Now that we’re past Election Day, a certain sort of “silly season” has begun. I’m talking about folks coming up with big ideas on how to fix our outdated voting system. And one of the big ideas out there is using blockchain for voting. Let’s stop that conversation – now. The other day, the Twitter cryptoverse blew up after Alex Tapscott, co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, had his op-ed on the matter published in The New York Times. In it, Tapscott presents his case for using a blockchain to carry out online voting. He apparently believes such a process would be much more decentralized and safe from hacking. The only downside, he claims, is a potential delay in the voting process. Let me just tell you straight up: This is a terribly ill-considered idea, for a variety of reasons.
For starters, votes have to remain secret and anonymous. If not, that can lead to coercion in voting, as Princeton University cryptography professor Matthew Blaze has pointed out on Twitter. Problem is, blockchains are typically designed to be public.
“If I can verify that my vote was correctly recorded, then your local mob boss can also use my receipt to verify the same thing,” Blaze wrote.
Then there’s the malware issue… In a September report on blockchain voting, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said the strategy does little to solve the fundamental security issues of elections, but instead adds more security vulnerabilities.