A democracy is about transparency and fairness and any elections conducted within such a paradigm should reflect those principles. If we are to automate the election process, we need a technology that can allow for such transparency and at the same time, be able to guarantee the integrity of the transaction. That technology is Blockchain.
With the exception of Estonia that successfully implemented online voting in 2007, most nations still stick to the traditional mode of voting, i.e., paper ballots. It requires the citizens to be physically present at a location to cast their vote which may not make much sense considering how connected we are today. People shy away from digitizing the process because of security risks associated with putting everything online. That’s not to say that the current system is without fault.
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The Turkish general election of 2015 was fraught with controversies and allegations of electoral fraud with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) smack in the middle of it. The AKP allegedly used state resources like state funds, media and vehicles for the campaign. The Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey also came under investigation for printing an excess of over 20 million ballot papers for a population of 50 million raising questions about how the surplus papers would be used.
A whistleblower from within the AKP stated that the party had a plan for any election from sending miscalculated vote numbers to the electoral council, intimidating officials from reporting the errors to the council, early announcement of AKP’s scale of victory to discourage opposition voters from casting their ballot to voter fraud by using fake voter data. Yet another controversy broke out when the counting of overseas votes began; a ballot box that should have had only 200 votes had 276 votes.
This isn’t an isolated incident. Election fraud is a reality for many countries albeit in varying degrees. NGOs and IGOs are sometimes appointed to monitor elections. But they aren’t foolproof either. The monitors aren’t usually familiar with the lay of the land and they don’t collaborate with the locals to remain neutral which hampers their ability to effectively evaluate the votes. Also, in case of IGOs which are made of a group of countries, the monitors at times have to verify or risk destabilizing that region. Adding to that, since IGOs are made up of multiple countries, it’s always a possibility that the monitoring would be unwittingly influenced to serve those nations’ interests.
Simply put, Blockchain is a digital ledger. This technology is highly secure while affording an unparalleled level of transparency among authorised users. This is because all transactions are recorded on a “chain” maintained across millions of nodes on a network. It is cryptographically secure; you cannot edit or remove a single detail without the other parties verifying it. This makes it essentially immutable. Let’s see how we can integrate these features in Blockchain to the voting system.
The Estonian government, when they introduced online voting, assigned a national ID card with encrypted files that identified the owner. A blockchain enabled identity management system could record this information in an immutable ledger. Relevant authorities could be given access to this blockchain and the citizen’s information can be verified by government miner through local government administration offices in the district, government utility services like water and electricity. Once the individual’s information is verified to be accurate, they can be assigned a vote. This essentially eliminates fake voter data which is the main cause for allegations like dead people voting. This was something that came up during the Turkish elections.
While a majority of the voting population shows up at polling stations and cast their votes, there are still a number of people who don’t show up at all. This indifference results in lost votes and lack of participation in the democratic process of the country. It’s usually because of the inconvenience; people would rather be in the comfort of their homes rather than out in a long queue, waiting for their turn to vote. If the voting can be done by phone or computer, then more people would join in the democratic process. We could use Blockchain technology to secure online voting. Such an application wouldn’t have to worry about hackers because the processing power required to affect every single node on the Blockchain is monumental.
Blockchain offers a number of options with which the actual voting can be made more secure.
Article 21(3) of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states that
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
Elections in some nations are quite troublesome. Parties might use covert tactics like engineering power failures to interfere with counting to overt tactics like stealing votes. All of these possible because of the traditional voting system. A blockchain system would definitely be able to ensure free and fair elections because it and this human right are almost made for each other.
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