The incompatibility of the blockchain and the electoral system

A group of researchers from the Cryptocurrency and Contracts Initiative (IC3) said that, contrary to popular belief, the blockchain will not help to improve the voting system both in the US and other countries with similar problems. In fact, experts say that blockchain may worsen existing flaws.

In an article published by Business Insider, Ari Jewels, Ittai Ayal, and Oded Naor pointed out four main reasons for the incompatibility between the blockchain and the electoral system.

The first reason is the vulnerability of computers and the Internet. Computers can fail, they can be destroyed, they can be accessed by intruders and distort the voting data. The mere possibility of such a scenario undermines trust, which the basis of any electoral system.

Scientists have even compared the Internet voting system with the use of alcohol behind the wheel, citing a cryptographer and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ronald Rivest, who drew parallels between these phenomena.

Internet interruptions can prevent people from voting. In time, non-updated systems are vulnerable to hacker attacks. But even with regular updates, IC3 experts advise not to take risks, because an unknown vulnerability could jeopardize the entire system.

According to them, the attackers are constantly developing new methods of attack, and a computerized vote can give them an excellent opportunity to attack.

The third factor that causes concern to researchers is the fact that the voting system on the blockchain relies on technical devices, and not on people. Although the blockchain is able to reliably account for the voice, there is a danger that the infected device will change the choice of the voter before the data is recorded in the registry:

If your phone is infected with malware that changes candidate A’s choice for candidate B, then it doesn’t matter how safe all other aspects of the voting system are.
Some creators of the newest online voting platforms do not open the code to the public. Thus, an independent party is not able to conduct an audit and examine the system until it starts work.

Finally, the last warning of IC3 experts concerns the possible purchase of votes. Now, harsh punishments and a secret ballot system hinder the bribing of voters, but the expression of will in the network can greatly facilitate the task of criminals. Moreover, bribes can come in untraceable cryptocurrencies. It will also become difficult to prosecute foreign intruders who distort data or bribe voters. But the blockchain can reveal the identity of those who voted, including bona fide ones.

Meanwhile, voting on the Internet is already working in some countries. Thus, in August, the blockchain-based mobile system was launched in the US state of West Virginia. It allows voting to the soldiers who are on military bases outside the country.

The secretary of the state Mac Warner claims that the application has reliably and successfully passed the tests, including the code audit. Security measures include biometrics and facial recognition techniques.

Switzerland is also experimenting with online voting systems and evaluates the results positively. In July of this year, a test vote was held on the blockchain in Zug. The authorities considered the experiment successful, although the level of citizen participation was low.