Will blockchain technology succeed in making online voting trustworthy?

Daniel Hardman, an executive at Evernym, believes blockchain can improve voting processes in the future

The November 3 U.S. presidential election was highly controversial from the get-go, but unfounded allegations of voter fraud by the defeated President Trump cast a shadow over the entire electoral process. Daniel Hardman, Chief Architect and Chief Information Security Officer at Evernym, believes that blockchain can improve voting processes in the future.

Hardman explained to Cointelegraph:

„Fundamentally, blockchain can provide a way for voters to be reliably and securely registered before they vote. Then, when the votes are cast, the blockchain can be a mechanism to prove that someone has the right to vote, based on their previous registration. The blockchain provides some features that would help certify a vote in an election.“

Republicans did not immediately acknowledge Biden’s victory, despite the fact that the Electoral College verified the results in early December, citing a variety of reasons, from faulty or manipulated voting machines to falsified ballots that allegedly appeared at the decisive polling places. None of these allegations, however, held up in court.

Hardman continued:

„What we saw in Pennsylvania and Arizona and so on is explanatory: there are certain features of the blockchain that would have made more robust auditing possible. Basically we would have been able to silence any suspicion of tampering and things like that.“

Public blockchains, like Bitcoin’s (BTC) for example, record every transaction on an immutable public ledger, making audits easier and more transparent than centralized or paper-based processes. Applying such technology could yield similar results for voting.

Even if the model appears transparent and immutable, how would authorities ensure that citizens only vote once? Hardman explained that „we would need an end-to-end verification system.“

„When someone comes to register, the system would follow the same procedures we do today in a physical election mechanism, i.e. you check a driver’s license, see if the photo and signature match, etc.“

Then, according to Hardman, the technology would ensure that each person can only cast one vote: „The back-end part is to show that, for each registration, exactly one vote can be cast.

A voting system using blockchain could include specific components for preventing voter fraud and malware, such as identifying voters based on biometric data. According to Hardman, „if we know that John Smith, a resident of 123 Main Street in Pennsylvania, has a particular fingerprint, then it’s pretty hard for someone else to vote for him.“

Such a system, however, could be a violation of privacy. Hardman cites the case of China, which to counter the spread of COVID monitored the temperature of its population and then cross-referenced that data with their identity and location.

„In the case of an election,“ Hardman says, „there are two main issues. The first is whether the person who is trying to cast a vote is authorized to do so because they have been previously registered in the system.“ The second hurdle, however, is voter identification:

„There are times during an electoral process when both of these issues are relevant, but at other stages these two issues can be separated, thus preventing the government from imposing some sort of apocalyptic surveillance state that knows what vote you cast, when you cast it, and things like that.“

Is there, then, a solution to the problem? According to Hardman, yes, and it’s a blockchain technology called Zero-Knowledge Proof (ZKP). With ZKP, it is possible to verify a person’s identity without revealing their private data:

„At the time of registration you ask the person to identify themselves; but at the time when the citizen casts their vote, what is required of them is to prove that he or she has the right to cast the vote without revealing who they are. It’s a matter of proving that their vote has not already been tracked in the system. […] This would ensure that you can’t vote twice.“

In recent years, blockchain has gained popularity in a variety of mainstream processes, such as supply chain.