There exists much contention around the application of blockchain for voting in the United States. Medici Venture’s mobile voting app “Voatz” has been used for elections in Denver, Utah County, Utah, and West Virginia in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Currently it has only been used for military absentee online voting, but its success has prompted some officials to consider broader applications. Crypto-maximalists, like Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, are strong proponents of blockchain voting. Although concerns exist, they believe their resolution is imminent.
Arguments against blockchain voting are clear, legitimate, and quite concerning. A November 2020 paper by four MIT professors raised major concerns over cybersecurity. The question often arises in this debate that if internet security is good enough for banking, then why not for voting. Online banking has a higher tolerance for failure, meaning that if your bank account is hacked, then the attack is recognized by the system’s infrastructure and the victim may be reimbursed or otherwise made whole. This is not the case for online voting where there is no remedy for malfunction. Neither the voter, nor the governing body, may never be made aware of any critical divergences.
These concerns over blockchain voting are indeed valid, but in no way invalidate the concept’s potential. This technology has already been adopted in some 30 U.S. counties, and several countries around the world. Real-world deployment is of course not the best means by which to test such a system as there is no contingency for failure. There is no reimbursement for a failed election, only chaos. Internet voting, by any means, could make a country vulnerable to any nation-state with enough resources to launch a feasible cyberattack. Nevertheless, the technology has great promise for secure, open, and convenient elections. Research and development of blockchain voting is a moral imperative for any nation that yearns for true democracy in the digital age.
One avenue for further research and development could come via online blockchain polling apps. Most political polling is done by phone, or otherwise person-to-person communication, and many argue that there is far too much room for concealed influence. Failure is a necessary component of research and development. This of course cannot happen when the technology is being developed in live elections where there is zero tolerance for failure. Political polling is inherently flawed, and no one expects it to be completely accurate.
Blockchain polling would reduce human influence and provide for more reliable data. As the technology develops, and more faith is generated, blockchain polling could be used as a means of accountability for legislators. For example, if most constituents in a congressional district are polled via blockchain, and there is overwhelming consensus for or against an issue, then the representative may use this data to influence their decision. If the legislator opposes group consensus, then concerns regarding accountability may be raised.
Support for mass adoption would be necessary to make a blockchain polling system an effective influence on legislators. The question is often asked whether an elected official is acting in good faith by exacting the will of the people, or simply taking orders from special interest groups making financial contributions to their campaigns. Blockchain eliminates a need for trust via smart contracts, whereas blockchain poling could eliminate the need for integrity in politicians. For mass adoption to occur, a consortium of interested parties may be essential. Members could include government agencies, public and private entities, watchdog groups, or any organization with an interest in restoring integrity to a system seething with corruption.