Can We Digitize the Voting System? Blockchain, Corruption, and Hacking | Brian Behlendorf


Many people have asked: can blockchain technology
help provide answers to challenges that typically
have suffered from lack of technology, or
that has suffered from poor technology applications.
One of those being the way that voting works
in the United States.
I think of this in three distinct phases.
There’s the phase before voting where keeping
track of who is registered to vote and where
they’re allowed to vote, it’s been harder
than it should have been.
We have a lot of examples of people showing
up at polling places and being denied the
right to vote and it seems like paperwork
goes missing and people get removed from voting
roles, that sort of thing.
A public ledger that tracked who was registered
to vote where and allowed people to look at
that from their home machine and then confirm
that when they showed up at the poll, would
do a lot to reestablish trust in the process
of registering to vote and validating that
everybody who is entitled to vote is able
to do that, providing an independent verification
of that.
There’s a second phase I’ll get to in
a bit, but there’s a third phase, which
is after the vote, when you’re taking the
totals that come from a polling place, that
come from vote by mail for example in Oregon.
We have to kind of trust that the system works.
We have to hope that everything is counted
correctly at the local level and then it’s
totaled up correctly at the state level and
then reported nationally et cetera.
And we’re fortunately at a point where the
basis of that trust hasn’t been violated
yet, but in many countries it is.
In many countries there’s not a lot of confidence
that the total from a polling place is accurately
summed up.
So using a distributed ledger not to track
the individual votes but to track the totals
from each of the polling places would be a
way to allow the public to understand: ‘Okay
the local polling place I went and voted at
is reporting a thousand votes, 500 for candidate
X, 500 for candidate Y, that seems about right.
I don’t know if my vote specifically counted,
but I know that at least the polling place
I was at counted appropriately and they didn’t
try to pretend they were 100,000 votes.’
So at the beginning of that process and the
tail end of that process using a public distributed
ledger to record that makes a lot of sense.
But in the middle, the actual act of walking
into a booth and registering a vote, or a
lot of people want to do voting by mobile
device or by computer; I’m very worried
about the digitization of that.
Our computers fail us all the time and malware
and other threats could really step in and
make it so that I think I’m voting for one
candidate but it gets recorded for another.
And we have to think, in the United States,
we care quite a bit about the confidentiality
of our vote even to the point where I get
no receipt, I can’t go to a bar and prove
that I voted for somebody and get a discount
for it—that would be considered bribery.
So we can’t simply come up with a system
that puts all the original votes into a public
ledger and provides proof that somebody voted
a certain way or that becomes a corruptive
process.
So I think we still need voter-verified paper
ballots as a path to auditing, but with the
registration at the beginning and the summing
at the end conducted by a public ledger I
think we would do a tremendous amount to reestablish
confidence in the voting system.

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