There has been a great deal of controversy over the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, with claims of Russian meddling, worries about fake news and even questions about the legitimacy of the final vote count. Charges and countercharges have gone back and forth at record speed, multiple investigations are underway, and there are still more issues to come.
As the next election rapidly approaches, election officials are already scrambling to shore up their security, safeguard voting machines, and reassure nervous voters that their voices will be heard. At the same time, social media companies and technology firms are working hard to stop fake news from tainting another election. But could the answer to improved election security lie elsewhere, in the technology that underlies Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency? This article explains how blockchain could be applied to make future elections more secure.
Providing a Secure Audit Trail
Many modern voting machines lack a secure paper trail, and some provide no backup capabilities at all. In landslide elections, that lack of transparency may not be a huge problem, but in close races, the miscounting of a single vote could have serious consequences.
Election security experts have long called for additional ballot transparency, and blockchain could finally make it happen. “The inherent nature of the blockchain makes it the perfect vehicle for providing a secure audit trail,” explains Neal Kwatra, CEO and founder of Metropolitan Public Strategies. Governments around the world are already incorporating this technology into their voting system.
Thanks to the built-in security of the blockchain and its permanent nature, future elections could be far more secure. Many of these changes are already underway, and they could be ready to go by the time the next major election cycle rolls around.
Enabling Mobile Voting
From the United States to Western Europe to countries around the world, governments, journalists experts have long decried the low voter turnout. Even in a good year, the United States barely manages a 50% voter turnout, and the participation in off-year elections is generally quite dismal.
Online voting has often been touted as the solution to voter apathy and poor election day turnout, but security barriers have prevented it from becoming a reality. The good news is that blockchain technology could soon change all that, allowing citizens to vote securely right from their smartphones. Several companies are already experimenting with mobile voting enabled by blockchain.
Stopping the Spread of Fake News
Direct meddling in elections is one thing, but there is an even more insidious issue at play. This problem first entered public awareness in the wake of the 2016 election, when charges of fake stories began to emerge.
Candidates and their boosters instigated many of those fake news stories, but others were spread strictly for financial gain. A significant percentage of those fake news stories originated overseas, where their spread was difficult to track.
Now, blockchain is helping in the fight against fake news so that these false stories could no longer impact future elections. Technology companies are already using blockchain technology to vet the news entering their sites, and as they gain additional experience, the battle against fake news might finally end.
The security of election is the responsibility of every citizen, and democracy relies on a secure and transparent voting system. If citizens cannot trust the results of their votes, society breaks down, and democracy itself is at risk. Given the questions surrounding recent elections, the race is on to improve security, stop the scourge of fake news and reassure citizens that their votes still count. Blockchain technology could be a big step in that direction, so future voters can have confidence in their vote no matter what the results.
About Neal Kwatra
Neal Kwatra founded Metropolitan Public Strategies (MPS) in 2013 and has since been at the forefront of some of the most fiercely contested political and advocacy campaigns in New York and across the nation. Mr. Kwatra has fought to uphold his ideals with great tenacity and continues to expand the reach of MPS into the strategic management of nationally recognized grassroots and issue advocacy campaigns.