Voter fraud. Two words most of us have heard a lot in the last couple of years. While in the States the mudslinging is concerning at worst, entertaining at best, it’s generally recognized that wide-scale voter fraud simply isn’t possible in a country like the US (whether Donald Trump tweets about it or not).
Calling someone a cheat doesn’t make them a cheat. But it may serve to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of a public seeking to distrust a candidate. And while voter fraud may not be a reality in the USA (according to CNN), it is as rampant and widespread as the common cold in many developing countries.
This was evidenced in the Kenyan elections last year, which resulted in bloodshed, chaos, accusations, and a do-over boycotted by one opponent (and in which the incumbent stormed away with 98 percent of the vote).
Political oppression and corruption isn’t limited to Africa either. The dominance of President Maduro in Venezuela remains hotly contested. And even in “developed” countries like Spain, a clandestine election was held in the Catalonia province in 2017, marked by voter intimidation and riots.
Voter fraud is a problem. Free elections are a problem – as prolific as the population. Wherever there is a human, it seems, there is at least a cause for reasonable doubt when a general election takes place. And for accusations, uncertainty, and war (on social media, or otherwise).
So, what would happen if we removed the possibility of human intervention from the elections of the world? Could we prevent mass uprisings, political oppression, and a barrage of banal rhetoric from the world’s most influential leaders?
Perhaps. At least, that’s the intention of blockchain companies like Netvote, an open-source voting protocol, built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Making Voting Tamper-Proof
Co-founder and Business Director Steve Gant is passionate about his cause. He says, “Disintermediation and innovation of voting will happen by open sourcing a voting protocol and distributed apps across multiple blockchains. This will allow the global voting ecosystem access to all the benefits and flexibility of blockchain technology, while increasing trust in institutions and broadening participation.”
According to Netvote’s research, there are 123 countries that hold democratic elections, with over four billion voters around the world. Not only are government elections expensive, open to low turnout in affluent countries, and prone to intimidation and fraud in developing ones, but they are frequently questioned without acceptable resolution.
Too common are reports of candidates’ ballot papers being unavailable, or gangs of thugs hanging around outside polling stations, scaring voters away. Once the votes have been cast on paper, they are counted by humans, leaving room for either simple error or intentional fraud.
By providing a tamper-proof voting system through a decentralized, open source voting platform, Netvote wants to ensure that each vote is secured in a public ledger once cast. Votes are irreversible and immutable (as long as the blockchain remains so), and the decentralized architecture can help gather votes across wide geographies. Voter identity, of course, remains completely anonymous.
But will it work? One may question the feasibility and potential speed of adoption of such a technology in the developing world. But while Netvote is built on Ethereum, the team plans on supporting multiple blockchains in the future to make it as viable as possible. It also includes support for write-in votes and complex ballots.
Still, time will tell whether political despots and corrupt politicians will open themselves up to an indisputable result.
And then there’s the tweets. Would we miss them if the possibility of voter fraud were a thing of the past?