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The Fix for Voter Fraud
Blockchain Technologies' Potential for Improving Elections
Maybe you’re sick of hearing about voter fraud on the news. Every four years, half of the country is outraged that their favorite politician lost. Four years later, those accused of committing voter fraud in the last election are the ones accusing the other party. Back and forth, we play a ridiculous blame game amongst our nation, never reaching any conclusions or creating sound voting practices to avoid future fraudulent votes. Blockchain technology holds a potential solution for voter fraud that could rework our election day logistics to create a more secure, accessible, and transparent voting system.
Why do voter fraud allegations occur? What do these instances have in common? It is often said that votes have been cast by people unable to vote, be it noncitizens, dead people, or fake individuals that had an identity fabricated to gain an extra say in the choice of candidate. Additional measures to prevent this possibility, like voter ID laws, are often controversial due to their potential for Jim Crow type abuse. Claims of fraud are often non-substantiated, with only a handful of actual voter fraud allegations leading to arrest, but mistrust of America’s elections is nonetheless exacerbated. Whether or not there are large scale operations fabricating votes and swaying elections, it seems prudent and necessary to restore faith in our elections to create a more unified nation.
An technologically enabled election process would be more secure than the one used today. It is difficult to think of a single company that still relies on pencil and paper to do business, but government always lags behind innovation. A ballot, once filled in by the voter at a voting booth, runs through a machine that logs its information, and the ballot is stored in a box for potential recounting. In 2016, there were 230 million ballots cast. Surely, there exists potential for extra slips of paper to go missing or added to a box by a political agent. Mail-in ballots pass through the postal service, reaching the hands of dozens of workers on its path to be counted. Blockchain could provide maximum security and integrity of each vote cast, removing any shred of possible ballot tampering. A user who casts a vote through a blockchain voting system can be sure that their vote will not be changed and will not be touched or tampered by any individual.
Imagine a system where every US citizen eligible to vote is given an NFT worth “1 X year election vote.” A voter could transfer said NFT to whichever politician they want to see elected. Come election night, the person with the highest count wins. These NFTs, minted by the US government, are impossible to replicate or tamper with. Any question on voter eligibility would be auditable, with a record kept on the blockchain of each citizen given an NFT visible to the public. This system could easily protect the privacy of any voter, by not publicly recording who they voted for, but rather whether an individual was given the opportunity to vote. Thousands of ballot counters would no longer be staying up through the night to tally votes, and recounts would be unnecessary. A perfectly auditable and public system that still maintains the privacy of a voter can be accomplished through blockchain voting.
This improved election process would also be more accessible than the one used today. Every year, Americans take the day off work, close their local town halls or schools, and stand in line to enter the voting booth. An incredibly inefficient process such as this could be improved through blockchain. Much like shopping, work, and even doctor appointments can be done at home, so could voting. Any voter could cast their “NFT ballot” from home. Arguably, this might increase voter participation, as it lowers the effort needed to cast a ballot, a win for a democratic republic like the United States that seeks to hear the voices of as many citizens as possible. Those citizens that do not have access to electronic devices at home can simply log in on a publicly available computer, such as those available at libraries.
How might this impact international election sentiment? While any democratic nation should adopt a blockchain voting system to once and for all solve the issue of voter fraud, what about nations that actively suppress their citizens’ votes? North Koreans must love the Kim family; Kim Jung Un received 100% of the votes cast in the latest election. Right? Blockchain serves primarily as transparency in whichever setting it is used. In non-transparent elections, how might blockchain serve a role? While no tyrannical dictator will ever allow for a true, auditable election, adoption of these measures abroad could serve to pressure those leaders. Any step taken by the free world towards freedom and democracy comes at the expense of tyrannical leaders working to suppress their people. Not only would blockchain technology work to make our own elections more efficient, more secure, and more trustworthy, but would serve as a groundbreaking step in the fight for freedom and democracy worldwide.
How do we move towards a safer, more secure, and more accessible voting system? There are still several hurdles to cross before these measures can be adopted worldwide. In 2018, West Virginia piloted a mobile voting application called Voatz, with the goal of increasing voting accessibility. One major problem with Voatz was the issue of identity verification. Doesn’t that bring us right back to the voter ID debate? Creating a program that can verify the identity of hundreds of millions of Americans, accounting for document typos, name changes, address changes, death certificates, etc. is a daunting task. Many of the same issues that create the possibility for voter fraud today might still arise with these scenarios, and more. Denial of Service attacks also pose a threat to a digital voting system. Whichever blockchain is chosen to host a nation’s elections will be fronted with unimaginable traffic all at once. A blockchain that can handle this kind of traffic would be expensive and difficult to make and maintain. If the voting software crashed on election day, then what? Even if it could be done, a foreign attacker could create millions of server requests on the UI side of the program, to crash any NFT wallet provider that would hold the NFT votes. What happens if your vote is inaccessible on election day? These problems, and many more that might arise are enormous hurdles for any blockchain election advocate to overcome. With innovation comes hardship. Nonetheless, the potential for a blockchain voting system is an interesting topic in the digital world and could serve to prevent voter fraud across the globe in the future.