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Voting online using a blockchain based system could boost the integrity of national elections, new research finds

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Voting online using a blockchain based system could boost the integrity of national elections, new research finds

As voters in the United States weigh up whether to go to the polls amid a viral pandemic, and debate rages about whether the postal ballot system can cope, new research shows that online voting using a blockchain based system could provide a secure solution.

Online voting systems have not been adopted widely, owing to concerns about large scale manipulation. Amrita Dhillon, Professor of Economics at Kings College London and a CAGE Associate, along with her co-authors and colleagues Dr. Grammateia Kotsialou (Department of Political Economy) , Professor Peter McBurney and Dr. Luke Riley (Department of Informatics) argue in favour of blockchain based voting systems in their perspectives paper.

A blockchain is a shared ledger (file/database) of records or transactions that is open to inspection by every participant, and is not subject to any form of central control. Bitcoin is the most famous example of a blockchain application. A blockchain is distinguished by the rules it follows if ledgers do not tally, or if inconsistencies arise. The technology stores information sequentially in ‘blocks’ in an ordered chain, with validators verifying and storing each transaction. Nothing in the verified record of the transaction can be altered, and the system offers a fully auditable history of all transactions.

The researchers argue that a blockchain voting system can create higher trust in election authorities and is much more resistant than centralised online systems to potential fraud. With faith in election authorities at a low and fears of hacking at an all-time high, it is time for greater investment in technological solutions to voting and the blockchain is one of the front runners among such solutions.

Professor Dhillon concludes: ‘ With the development of a scalable blockchain-based system, there need be no concerns about postal votes being deliberately delayed, or about non-verifiability of votes in existing electronic voting systems. At least some of the challenges facing e-voting – maintaining records securely, and ensuring auditability and transparency – can be solved. Better systems are certainly possible. So, what is holding back greater investment into more research for the design of secure online voting systems? Integrity of elections is the single most important activity for democratic governments.’

Read the research

Dhillon, A., Kotsialou, G., McBurney, P. and L. Riley (2020), How blockchain can make electronic voting more secure, American Politics and Policy Blog, LSE US Centre

Dhillon, A., Kotsialou, G., McBurney, P. and L. Riley (2020), Voting over Distributed Ledger: An interdisciplinary perspective, CAGE working paper (no. 416)