US Congress considering blockchain voting

US Congress is considering the use of blockchain technology amid COVID threat to allow remote Senate voting.


Polling Station

A Senate memo posted on April 30, 2020, reveals the possible use of encrypted (E2EE) apps along with the blockchain to facilitate voting for the US Congress. The memo was prepared by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), in an event called "Roundtable on Continuity of Senate Operations and Remote Voting in Times of Crisis."

Blockchain use

The two Congress chambers always meet in person for votes, deliberation, and committee hearings, expressing that neither of the two has emergency plans to remotely do these functions.


The memo stresses that blockchain technology can securely cast and transmit a vote and assert its validity. Blockchain technologies provide a transparent and secure environment for the transactions making it very difficult, if not impossible, to alter the results. An important result is that vote counting will be much sound and clear.


Blockchain use for elections has been previously used in the parliamentary elections in Estonia in 2004 where 44% of participants used the e-voting technology powered by blockchain. Estonia is a world leader using blockchain under a project called KSI.


KSI website affirms that with KSI Blockchain, history cannot be rewritten and the authenticity of the electronic data can be mathematically proven.


Electronic voting was introduced in Estonia back in 2005 for municipal elections. In its first use, less than two percent of all counted votes were made digitally. They used, back then, their PKI equipped ID cards along with card-readers.

Other countries such as South Corea and Switzerland are building and testing e-voting Systems but e-Voting has also some legal drawbacks. In Switzerland, a group of politicians and computer experts started an initiative to ban e-voting for at least five years. Australia is also planning to use blockchain technology to allow citizens to vote online. The government-owned postal service said that e-voting would offer several advantages such as quicker counting, transparency, efficiency, and cost reductions.


It is unlikely that the Senate will adopt e-voting technology as a solution anytime soon. The idea remains controversial, mainly because the legislative process is based on personal contact and deliberations and some security concerns regarding blockchains such as 51% attacks, correct software implementations, and encryption and privacy problems need to addresses in detail. Nevertheless, this memo is an example of how blockchain technology is present in the head of governments.

Polling station

Process

The e-voting process is quite simple. Voters need their national ID with valid certificates and PIN codes. The voters need to download the voting application that automatically checks the eligibility of the voter to cast a ballot, presenting the list of candidates for the election. Once the voter has made a decision, the app encrypts, transmits and timestamps the ballot to the vote-harvesting server.


Since e-voting doesn't take place in a surveilled installation, the polling station, the system must be sure that the voter has made a free election. Voters can change their mind at any moment and vote again using the e-voting system, or in-person in a polling station. Only the last vote selection counts.

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