Securing the data collected during elections and making sure votes are accurately counted has been a big topic lately. The hanging chads of 2000 left many people feeling that a faster, more efficient and accurate method for counting votes was needed- and electronic voting machines started appearing more frequently at elections that followed. These have been the target of new criticisms though- Many people worried about the possibility of online attackers hacking into the machines, and some asked about the possibility of a company who makes them being compromised and favoring one candidate over another, or having a strong bias on a certain issue that was being voted on. The idea of sending the vote counts over the internet to be added up and stored in a database also made people nervous. How do you ensure that no one hacks into it and changes the numbers?
Concerns like these have received a lot more attention now after the 2016 election. Mounting evidence suggests that Russia took active measures to help Donald Trump win the election. And while their efforts were mainly focused on influencing opinion rather than hacking and changing vote totals, there is evidence that such attacks were attempted- and questions have been raised about whether the machines or voter rolls may have been compromised in a way that would let Russia execute an attack or falsify totals in the future.
Using blockchain tech to record election data is an idea that has been looked at and talked about quite a bit, and security concerns like the ones in 2000 and the recent 2016 election could be more good reasons to look at it more closely. One issue that would have to be overcome is making sure the voting records stay private- the identity of the people voting shouldn’t be stored on the same blockchain as the vote totals. But having the vote totals recorded on an open blockchain could make the election data far more secure than it is now.
One way this could be implemented is to have a system where every voting machine is a full node on a blockchain. After a voter verifies that their name is on the list of people for that polling place, they could be given a card, similar to a Bitcoin paper wallet, that they insert into a slot on the machine to be scanned. When they do that they are given a certain number of “vote tokens”- one for each candidate or issue on the ballot. Every time they vote on something, a token is sent to an address on the blockchain that corresponds to the choice that they made. Then when the voting is over and the polls close, there would be a permanent record of where all the votes went- and there would be no way for a hostile actor to hack in and change the totals, because to do that they would have to change every record on every machine.
A system like would probably have hurdles to be overcome before it can be implemented on a wide scale, but it definitely seems worth looking into further- especially considering what happened last year.