How Blockchain Can Change the Way People Vote

Zoya Sergeeva
July, 2018
Whether you're an investor or merely follow the fluctuations in the bitcoin rate, it's hard to deny that the cryptocurrency has created a lot of noise. Bitcoin was made possible thanks to blockchain technology. But the latter's many functions and advantages mean it can be used for much more than just trading cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain technology is now used in various sectors around the world such as banking, healthcare, supply chains, etc. But it also has huge potential for conducting online elections. The technology can help implement fair and secure elections, cut costs and increase voter turnout.

Blockchain technology offers more security than a simple server vulnerable to hacking. A blockchain is a database controlled by all the network members and not just by a single entity such as a bank or government agency. Therefore, in order to hack a blockchain, it would be necessary to hack significant amount of the computers on the network. The information in a blockchain is digitally signed in such a way that it cannot be modified or deleted without being unnoticed. In theory, all sorts of information, from birth records to business operations, can be written down in a blockchain, creating a permanent and indelible document that cannot be tampered with, for example, by corrupt officials.

When the blockchain conversation turns to voting, each transaction involves a vote being received rather than cryptocurrency being exchanged. Those with access to the voting process can add their votes to a blockchain where their choice is safeguarded and transparent. Of course, another important element of any voting system is voter anonymity.

In Polys, anonymity is achieved thanks to crypto algorithms and namely blind signature technique which allows to verify that a particular voter has indeed right to vote but it doesn't reveal the identity of that voter.

How does it work? Imagine that voter made his/her choice and put the ballot in an envelope. Then the election official could use special carbon paper in order to sign the ballot. This way he/she learns nothing about the choice of the voter and it is not linked with the voter identity anymore, but anyone could verify the validity of the election official's signature. This description is actually very similar to how our system operates – the voter blinds his message and the so called signing service, i.e. election official in the aforementioned example, could verify that the voter is eligible to vote and sign the voter's blinded message. As the message is blinded, it couldn't be linked to the voter's identity and hence anonimity is preserved.

This is necessary to protect voter identity and is especially useful in cases where the authorities are harassing voters or the current government wants to neutralize or punish the opposition.

Just like in traditional elections, independent observers are still necessary. No voting system can guarantee completely transparent and fair elections on its own – even if it's based on blockchain technology. However, in the case of Polys, the monitoring function will be available to all interested participants, even if they have minimal technical knowledge. We are currently working on the Observer app that will help the designated person(s) control the voting process, i.e. monitor all the incoming transactions and check their validity.

Use of blockchain technology can go a long way to ensuring elections are fair in both developed and developing countries. According to the Pew Research Center, 84% of U.S. households have computers, and about 77% of adults have smartphones. Among millennials, 92% of respondents said they own a smartphone. There are also potential online voters in the developing world, where the share of smartphone ownership has grown to 37%, compared to 21% in 2013. Polys, a simple and easy-to-use platform for online voting, is capable not only of getting more people involved in democratic processes by increasing turnout and voter activity but can also reduce the costs associated with holding traditional elections.

But we shouldn't forget about the prejudices getting in the way of implementing blockchain voting. Despite all the advantages, just 1% of enterprises are actively deploying blockchain technology. A major educational program is needed to dispel the misconceptions of businesses, governments, and ordinary citizens. Without a detailed explanation of the principles behind blockchain technology in general and the Polys app in particular, voters will not trust the system. That's why the main mission of Polys is educating users and changing the perception of blockchain voting.

As always, we invite you to hold your first free online vote and evaluate the benefits of the Polys voting app. Enjoy!