In response to the numerous concerns about possible outside influence during the 2016 Presidential election, there are several venture capital companies that are trying to develop new technology for future elections. Among the newest and most exciting of the next generation of technologies is known as blockchain voting, the same tech behind the digital currency Bitcoin. These new companies propose using blockchain as a safer alternative to traditional voting machines. The technology is so safe, say some, that it could even be combined with biometrics and used to enable voting with your smartphone.
The issue of electoral integrity came into focus during 2016 election when Russia was accused by American intelligence agencies of a widespread campaign of meddling. Much of the United State’s voting technology is still connected with voting machines which make them vulnerable to outside influence and theft. Rules concerning voting machines and other voting technology are made almost wholly at the state and local level.
The Trouble With Existing Technologies
Among the most immediate concerns stemming from the raft of accusations was the fact that there was a voting machine that was sold online with voter information still inside. The voting machine sold online via eBay had on it the information of approximately 654,517 voters from Shelby County in Tennessee. Personal information including the names, addresses, political party affiliation, and birth dates were included.
“It’s just one drive, there was no password on it,” security researcher John Palmer said regarding the issue. Palmer is known for discovering the database containing all the information about the voters. “How many of these machines that also have data left on them that have been sold to who, who knows? There’s no way of knowing,” EBSCO Information Services analyst Matt Blaze said at the hacker’s conference.
ExpressPoll 5000 is the name of the voting machine that was hacked at the DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas, and the machine that sold online with the voter’s information online. The machines are easily accessible for hackers to get into.
Blockchain Voting to the Rescue
Investors like Jason Johnson, President of Medici Ventures, are making big bets on blockchain voting technologies as a solution. “Part of what we are trying to do at Medici is invest in an ecosystem of blockchain companies that are involved in specific industries,” Johnson said after recently leading a $2.2 million funding round for Boston-based voting technology startup Voatz. Voatz claims to have created a secure system using “biometrics for security and blockchain technology to ensure tamper-proof recordkeeping, identity verification and auditing”.
“With blockchain technology, I can register to vote to vote with biometrics. So, I can get the ballot on my smart phone, scan my iris, or use my thumbprint,” Medici Ventures Jason Johnson continued.
Blockchains are a digital type of ‘cryptography’, a word first used by Edgar Allan Poe in his short story ‘The Gold-Bug‘. Blockchain’s design means that transactions are resistant to data modification and all changes are secured on a public ledger. This enables information security at a level not seen in traditional technology.
Secure iPhone and Blockchain Voting
Advocates of blockchain voting also argue that the risk of computer virus and hacking diminishes greatly when blockchain is combined with smartphones, especially when compared to traditional physical voting machines. Unlike the older systems, iPhones and other smartphones have internal security apps that are updated regularly, which make it almost impossible for phones to get hacked.
According to the website Lifewire, the only way an iPhone can get a virus is if it is manipulated in what is referred to as a “jailbroken” smartphone – meaning someone intentionally broke into the phone to get it to work as it’s not designed to.
Numerous startups are building new voting technology based on the blockchain revolution. It is vital for governments, citizens and new companies like these to continue to develop, explore and discuss these new blockchain voting technologies going forward. We have seen numerous instances of how the security of our vote has been compromised over the last year. Let us now take advantage of American innovation for the best of purposes and find a solution.