Is blockchain technology the answer to election security concerns? While blockchain technology can readily resolve issues related to voting fraud, national and state election officials have been reluctant to embrace it fully. Ironically, US electronic voting machines continue to face problems. As Mashable recounts:
Experts have also found that electronic voting is incredibly vulnerable to hacking. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia attempted to penetrate the voting systems of 21 states in 2016, and were successful in at least one (Illinois).
It also turns out that the recommended way people should vote is with a paper ballot that allows voters to check that they’re casting the ballot the way they intended. That’s known as a “voter-verified paper audit trail” (VVPAT). It means that the most secure and accurate way to vote is through leaving an analog record.
We need an election system that is resilient to the threats,” voting security expert Bruce Schneier writes. “And for many parts of the system, that means paper.
And as US election watchers can attest, nearly every biennial election season brings with it anger about voter disenfranchisement due to voting machine malfunctions. Not incidentally, social media users have been quick to amplify these flaws in recent years (as illustrated below).
A Worldwide Problem
However, frequent anger about voting irregularities is not limited to the United States. In India, multiple instances of electronic voting machine failure occurred during the country’s recent General Elections. Unfortunately, the electronic voting machines used code that wasn’t made public or audited by a 3rd party. Relying on paper ballots would have rectified many of these issues.
More problematic is the apparent discrepancy between the number of voters who apparently voted and the number of votes processed by the electronic voting machines. Aside from reliability concerns, election observers can be forgiven for asking whether current voting machines are secure from being hacked or manipulated. After India’s 2008 General Election, a technical investigation into the country’s electronic voting machines revealed that they could easily be hacked! Such security issues continue to foster fierce debate within the country.
Among the questions now being asked is “How can new technology be reliably integrated into the election process?” Technology advocates are quick to answer with the phrase BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY!
How Does Voting On A Blockchain Work?
CoinBundle describes the blockchain-based voting process as follows:
“How does blockchain-based voting work?
Before we get into how exactly it would help voting, let’s break down how blockchain in voting would work, to begin with. First of all, the voter registration process would still have to take place off the grid or off the chain. Once a voter registration agency determines that someone is eligible to vote, they would receive a token or key that would allow them to vote exactly once. This is the same mechanism used to ensure that the double spending problem does not exist, but now with voting.
Plus, the whole voting process would be decentralized, which means that there is no central agency which must be trusted to conduct the elections fairly and securely. Anybody can participate and become a node in the system — as long as they meet requirements which are confirmed during registration — which will collectively ensure that the system is available throughout the duration of the election and that the votes are counted correctly.
West Virginia’s Blockchain-Based Election
During the 2018 election season, the state of West Virginia introduced blockchain-based voting via a new mobile app by Voatz, a company funded by an Overstock.com subsidiary. After completing a successful (two-county) test-run during the primaries, the app was used in West Virginia’s midterm elections. More than 150 people Peace Corps volunteers used the app to vote in the general midterm of 2018.
The Voatz app is available for download for anyone on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. However, using the app requires performing the following process:
When registering an account, users must provide their phone numbers and eight-digit pin code, adding extra precautions like two-factor authentication in order to prevent accounts from being hacked or votes being tampered with. Then, users must authenticate their identities in three separate ways. First, they must submit a photo of their driver’s license. Then, they follow along with an in-app instructional video to shoot and send a video of their faces. Facial recognition technologies, like Apple’s Face ID, are used to verify that the face in the video is the same and the account is registered in the state’s voter registration base.
After registering an account, voters must then have their identity verified by Face ID technology or fingerprint scans. Their subsequent votes are then printed onto a paper ballot (similar in appearance to a Scantron sheet) and fed into a machine.
At present, the West Virginia House of Representatives is moving to study potential uses of blockchain-related technology for its various government agencies.
XTRABYTES Unparalleled Security
XTRABYTES™ new Proof-of-Signature (PoSign) technology eliminates the risk of a 51 percent attack. Unlike similar technologies, PoSign does not rely upon block mining to add transaction records to its blockchain. By eliminating this, XTRABYTES has ensured that no miner or group of miners can take control of the blockchain (a 51% attack).
This protection flows from its fully decentralized node network. Comprised of 3584 ‘STATIC’ (Services, Transactions, and Trusted in Control) nodes, XTRABYTES™ issues transactions fees to STATIC node owners rather than to miners. Network security is dependent upon these STATIC nodes signing each transaction block (thus, the name Proof-of-Signature). A private virtual network interconnects these online STATIC nodes, creating VPN-like functionality for the nodes.
By eliminating the risk of a 51 percent attack, XTRABYTES technology will be well-positioned for entering blockchain voting market. As it is truly ‘unhackable’, expect XTRABYTES technology to soon lead the way in ensuring voting security and election integrity.