Our CEO Ralf Müller gave a speech at the Bitkom Academy in Frankfurt am Main about how Blockchain can help with the verification processes of online voting. We have compiled some of the most important and interesting aspects of using Blockchain technology to help improve online voting systems.
There have always been attempts at manipulating elections and it is highly likely there always will be. The main criticisms of online elections are security and maintaining free, fair, open and tamper-free elections. Online elections, for many, represent the future of democracy. They offer the potential for increased turnout, higher accuracy and faster results. Weaknesses in online voting systems have to be addressed to ensure that verification standards and the security of digital voting systems can be improved.
Challenges for Online Elections
Digital voting presents us with various challenges in preventing vote manipulation:
- Cast-as-Intended: to ensure that the cast votes correspond to the electorate’s choice.
- Stored-as-Cast: to ensure that the delivered vote is correctly and anonymously stored.
- Tallied-as-Cast: to ensure that votes in the electoral role are counted accurately.
All these points must be safeguarded by the system and, critically, be verifiable by the voter. One potential way to meet these requirements is blockchain. Blockchain systems are considered to be particularly safe and verifiable because they implement multi-stage safety concepts.
Safety Levels of the Blockchain System:
- In blockchain systems, data is not sent from a central database, but via several nodes (computers). Blockchains are therefore decentrally organised. Decentralised organisation increases the security of the transaction as there is no central point of attack.
- Each transaction made with blockchain receives a public key, making it identifiable. In addition, it is signed with a secret private key. The public key allows each participant to view the transaction.
- The integrity of the data is guaranteed by so-called “miners”. These are, for example, people who verify that transactions have proceeded as intended.
- Miners lock the data packages after a successful check with a hash (a checksum).
- The hash can only be generated if the previous data block is correct and has a hash.
Better verification with blockchain
The POLYAS voting system is not unlike a blockchain because of its subsystems, which constantly check one another. The verifiability of the votes, however, can be improved by blockchain. Blockchain could provide voters with the ability to check that their own votes were registered correctly, giving a significant boost to security.
A public key is not available in online elections, as the secrecy of the ballot has to be maintained. Blockchain could have another answer for this problem by using a validator, which maintains the anonymity of the voter. A generated verification code would help the voter check whether their vote had been counted correctly while keeping the ballot box secret.
Similarly, a miner cannot be used for checking the integrity of votes. Decentralised information management must be used instead. It is important to make sure that no one subsystem has all the information of the election. Voting information is instead distributed across many subsystems. In this way, both the secret of the ballot and the verifiability of the election are attainable.
Another possible system would be to use “bulletin boards” on which the vote transactions can be viewed. The bulletin boards would be public and would thus also fulfil the need for transparency.
There are different ways to make online choices safer and more transparent to the public. It is important to think about different methods in order to gain more accurate and efficient democratic processes fit for the 21st century. That is why at POLYAS we are researching ways to make our system more transparent and secure through the use of blockchain and bulletin boards.