According to The Korea Times, the Republic of South Korea is considering pursuing a Blockchain-based voting system. Spurred by the push to take advantage of The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Ministry of Science and ICT and the National Election Commission (NEC) are seeking to take advantage of the trust and verifiability inherent in Blockchain-based protocols. “The technology fundamentally prevents forgery or falsification of voting results. It also enables candidates and election observers to have access to data, saved on the Blockchain system, to check the results with their own eyes, the ministry noted…Based on the results of the trial services, the ministry and the NEC will apply the technology to the latter’s online voting system, dubbed K-Voting.”
Authors Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey observed the same potential for the verifiability of Blockchain-based voting in The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything. “The idea is that the Blockchain, by ensuring that no vote can be double-counted—just as no bitcoin can be double-spent—could for the first time enable reliable mobile voting via smartphones. Arguably it would both reduce discrimination against those who can’t make it to the ballot box on time and create a more transparent, accountable electoral system that can be independently audited and which engenders the public’s trust.” Trust and consensus are at the center of Blockchain technology. What is being described here, in a sense, is voting utilizing distributed networking.
Discussions on Blockchain technology tend to focus on cryptocurrencies and their value as “money.” To pigeonhole the technology shows a lack of appreciation for the subtle potential and opportunities that come with eliminating the need for trusted third-parties. The revolution is not about money; it is about trust. South Korea demonstrates their foresight with this push.
South Korea is not the first country to attempt digital voting. As stated in The Truth Machine, Estonia’s I-voting system, though not on the Blockchain, is heralded as a step in the right direction. India’s Aadhaar project which links the voter ID card to biometrics is also in the same spirit. The difference here, though, is that both of these systems depend on a central authority; they do not utilize cryptographic keys. In fact, India’s program is voluntary because individuals have shown a concern about their privacy and sovereignty of their identity. K-Voting, being Blockchain based, would address these concerns of privacy and sovereign identity.
Blockchain: Ambitions and Reality
Bitcoin expert and evangelist Andreas Antonopoulos touches upon how e-voting could be possible on the Blockchain. “[I]f you start generalizing that you can see how there is a possibility of creating a pseudo-coin which is distributed to the population much like you get mailed election … [W]hat you’re doing is getting a digital token that you execute through your smartphone. The differences now that you can verify that your vote is counted and you can verify the fairness of the election independently the way each bitcoin node independently verifies every transaction and the security of the network.” Trust and verifiability in voting using cryptocurrency is possible.
And while the Blockchain does provide the infrastructure to take advantage of the inherent verifiability of a Blockchain, he is quick to admit that this is something that is down the road. Like most things in Blockchain, the solutions are clear in the abstract but in practice, the technology may not yet be there. “I expect electronic voting will probably take decades but it is within the ability of the system. I don’t know how to solve it but I’m sure there are many many really smart people computer scientists who are working on exactly that.” Maybe those computer scientists are Korean.
The recent midterm election in the United States had charges of voter purges and misplaced ballots. A Blockchain voting system, which would be verifiable and immutable, would allow increased participation and trust in results. Blockchain might help bring a true reform of Representative Democracy.
Governments like South Korea’s are stepping up to lead the way, though they do not specify which protocol they plan to utilize. Their outcomes will determine the institution of these systems in other governments around the world. Either way, voting is only one example where cryptocurrency and Blockchain technology will disrupt government institutions and our daily lives.
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels
Carlos Acevedo is a writer and educator whose crypto-journey began not so much with Bitcoin but with Dogecoin in 2014. And while that involvement was not insanely profitable, the experience in fundamental best practices in using crypto became useful when the boom of 2017 occurred. Already in possession of a Coinbase account after hearing Andreas Antonopolous on the Joe Rogan Experience, he was primed to jump right in and has not looked back since. Studying cryptocurrency and exploring its potential, pitfalls, and possibilities has become a part of his daily life. You can find him on Twitter at @CLAcevedo222.