As Americans lined up to vote this month, it was a reminder that voting is a fundamental requirement for a functioning democracy. It enables individuals to express opinions on how they believe their country should be run and who should run it. This process can be an extremely difficult task, especially in larger countries such as India, as collecting votes for millions of people is far from simple. That being said, the voting techniques we use worldwide have barely changed over the last century, and are long overdue for an update. The primary problem with the antiquated methods come down to a single fundamental issue, centralization.
Current voting methods require a large amount of human involvement, from poll workers, to vote counters, to the companies and engineers that design the voting machines. Then you have the oversight groups who employ individuals to oversee the election workers. Current voting methods are inefficient and expensive, susceptible to fraud and manipulation, and need to be vastly improved. Bitcoin technology can provide us with a new and improved voting system built from the ground up, a decentralized and secure alternative.
At its core, Bitcoin is a decentralized and robust ledger secured by computers around the world that run the Bitcoin software. Think of it as a globally transparent accounting book, shared worldwide, that anyone can access and interface with. Through the concepts of game theory and cryptography, the Bitcoin protocol creates a financial incentive to secure its network. The way this incentive is structured, it ensures that no single party can manipulate the data that has been written into the ledger. This makes it superior to state sponsored alternatives, especially in countries with a history of corruption, since the ruling government is unable to manipulate any voting data stored on the ledger.
By completely rethinking the voting process, we can solve many of the issues that plague the current system, while adding new and useful benefits. As it stands now, the majority of votes worldwide are pieces of paper. There is no way to audit paper votes without counting them all by hand, and there is no way for an individual voter to be sure their vote was counted. Every task that needs to be handled by a person is an opportunity for a mistake to be made or for fraud to be committed. On top of that, poll workers and vote counters can “stuff the ballot boxes” by adding paper votes themselves, a more common problem in less developed nations, but a concern in all countries. The only way to prevent that type of tampering is heavy oversight, which requires more workers and more cost.
Electronic voting machines aim to reduce some of the inefficiencies and vulnerabilities of paper ballot voting machines, but introduce a whole new set of issues. These machines are made by private corporations and their source code is proprietary. Voters are forced to not only trust that the creators of the machine aren’t malevolent but also that they have created a secure platform, not susceptible to outside tampering. In this respect, the current class of electronic voting machines are actually a step backwards from paper ballots because they are much easier to tamper with and manipulate on a large scale. Since current machines are not inter-operable, with different companies running different software, it becomes a security and compliance quagmire.
Bitcoin technology offers a fundamentally different approach to vote collection with its decentralized and automated secure protocol. It solves the problems of both paper ballot and electronic voting machines, enabling a cost effective, efficient, open system that is easily audited by both individual voters and the entire community. Bitcoin technology can enable a system where every voter can verify that their vote was counted, see votes for different candidates/issues cast in real time, and be sure that there is no fraud or manipulation by election workers.
Furthermore, the system would ensure that only registered voters are able to vote, without requiring a photo ID. Using Bitcoin technology, every registered voter would have their own key that would enable them to cast their vote, making it impossible for unregistered individuals to vote without one. On top of that, this system would cost magnitudes less than current methods.
A Bitcoin based system can solve most of the issues that currently plague the voting process, without relying on legislation or any additional bureaucracy. Instead of recording votes on paper or in proprietary computer systems, we can record votes on the Bitcoin ledger, the block chain. It is essentially a tech based solution to a human and societal problem. A fair, efficient, and cost-effective voting system is finally possible.