While some parties in the United States continue to challenge the integrity of the election process, a group of researchers are advocating against using Internet-based and blockchain-based voting systems in the future.
According to a November 16 report by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, relying on blockchain voting technology is not a reliable means of promoting greater turnout and may increase the risk of hackers being manipulated in elections.
The cyber security team of Sunoo Park, Michael Specter, Neha Narula and Ronald L. Rivest concluded that the blockchain was “unsuitable for political elections for the future” when comparing software-independent methods, including voting in person and mail-in ballots. In. Some of the concerns he raised were the possible lack of ballet privacy – traceable on the blockchain – and the lack of auditing in the event of a contest.
According to the report, MIT professor and senior author of the report Rivest said, “While the current election systems are far from perfect, the blockchain will increase the risk of uncertain, nation-level election failures.” “Any voting increase is at the expense of losing meaningful assurance that the votes have been counted because they were voted.”
The researcher continued:
“I have not yet seen a blockchain system that I would trust with the number of county-fair jellybeans, much less a presidential election.”
One main difference the team argues when using blockchain technology for a democratic process like voting versus financial transactions is that when a hack or fraud occurs, financial institutions sometimes have ways to compensate victims for their losses. Credit card companies can reimburse money, and even some crypto exchanges are able to freeze tokens associated with a hack.
“There can be no insurance or recourse against the failure of democracy for elections,” the report said. “There is no means to re-elect voters after a compromised election.”
Blockchain-based voting also invites opportunities for “serious failures” according to the MIT team. For example, hackers must find a way to attack the votes without being caught, then the authorities will inevitably hold a new election for credible results. A blockchain-based voting system with just one point of attack could potentially give hackers the ability to convert or withdraw millions of votes, while “access to mail-in ballots usually requires physical access” . “
Many countries are attempting to further integrate blockchain technology into the voting process after small-scale deployment. Russia’s blockchain-based voting system over Vladimir Putin’s term limit allegedly did not allow ballot secrecy, as users and third parties could interpret votes before official counting.
In February, a separate MIT team – consisting of researcher Michael Spector – released a report identifying security vulnerabilities within the blockchain-based polling app Voatz. However, both Democratic and Republican parties used the app to vote in conferences before this year’s general election, and Utah allowed certain residents to use Voatz to their voters in presidential elections.
“Democracy – and the consent of the governed – cannot be made contingent upon whether the choice of certain software voters is properly recorded,” Rivest said.
Cointegraph reached out to Voatz for comment, but received no response at the time of publication.