In this article, we dive deep into the fundamentals of blockchain voting. First, we explore what a blockchain voting system is and how it works. Then, we evaluate the pros and cons of blockchain voting and the potential developments it might benefit from. Also, we explore some existing projects offering users a blockchain voting system.
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What is a Blockchain Voting System?
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT) based on computer science, cryptography, and mathematics. Fundamentally, a blockchain is a piece of ever-growing code that operates across a global network of computers called “nodes”. Nodes are responsible for verifying, managing, and storing data or financial transactions. Further, blockchain networks operate with financial incentives so that it is more profitable to support rather than attempt to manipulate the network.
Users of a blockchain network can send transactions from address A to address B. Nodes in the network pick up these transactions to mathematically verify the validity of a transaction. Once verified, the transaction becomes cryptographically linked (hashed) with the previous transaction and is recorded in a “block”. Once a block is full of transactions, it becomes appended to the blockchain. Also, every transaction becomes immutably stored, meaning no one can alter or remove the transaction.
Blockchain is a convenient technology that improves any transactions or proceedings’ transparency, immutability, and security. Thus, an electoral blockchain voting system is a hot topic of discussion with the potential to improve legacy voting infrastructure significantly. However, as blockchain is still a relatively niche and developing technology, there are some technical hurdles to overcome before we see a blockchain voting system in mainstream electoral polls. Many research papers are emerging from world-leading universities exploring the possibilities of nations using an electoral blockchain voting system. In addition, only a few active blockchain voting system projects facilitate cryptographically secure distributed democratic events for various enterprises and operations.
Traditional vs Blockchain Voting System
Let’s first explore how traditional voting systems work to understand the benefits of using a blockchain voting system. Typically, elections generate large queues within the final few hours of voting. Further, this can make it difficult for disabled people to reach voting booths. Plus, many parents or shift workers may struggle to physically find a convenient time to visit a voting station.
In addition, traditional voting polls involve a lot of paperwork. As a result, electoral voting periods can be highly time-consuming and not so eco-friendly. This significantly increases overhead costs (such as labor, materials, time, etc.) and expenditure during events. Electronic voting machines were initially introduced as a solution. However, they are covert, centralized, and vulnerable to a single point of failure. Electronic voting machines are physical circuitry devices with a microchip. If someone were to tamper with the microchip, it could destroy all available data and votes. Also, voting results stored on a centralized server are susceptible to security breaches, including result tampering or data leaks.
The solution to all aforementioned challenges is to incorporate a blockchain voting system. The core design features of blockchain are perfectly apt for secure voting needs. To learn more about the technicals of blockchain on a deeper level, check out our Blockchain & Bitcoin Fundamentals course. Or, expand your knowledge by reading our blog articles at Moralis Academy and Moralis, full of valuable tips and educational topics on leading blockchain projects. For example, save our “Solana vs Ethereum” or our “Rust & Solana” articles for later! No matter your experience, Moralis Academy is the best way to start your education with all things blockchain and Web3!
Unlike a traditional voting system with covert operations between many parties, a blockchain voting system is fully transparent. By incorporating cryptographic security and anonymity, a blockchain voting system can publicly display the number of participants an election received. In other governance-based proceedings, a blockchain voting system could create an alert when all relevant participants have voted.
Another benefit is that the resulting votes are entirely traceable and transparent. However, the type of vote an individual wallet makes can remain private and unknown. Any investigators would see a transaction ID confirming that a wallet completed a vote rather than being able to view what the user had voted. In addition, using a blockchain voting system means that results will immediately be released to the public. Conversely, legacy voting infrastructure often leaks results to exclusive parties before a mass media announcement. As such, a blockchain voting system could reduce the risk of manipulative behavior surrounding result tampering.
A notorious feature of blockchain is its immutability of transactions. Any attempt to adjust data or movement assets across a network, successful or not, will hold an immutable record on the blockchain. Ergo, a blockchain voting system is a highly favorable alternative to pen or pencil on paper. Plus, blockchain is currently far more secure than any other database system. In the scenario of an electronic voting machine microchip being tampered with, there would be no provable way to see if a vote had taken place. On the other hand, a vote on a blockchain would remain forever – even if the device used to cast a vote is destroyed.
Legacy online voting systems using traditional database systems (i.e., PHP, SQL, etc.) are susceptible to tampering with results. Anyone could hack into the system, update, remove, or insert votes. Contrarily, once data entering the blockchain is validated, it becomes immutable as it goes through several cryptographic hashing processes, intertwining small pieces of data. In short, it would take tremendous money and energy to exploit a blockchain entry. If an attacker successfully exploits a network, there are minimal adjustments one could make. Plus, it would be publicly transparent for the network to see before tracing and tracking the actor down using block explorers.
