable is how challenging it is to change something. However, with blockchain, it is quite evident when it occurs, which serves as a disincentive” VP and primary analyst at Forrester, Martha Bennett, adds.
The nature of blockchain also raises problems that might not be compatible with the special requirements of elections, which call for the registration of transactional details and the necessity for candidates to know how many votes they have got while maintaining the secrecy of the voting process.
“How can the results of the votes be kept a secret? You want to know who was voted for in order to be transparent, but you also don’t want the voter’s identity to be connected to their vote” affirms Bennett. I have serious doubts about whether this is the best technology.
However, as evidenced by the blockchain-based voting trials, there is still enthusiasm for this application of the technology.
Why Should We adopt Blockchain-Based Voting System
Some people think that the introduction of new technology in this area could be the way to bring democracy into the 21st century, when people expect ease and convenience, to be able to do something at the tap of an app, rather than walking to a community centre to cast a vote. However, there are some issues that need to be resolved before it could go mainstream.
In that it encourages more people to participate in the democratic process, the convenience factor might be advantageous.
Every nation that has tested electronic or blockchain voting for actual elections has seen a significant increase in use. David Galindo, a senior lecturer in computer security at the University of Birmingham and the head cryptographer at blockchain and AI startup Fetch.AI, claims that it is more practical.
“Convenience is so crucial in other aspects of life; consider how we switched from cash-based to contactless payments; convenience is everything.”
There were concerns about security when cashless and contactless payments were originally launched, but when individuals began using products in this way, the financial industry had to work to make it secure.
The same could occur as blockchain-based voting gains popularity since laws regarding systems, apps, and backends are required, which will actively increase system security by default.
“What you see is a byproduct of a nation or region evaluating the use of online voting. They must reevaluate their processes and procedures, which actually adds another level of compliance and thought to the system” Galindo elucidates.
In many nations, voting is still conducted in much the same way as it has for more than 200 years. For instance, in the UK, a paper ballot still needs to have a cross on it. Dr. Galindo believes that needs to be updated, and electronic voting offers the remedy.
Criticism of Blockchain-Based Voting System
Following Utah’s groundbreaking use of blockchain voting in the 2020 presidential election, several security experts have become more critical of the concept.
Going from Bad to Worse: From Internet Voting to Blockchain-Based Voting is the headline of a draught document that a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published earlier this week. The article was published after an MIT study that examined the flaws in the Voatz blockchain-based voting tool was made public in February.
The authors of the new study acknowledge the worries that voters and officials may have about present election security, but they contend that the technique is not secure enough even if a blockchain-based voting option would result in increased turnout.
The report disproves the notion that adding a blockchain component will increase the security of online voting. The authors acknowledge that the traits of blockchain initially seem to make it a promising solution. There are still too many possible flaws, though.
The article stated that, “In order to prevent a single point of failure, blockchains use consensus algorithms. These methods can withstand a small number of malicious players. These concepts seem like they could be useful for electronic voting, such as employing cryptographic signatures to make vote tampering impossible and hashing and distributed consensus to keep a vote ledger that attackers cannot alter unless they control a significant portion of the network. However, putting these strategies into practise and getting them to function consistently is really difficult.”
Despite the promise of a more secure structure, one of the main drawbacks of blockchain-based voting is that it still necessitates the usage of “possibly vulnerable devices and network infrastructure.” A number of “new challenges” that blockchain creates are also listed in the paper. For instance, the authors note that should new software updates be required to fend off potential attacks, it would take greater time and effort to implement security improvements in a decentralised blockchain-based system.
Blockchain-Based voting software has a wide range of applications. The future of society depends on its capacity to engage and manage a constituency, not only to generate clear results but also to urge everyone to take part in their communities. The technology is still in its infancy right now, but as it develops, so do the young voters it will eventually assist, and it appears to be an important part of our shared future.