Blockchain voting is possible: myths and reality

Blockchain voting is possible: myths and reality

Joachim November 2020

Nate Williams, developer at Vocdoni, discusses the main myths surrounding blockchain voting.

Fears over blockchain voting have reached an all-time high

Like paper-based voting systems, blockchain voting needs to evolve and improve as it is used.

Many of us in the digital voting arena have noticed a dramatic shift in public discourse as of this year 2020. Supporters and skeptics are being heard more and more, and it seems more and more people are forming an opinion on the subject. The question is no longer whether or not digital voting will become mainstream over the next decade, but rather how this change will take place.

One of the reasons for this discussion stems from a clearer perception of the issues we hope to move away from, namely voter suppression, low turnout, and the slowness and cost of electoral infrastructure. This year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, has taught us that we must be ready to exercise democracy under any condition.

Beyond this reaction to the problems inherent in our current voting systems, however, comes the vision of an entirely different governance model, with deeper citizen participation and engagement.

What if blockchain voting could enable us to self-organize in a democratic and participatory manner on a scale greater than ever? Such a change is made possible by secure, anonymous, universally verifiable and extremely easy to use voting from a mobile phone.

End the myths of blockchain voting

Unfortunately, the fear of blockchain voting systems is at its height. Many critics, including the authors of a recent paper from MIT Medialab’s Digital Currency Initiative, point to the very real issues with this technology that will need to be addressed. Many of them, however, exaggerate these issues, fall into misconceptions, and mistakenly state that blockchain voting is impractical.

So let’s take a look at some of these myths.

Blockchain voting cannot be anonymous

One of the most common myths about blockchain voting is that it prevents voter anonymity. This is true for a system that relies solely on block voting chains. Likewise, anonymity is certainly a challenge.

That said, as my colleagues and I on the Vocdoni digital voting project point out in our response to the aforementioned MIT document, this necessity is achievable. The technology to sever the link between a voter and their individual ballot, while preserving the ability to verify, already exists (with some room for improvement).