Traditional voting systems rely on human trust, whereas a blockchain voting system relies on computer science and cryptography. Instead of centralized parties managing and releasing results, polling is a distributed collaborative process based on mathematics. The security aspects of blockchain benefit not only the integrity and validity of an election but also the voters.
Using blockchain, poll organizers can define public parameters for voting and implement KYC (know your customer) measurements. As such, this can prevent any illegitimate people from voting or influencing a specific outcome. Further, using cryptographic hashing techniques, wallet addresses remain anonymous. However, there is a chance that someone could match your real-world identity with your public wallet address. Nevertheless, a blockchain voting system could ensure any correlation between the received votes and voters’ identities remain private.
It is worth noting that the security of any blockchain voting system is based on the network it operates. For example, a blockchain voting project on the leading smart contract chain, Ethereum, is far more secure than a smaller and less reputable chain. Plus, a blockchain application is only as good as its code. Thus, it is imperative to carry out due diligence before interacting with any application.
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Traditional electoral voting can be a hectic period. As previously discussed, the queues and gatherings at voting stations can prevent a significant proportion of potential voters. As a result, online voting is a rising trend in today’s societies focusing on technology. Online voting is friendlier to the environment and facilitates opportunities for more people to vote than ever before. Using a blockchain voting system, voters with an internet connection can partake from anywhere, at any time. Also, blockchain voting systems are ideal for both public voting (i.e., electoral situations) and boardroom environments (e.g., executive meetings). Also, a blockchain voting system’s transparency, immutability, and integrity may give more people the confidence to vote, knowing the result is secure.
Potential Drawbacks of a Blockchain Voting System
The subject of maintaining voting integrity using blockchain was discussed at the 2019 “International Conference on Electronics, Computer, and Computation” (ICECCO), located in Nigeria. The event defined a democratic system as one where eligible registered users can cast a single vote. Bitcoin is notoriously the solution to the double-spending problem in computer science, preventing the same cryptographic asset from being spent twice. However, with open-source Web3 technologies, anyone can create a new blockchain wallet address without KYC requirements. Thus, it is, as yet, impossible to create a single interoperable verifiable decentralized identity. In turn, user identity requirements for a blockchain voting system will need to happen on the frontend of a voting platform, specific to its API.
Another concern surrounding a blockchain voting system is scalability and transaction speed. The infamous “blockchain trilemma” refers to the industry’s struggle to balance speed, security, and scalability. In addition, many blockchain projects factor in the cost to users. As the blockchain industry is still young, with new innovative protocols emerging frequently, it is unlikely to see a blockchain voting system used in mass electoral polls until there is a sufficient solution to the industry’s trilemma.
Existing Blockchain Voting System Projects
While a universal blockchain voting system standard may not yet be available, several existing blockchain voting projects exist. Let’s explore these voting systems using blockchain further!
“Reply” is responsible for designing Ballotchain – a unique “blockchain as a service” software for improving online voting initiatives. The company states to facilitate an online voting environment “with the same guarantees of a public election”. Accordingly, voters can interact with polls on Ballotchain using multimedia totems, mobiles, tablets, and desktop computers. Using various KYC intertwined with the public Bitcoin blockchain, Reply assures users of the impossibility of committing electoral fraud by voting twice.
Voters send a small amount of cryptocurrency in support of a candidate’s wallet, and the transaction is “matched” to a Bitcoin transaction. The low-cost operation means votes are cryptographically entwined with the leading crypto asset before becoming immutably stored on the blockchain.
Established in Finland in 1996, Polyas has been a pioneer in online voting since 1996. Moreover, Polyas was chosen by the German Federal Office for Information Security in 2016 to assist with electronic voting applications. As a forward-thinking enterprise, Polyas incorporates various aspects of blockchain technology in electronic voting systems. Also, Polyas caters to private and public sector needs. The success of Polyas resulted in expanding its customer and user base to include Europe and the United States.
Exploring Blockchain Voting Systems – Summary
Traditional voting systems are expensive, time-consuming, and vulnerable to manipulation at various points of the process. As a result, the transition toward online voting is a rising trend. However, centralized servers and databases are still prone to covert manipulation and a single point of failure. The aptest solution at present is introducing a blockchain voting system.
A blockchain voting system is hugely beneficial because of its transparency, mathematically verified validity, and immutability of votes. Also, as with other online voting platforms, participants can cast votes at a time and place most convenient to them. Plus, end-users wouldn’t really notice a difference with a blockchain voting system on the frontend. However, the reputability, validity, and reliability of voting initiatives can be radically improved by implementing blockchain.
Nevertheless, the blockchain industry is still young and has yet to mature the finer details for widespread usage and application within voting. For example, the currently existing “blockchain trilemma” means it is as yet unrealistic to achieve a large-scale national electoral adoption of a blockchain voting system. In addition, there are many challenges surrounding decentralized user identities and the potential for users to cast more than one vote. However, many projects incorporate a blockchain voting system popular with smaller, local initiatives.
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