How Blockchain Technology Can Change How We Vote

People casting paper ballots at a voting station

Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Images from Arizona in 2016 showed lines of people waiting up to 5 hours to vote in just a primary election. Much of this had to do with the closing of many voting locations in an effort to reduce costs.

Some may contend that it also had much to do with just good old politics and that more people were coming out to vote for certain candidates. However, the reality of this shows that in a time of technological advancement that includes self-driving cars, it seems there must a better way of voting than the way it’s being handled today.

There are many in the Bitcoin and Blockchain world who believe voting technology advancements can and will provide a new method of voting that is more secure, easier and will allow for more people to perform their basic civic duty.

How Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology Can Help

The thought of Bitcoin as a way to change the way we vote was considered during the early days of the new technology. At a time when the virtual currency was about $30 (it’s now hovering around $3,500), in 2012, computer scientists in Canada were looking to exploit the capabilities of Bitcoin as “a form of ‘carbon dating’ for digital information and something that would make electronic voting more secure.”

Jeremy Clark and Aleksander Essex were computer scientists from Ontario-based universities who saw the potential for Bitcoin and Blockchain technology to enhance the ability to secure and validate the voting process.

Their method was called CommitCoin and It provided a way to utilize Blockchain technology in order to secure a person’s vote and not allow any election official or political individual to change a vote. Echoing the mantra of early supporters of Bitcoin, Clark said, “CommitCoin allows you to not trust anyone.”

Blockchain-Related Voting System Startups

Among the startups that followed in an attempt to build upon the Blockchain infrastructure to create a secure voting system was a Virginia-based company called FollowMyVote. “There is a common misconception that voting cannot be done online in a secure way. However, the introduction of blockchain technology is changing the conversation,” Adam Ernest, CEO of the company said.

His company creates a voting system that ensures that a vote is recorded one time (through the use of a token) for the specific candidate they want (placed into the candidate’s “wallet”) and permanently recorded on the Blockchain.

Another company working on creating a platform that uses Blockchain technology to replace and/or enhance the current voting methods used today is BitCongress, which released a White Paper on its approach. The company uses the Blockchain technology with a token-based system to control the voting system ensuring one person, one “unchangeable” vote.

This token is called a VOTE and by using the Blockchain to permanently record each vote, it ensures that there can be no manipulation of those votes or voting twice. The company has also built in additional capabilities that allow for people to voice their opinions on various topics, enhancing the “voice of the people” approach of the app.

However, these technologies may ultimately change the way the country votes and how those votes are recorded, it seems fair to also conclude that citizens will still be saddled with nasty rhetoric, political pundits, “smart boards” that show delegate counts, and plenty of Twitter bashing. The American voting system seems messy, but somehow it still works.