A persistent problem for some time now, especially after the result of the recent referendum in Turkey, there have been many allegations towards the security of the voting systems. There have always been some dilemmas about the reliability of paper ballots. Because most of the time, it is not possible to prove frauds in paper ballot based elections as they are not traceable, and voters can be suppressed with societal norms or erroneous polling information.
The Russian Example
Sergei Shpilkin, a Russian data analyst who has been analysing the discrepancies in elections, argues that the false votes in favour of the United Russia party amount to about 12 million. In fair elections, a graph that shows the reported turnout in polling stations form a bell curve. The peak indicates the average for the country. Shplikin gathered information from the website of Central Election Committee and graphed the turnout rate in every polling station.
Distribution of turnout in polling stations in Moscow, Duma in 2009
His research indicates that United Russia received about four times as many votes at the 95% stations than it did at the stations with 65% turnout.
What About Electronic Voting Machines?
Some countries (Such as the USA, and India) decided to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) to eliminate these problems. However, as Edward Snowden has shared with his followers on his Twitter account, it is possible to disrupt an individual machine with a modified memory card that costs $30. In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, there was an example of this. In most of the assembly districts (all of them except one), Bernie Sanders performed better when the votes were counted by hand, and Hillary R. Clinton performed better when the votes were counted by machine, even changing the winner once (in District 53). There was a 6.875% difference on average in the eight districts given.
A similar case occurred during the 2004 US Presidential Election between John Kerry and George Bush. Nearly every exit poll indicated a difference in favour of John Kerry compared to the EVM results. Again, the difference was close to 7%.
Using Blockchain Technology in the Elections
Next-generation blockchain technologies are creating the Internet Version 2.0 which gathers money, forms, records, domain names, and more in one place and protects them with appropriate encryption. These are beyond digital currencies, they are uncensorable and eventually, unstoppable databases. Unlike your cloud drive, it is not possible to hack into these files to see your private data such as health records, or bank account information. A databank of this extent creates unlimited opportunities such as confirming identities or delineating commitments by using smart contracts.
While so many people are focused on the financial aspect of blockchain, many believe that the biggest impact of this technology will be these smart contracts. They can conduct contracts that can regulate anything, within the system, without a further add-on, safe, fast, and secure. Recently, the Ukrainian government became the first government to import all of its official data to blockchain servers, after signing a deal with Bitfury, an American blockchain firm. In a short time, they will start using smart contracts to regulate official matters, or issue legalised documents with a couple of mouse clicks. Next step? It wouldn’t be surprising to see them using virtual ballot boxes.
In the last three years, many initiatives have been started to work on this. Most popular ones are the Open Vote Network, V-Initiative, e-Vox, and Blockchain Apparatus. They are virtual ballot box systems that keep the identity of the voters safe, eliminate fraud, and provide transparency. This is an excellent example of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs).
Decentralised Autonomous Organisations
DAOs are organisations that run through smart contracts. No human activity is required, making the platform transparent, secure, simple, fast, and trustworthy. Being the only blockchain technology that meets the Turing threshold, Ethereum is the only platform to be used by DAOs for now. With this system, every registered voter will be able to vote without revealing their identity as no third party is required to count the votes, it is automatically done by the artificial intelligence. Also, every voter node will receive the correct information calculated by the program itself, instantly. Therefore, it won’t be possible to disrupt the election. Another benefit of using these systems is that they limit duress on people, for instance, countries under more autocratic rule where people are afraid of voting for what they believe in because of the social and political oppression.
The current next-generation blockchain technologies offer possibilities beyond our imagination, and they will become even more capable in a short time. Today, they can be used to create democracies, currencies, and much more. They have brought us one step closer to creating truly democratic societies. It is now up to us to use their potential, and dream about what else can be achieved with them tomorrow.