Monday, 23 September 2019 11:02 AM
In recent years, we have seen never-ending protestations by many on the Left over what they believe to be foreign government meddling in American elections. Although the evidence never really pans out, in a country of 350 million people with different election systems in every state, the threat of meddling isn’t entirely without merit. More importantly, as faith in our political institutions wanes, the idea of ensuring the stability of election results is even more vital. The daunting task of making our elections more secure in the future may be possible by implementing a revolutionary new technology — blockchain.
You have probably heard of it before, but chances are you are not quite sure what exactly it is. Blockchain technology facilitates economic transactions between individuals without the need for an independent intermediary. It does so in a way that is secure for both parties, eliminating the need for trust between them. It may sound complicated at first, but an easy way to understand blockchain is as a decentralized, digital ledger. The technology meticulously logs transactions in “blocks” of a digital ledger. The chains are linked by way of encryption, meaning essentially that each block is encrypted so that only the next block may read and verify its validity. Each block verifies the validity of the transactions that come before and after it in the “chain.” Any attempt to tamper with the individual blocks would invalidate the entire chain.
First developed in 2008, blockchain was designed to serve as a public transaction ledger for Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency to rise to prominence. Blockchain solved the double-spending problem that all digital currencies faced, without the need for a trusted authority. The distributed ledger ensured that no Bitcoin (which are essentially just digital files that may otherwise be altered or duplicated) was spent more than once. This innovation enabled Bitcoin to serve as a legitimate form of currency. The implications of blockchain are immense. For example, in Kenya, where cartels conspire with corrupt government officials to illegally seize land, blockchain is being used to fight land fraud. Beyond financial transactions, however, this technology may be programmed to record nearly anything of value — including votes.
Voting through blockchain illustrates the technology’s most promising feature: the transparency it affords transactions of value while simultaneously maintaining the privacy of those engaging in those transactions. Several jurisdictions in the U.S. have already used blockchain to enable their overseas citizens to vote in municipal elections. In those municipal elections, the votes were logged anonymously, yet were still capable of being audited for their validity. Voters could verify that their votes went to their chosen candidate, and skeptics could audit those votes for their validity without betraying the privacy of voters.
Ultimately, anything designed by imperfect humans will not be a silver bullet solving every problem ever to arise. Nefarious actors will continue to wage cyber efforts to influence the outcomes of our elections. Nevertheless, Blockchain could have prevented the recount of 2000 by logging each ballot to definitively cast Florida’s electoral votes. The technology would have allowed the voters who cast under and overvotes to amend the disputed ballots, all without the need for onerous government oversight. Blockchain technology could also ensure that no foreign government would be able to meddle with our elections. It is a modernized security system amply equipped to handle our brave new world of phishers, hackers, and cyber-criminals. We would be foolish to write it off as a fleeting fad, as it will likely revolutionize many of society’s archaic institutions. This technology is here to stay; blockchain voting is just the first step in a long journey of experimentation and implementation.
Dr. Robert McClure provides expert perspective on current issues facing our nation and his home state of Florida, the third-largest state in the nation and a policy bellwether for the country. Recently named one of the Most Influential People in Florida Politics, Dr. McClure serves as the President and CEO of The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank. He is a frequent commentator on television and talk radio programs and has lectured nationally on diverse policy issues. Dr. McClure has been published numerous times at both the state and national level on topics including property rights, tax policy, health care, and education reform. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.