By Devanshi Saxena
Universal Adult Franchise and the right to freely exercise one’s choice without any apprehension or undue external influence is the hallmark of a successful democracy. However, taking into account the allegations of EVM tampering during recent State Assembly elections in India and security weaknesses in the voting machines that were brought to the notice of concerned officials during the U.S. Presidential elections have put a question mark on the authenticity of the election results. In such a scenario, it becomes imperative to look for the alternative available so that the basic tenet of a democracy is not violated and election results are untampered. Experts have fielded the cause of online voting to increase the voter turnout and blockchain technology has emerged as a viable solution.
Blockchain technology and security concerns
As per the views of Pete Martin, the CEO of Votem, “Blockchain is a permanent cryptographic record, or ledger of digital events that have been distributed, or shared among many different parties.” Information once entered into the ledger cannot be altered and any form of updating of the system requires the consensus of the participants. A cryptographically verifiable record of every transaction (in this case, vote) is also recorded in the system.
The accuracy of every transaction is verified by ‘independent authorities’, who then take a decision on whether to make it a permanent record or not. This provides for a distinct level of transparency and accountability which cannot be achieved in the existing system. Blockchain technology also provides greater resistance against ‘insider threats’, a crucial liability that makes the current system more susceptible to invasion.
Voting, elections and the existing maladies in the process
India, the most vibrant democracy in the world. has its own share of electoral discrepancies. With an increase in the pace of allegations related to electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Election Commission of India (ECI) had to intervene to re-establish the legitimacy of the EVM system. Fake list of names in the electoral rolls, rigged polling booths, and software tampering are some of the irregularities that plague the Indian voting system with no feasible solution for their riddance.
During the U.S. Presidential elections in 2016, there were instances of electoral malpractices wherein the State’s voter verification system collapsed, forcing the officials to issue provisional ballots to an undisclosed number of voters. The 2000 U.S. Presidential election remains one of the most infamous cases of Election Day blundering. Irregular ballots were discovered by the officials in Florida and the manual recount took over a month after which the case was assigned to the U.S. Supreme Court. An inefficient electoral system discourages voting, thus provoking public distrust on the matters of accountability and transparency.
How can voting benefit from blockchain technology?
Blockchain technology ensures anonymity of the voters as they are veiled from any probable suppression. It uses an encrypted key that guarantees heightened security and privacy in comparison to the traditional ballot boxes. A blockchain is also immutable; it provides for a hassle-free auditing without the risk of tampering. The most pivotal security advantage of the blockchain is decentralisation. As the ledger is distributed across a public network, there is nothing like a single storage base. This aspect makes it difficult and almost impossible to hack a blockchain system.
Countries like Australia, South Korea have already explored the different contexts of Blockchain voting and the results have been affirmative. In India, the research wing of Reserve Bank of India has delved into the concepts of blockchain implementation and the results have also been encouraging so far. Moreover, the State Bank of India has also initiated a national blockchain bank consortium project to enhance the efficiency of the banking system.