Blockchain has become a bit of a buzzword in relation to a variety of industries and public functionalities; it’s often thrown around with little understanding of the true nature or purpose of the technology.

Electoral processes and voting, in particular, is one of them. With only a week to go until the 2020 US election, questions around the integrity of voter registration, and election results, are a constant humming undertone to the news cycle.

Using blockchain technology to link on-chain content (like a digital signature on a contract) to a verifiable identity is nothing new, there are working systems that already exist for this purpose; take the Bitcoin Attestation Protocol, for example. It would merely require the backing of companies and government bodies to use existing public blockchains, like Bitcoin SV, in a more widespread manner. So what are the arguments against adopting blockchain systems for voting? One could suggest this unwillingness to explore the use of existing, distributed systems stems from the fear that no one entity would control them - as is the nature of distributed ledger technology.

This brings up the critical difference between public vs private blockchain systems. Private blockchain voting systems have already been implemented by a number of countries; for example, Voatz is used by America for the purpose of overseas military voting. And back in September, Russia used the Waves blockchain in by-elections for seats in their national parliament. The most interesting point about that, however, is that the blockchain system was built by state-backed telecommunications giant, Rostelecom.

These examples of private systems miss the point of voting on blockchain entirely - verification via public consensus cannot be achieved within a closed system.

This, in turn, creates more questions about why a company or government would want to build its own, or a pay to use, a private blockchain system - what are they hiding about the integrity of the information within it?

The very premise underpinning blockchain is for information to be direct, private (but not anonymous) and on public record, in order that actors within the system can be held accountable. Creating individual private blockchains with this technology is just a way to create a fancy internal network that isn’t underpinned by the core tenants of Bitcoin and blockchain.

Without mainstream integration of immutable blockchain systems for every electoral process - including registering to vote, casting a vote and verifying a vote count -  any election, be it in America, Russia or New Zealand will continue to be subject to questions.

For more on this topic, check out our long read blog post, Voting on Blockchain - What Governments Don't Want You to Know.

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