Will Blockchain Voting Be Used As A Solution In US Congress During COVID-19 Outbreak?

The United States Congress released a staff memo dated April 30th, which suggests that they are considering the use of a blockchain-based voting system to conduct remote voting for upcoming senate elections as the COVID-19 outbreak has made it impossible to conduct the election in the traditional way.

The memo was drafted after the “Roundtable on Continuity of Senate Operations and Remote Voting in Times of Crisis,” hosted by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and chaired by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

The staff memo revealed that Congress is looking to use end-to-end encryption along with blockchain to ensure security and privacy of votes. Although the memo did not endorse blockchain directly, the main focus of the topic was on authentication and encryption. The memo did note that “the Senate may consider blockchain.”

The Finer Details of the Memo

The staff memo noted that both chambers of Congress have always met in person to conduct all types of business be it committee hearing, floor deliberation or voting and they have no plans to conduct these critical functions remotely. However, given the critical times that the world is facing, they are looking into encrypted distributed ledger.

The memo discussed that encrypted blockchain can ensure the transmission of vote securely while verifying the correct vote. The memo explained:

“With its encrypted distributed ledger, blockchain can both transmit a vote securely and also verify the correct vote. Some have argued that these attributes make blockchain useful for electronic voting broadly. Blockchain can provide a secure and transparent environment for transactions and a tamper-free electronic record of all the votes. It also reduces the risks of incorrect vote tallies. Moreover, some firms have already begun to deploy blockchain-like technology to help countries, like Estonia, run elections entirely online.”

The memo further also discusses certain risks involved with using blockchain technology, especially the majority control. The memo noted that if majority control of the blockchain falls into the wrong hands, it might be manipulated.

Given the small size of the senate, any remote voting system based on blockchain would be required to set up with utmost care eliminating risks of 51% attack, so that no bad actor can get their hands on the voting chip.

However, this is not the first attempt to use a blockchain-based system for remote voting, prior to this discussion, the blockchain-like system was deployed for Estonia’s 2019 parliamentary elections which saw 44% of the total vote being cast using the system.

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