Ensuring Democratic Integrity: Implementing Blockchain Into Our Electoral Process

The delicate state of democracy and the global political economy today has seen a rise in concerns the world over regarding ensuring democratic integrity. A commonly referenced issue through which this is seen is voter fraud, which threatens the democratic integrity of both a nation and its elected government. Concerns related to the integrity of elections have been raised internationally, from America to Uganda. The authenticity of democratic elections is a seminal component of democratic society and must be preserved and protected. Nations should turn toward emerging blockchain technology in order to ensure the integrity of national democratic elections. The adoption of blockchain technology will not only ensure a smoother, more accessible voting system but will also revolutionise the possibilities for transparency and reliability in democratic elections. It is long overlooked answer to this global problem.

In recent years, some countries have turned to online voting systems to conduct democratic elections. Research in countries such as Brazil and India has proven this technology to have reduced voter fraud which traditionally accompanied in-person ballot counting. The particular form of a  centralised online voting system which is favoured in countries which attempt to utilise emerging technology are versions of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), which require in-person attendance with identification. 

Despite the positive effects of online voting systems, very few countries actually use them out of fear of mass-manipulation, as centralised online voting systems are extremely vulnerable to fraud. Although this adoption of electronic voting systems moves society in the right direction, the neglection to adopt blockchain technology is part of the reason for the underwhelming effects of technology integration into the electoral process. 

The application of blockchain technology could solve issues associated with online voting and reinforce a more secure and transparent democratic voting system in several ways. Blockchain technology provides an online ledger which records data and transactions in a transparent and unalterable format. This technology is most often utilised within the financial sector to encourage secure and reliable transactions. However, if implemented correctly by individual governments, blockchain technology would revolutionise the electoral voting process and safeguard data from tampering, in turn fighting corruption and manipulation within democratic systems. Applying this technology to such a seminal component of the democratic process would tackle the two main concerns over voting today: efficiency and reliability. 

In light of lockdown and social distancing laws surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the physical barriers associated with traditional in-person ballot voting were brought into question. Countries around the world struggled to facilitate traditional voting processes within such a restricted environment, an issue which could have been made significantly easier if blockchain technology had been integrated, allowing voting to be handled remotely. The online nature of blockchain technology would facilitate a more accessible voting system. The potential that blockchain facilitates for reliable and secure mobile and online voting is an important factor that must be considered. The United States integrated blockchain technology in a 2018 mid-term election in West Virginia, which allowed members of the armed forces who were stationed outside of American territory to successfully vote remotely, increasing the accessibility of regional elections.

There are many other practical benefits to the application of blockchain technology within the democratic voting system. Due to the online, decentralised nature of blockchain technology, voting would be instantaneously recorded and counted, leaving no room for human error, streamlining a quicker and more efficient process. Its potential for preventing identity theft is a key merit of blockchain technology in the context of electoral voting processes. The process would prevent voter fraud as each vote is given a unique and verifiable ID number for vote counters.

Similarly, integrating blockchain technology into the electoral process at government and regional levels would help tackle and prevent corruption and voting manipulation. As the blockchain ledger does not exist in one centralised place, the stored data cannot be manipulated or hacked by a single party. This digitised transparency prevents political parties from tampering with votes in order to secure an undemocratic victory. implementing this technology would ensure fair and democratic voting in countries which are vulnerable to corruption, especially in developing regions. 

However, if you reside under an authoritarian system, preserving your political views on an immutable chain might be disastrous if not done carefully. Therefore, it is crucial to safeguard user data by using identity proofing techniques like zero-knowledge identity proof. Researchers at MIT developed the zero-knowledge identity proof method in the 1980s, and it is being utilized to improve the functioning of blockchains. It is a cryptographic method that enables us to validate our digital identities while engaging in various online interactions and transactions without disclosing any of our personal information. An actual-world example of its application would be a real estate agent who could check to see whether your net worth satisfied their requirements without requiring you to disclose the precise amount. . 

Blockchain technology has been successfully implemented into voting systems in various developing countries since 2019. Sierra Leone is one prominent example from Africa where this has been successfully integrated. However, the implementation of blockchain technology into voting systems is still a relatively new and under-utilised technique. Countries facing corruption and democratic integrity issues should consider the merits of this emerging technology as a way to reform and improve their democratic voting process. 

It is imperative that national governments take initiative when it comes to emerging technologies and learn to adapt and evolve democratic processes in congruence with technology, to ensure that democracy is preserved in line with the emerging needs of our global society. Implementing blockchain technology would address and tackle multiple issues and concerns which dominate the current discussion on voting processes and should be implemented by governments worldwide in order to help preserve democratic integrity in light of challenges being faced today.  


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