Scholars think Blockchain can create new problems in elections

Oct 22, 2018 at 22:12

A group of blockchain and crypto scholars from top universities warned that blockchain application may not fill the gaps of the current electoral system, rather only pave the way for new cheating techniques to emerge.

The authors of the Business Insider article were Ari Juels, a professor of computer science at Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, Cornell Tech, and co-director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts (IC3) at Cornell University; Ittay Eyal, the associate director of the IC3 and assistant professor of electrical engineering at Technion — Israel Institute of Technology; and Oded Naor, IC3 member, visiting researcher at Cornell-Tech, and graduate student in electrical engineering at Technion — Israel Institute of Technology

The IC3 is a n initiative by faculty members from Cornell University, Cornell Tech, EPFL, ETH Zurich, UC Berkeley, University College London, UIUC and the Technion. It’s based at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in NYC.

The researchers’ aired their sentiment but not without acknowledging the fact that introducing the “transformative” blockchain aims to revolutionize voting, as the technology did in several applications today.

“Best known as the technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchains can do much more than allow anonymous strangers to send each other money without fear of fraud or tampering. They have created new ways for people to invest in technology ventures that have attracted billions of dollars, and may someday store records that make educational credentials, land ownership and food origins more transparent and harder to forge,” the authors said.

For these reasons, mainly its security feature, the scholars understood why the world was quick to turn to blockchain to change an electoral system that, more often than not, had yielded marred voting results.

However, the scholars reminded that securing a device is beyond a blockchain’s capability.

“[T]allying votes on a blockchain doesn’t magically make a voter’s phone or computer secure. A vote may be securely recorded, but that means nothing if the vote was cast incorrectly to begin with. If your phone is infected with malware that switches your vote from Candidate R to Candidate D, it doesn’t matter how secure the rest of the voting system is – the election has still been hacked,” the authors said.

Meanwhile, the experts think that a blockchain-powered electoral system can also encourage vote buying.

“Putting votes on blockchains eliminates the secrecy of the voting booth. Encryption doesn’t help: Software can prove mathematically to a vote buyer that a voter’s device encrypted the name of a particular candidate. In addition, foreigners who might try to influence people’s votes are very hard to prosecute,” they added.

The scholars concluded that government officials and companies promoting online voting “are creating a false sense of security – and putting the integrity of the election process at risk.”

“ In seeking to use blockchains as a protective element, they may in fact be introducing new threats into the crucial mechanics of democracy,” they added.