Some parties in the United States are still challenging the integrity of the election process in the country. While all that is happening, a group of researchers is vigorously advocating against using blockchain-based and internet-based voting systems in the future.
Based on a November 16 report acquired from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, blockchain voting is not reliable. They say that relying on technology as a means of encouraging greater turnout may increase the risk of hackers tampering with the elections.
Michael Specter, Neha Narula, and Ronald L. Rivest make up the cybersecurity team of Sunoo Park. They concluded that bitcoin is not sustainable for political elections soon. According to them, software-independent strategies like mail-in ballots and voting in person are safer.
Some of the issues that they raised were the potential lack of ballot secrecy since it is traceable on the blockchain. Also, when blockchain voting is used, there is a lack of auditing in the scenario of a contested race. Rivest, an MIT professor and also the senior author of the report, said:
“While current election systems are far from perfect, blockchain would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures. Any turnout increase would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast. I haven’t yet seen a blockchain system that I would trust with a county-fair jellybean count, much less a presidential election.”
Issues Linked To Blockchain Voting
The cybersecurity team insists that one of the key differences when using blockchain networks for a democratic process like voting compared to financial transactions is that when fraud or hacks occur, financial institutions at times have ways to compensate victims for their losses.
The credit card firms can refund and even some cryptocurrency exchanges have managed to freeze tokens that are associated with a hack. MIT’s report says:
“For elections, there can be no insurance or recourse against a failure of democracy. There is no means to make voters whole again after a compromised election.”
Blockchain-based voting might also encourage ‘serious failures’ as explained by the MIT team. For example, if hackers discover a way to attack votes without getting caught, authorities would eventually need to hold a new election to get reliable results.
A blockchain-based voting system with just one point of attack may possibly give hackers the chance and ability to change or even remove millions of votes. On the other hand, destroying a mail-in ballot normally needs physical access.
Most countries are striving to further integrate blockchain technology into the voting procedure starting with small-scale deployments. Russia’s blockchain-based voting system on Vladimir Putin’s term limit allegedly did not allow for ballot secrecy since third parties and users could decipher these votes before the official count.
Last February, another MIT team that also included researcher Michael Specter released a comprehensive report that identified security vulnerabilities that exist within the revolutionary blockchain-based voting app Voatz. Nevertheless, both the Republican and Democratic parties used this app for voting at their conventions before the general election in 2021.
Utah purportedly allowed certain residents to cast their ballots in this year’s presidential election using Voatz. Rivest said:
“Democracy — and the consent of the governed — cannot be made contingent on whether some software correctly recorded voters’ choices.”
Will blockchain be used in an election process any time soon? Time will tell.