Category Archives: Blockchain voting

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Swiss Rail Workers to Ditch Paper IDs for Blockchain System

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is aiming to improve on paper-based processes by testing a blockchain based management system for rail workers.

SBB has completed its Proof of Concept (POC) of the system which aims to eventually create digital IDs for Swiss rail workers employed at the company’s construction sites across the country. The trial, which ran over a period of six months this year, was aimed at improving current processes which are still largely paper-based. SBB’s Daniele Pallecchi commented on the program’s raison d’etre, pointing out, “Construction sites on the SBB network often involve third parties. For safety reasons, there are strict requirements regarding the qualification of personnel… explaining the need for a robust identity system.”

The blockchain solution to the problem of workers’ paper identity was the brainchild of Linum Labs, using the open-source technology of uPort. The POC allowed workers to create their own digital identities using the uPort app on their mobile devices. Once completed, SBB issued certification to verify that workers had completed training. Workers were then able to scan a QR from the app to gain entry to worksites across the rail network. Linum labs explained the process:

“Using uPort, railway workers, certification authorities and supervisors are able to have their own unique digital identities linked to their respective uPort IDs, which is then anchored to an identity on the blockchain. A hash of the worker’s check-in / check-out activities is published to the blockchain so that the internal database can be audited.”

The app isn’t limited to SBB and can hook up to other networks such as Zug ID which was also used earlier this year to enable digitalized voting. The trialed blockchain-powered vote in June of this year utilized Zug’s eID system voting on minor issues and the future of the ID system itself. Some of the municipal services that the public asked to vote on included annual fireworks displays, digital ID library lending, digital entry ID parking fees, and electronic tax returns.

Although uPort itself wasn’t directly involved in the railway project, head of product Thierry Bonfante confirmed that the company’s partners were representing them in the market. Bonfante also commented that he felt the scalability of Ethereum had been a problem. Consequently, the company is in the process of upgrading its technology.

Other than for small-scale operations, UPort’s director of business operations Alice Nawfalm argued than a more sophisticated solution would be needed for identity applications; the kind which would probably not work on a device such as a phone. To combat this the company is looking at creating a storage hub solution in the future.

 

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First Run of West Virginia Blockchain Voting Application for Overseas Military Is a Success

West Virginia’s blockchain voting application for overseas military personnel and their families has been a resounding success, this according to an official announcement made by West Virginia Secretary of State, Andrew “Mac” Warner.

Earlier this year, Warner had announced that the mountain state was conducting trials of a blockchain based electoral application for mobiles, designed specifically for those serving in the military, as well as their families who are abroad. This was intended as a solution to issues such as poor voter turnout, late receipts, and voter anonymity; upon the conclusion of the trial and after four audits, Warner’s office declared the software to have no problems.

Results

In an official announcement on 15 November, Warner praised a phenomenal voter turnout and presented the figures for the blockchain voting application, he wrote:

“Military and overseas voters in 24 West Virginia counties had, for the first time, an easy and hassle-free way to participate in this year’s General Election. Approximately 144 military and overseas West Virginians voted from 30 different countries using a mobile voting application. This is a first-in-the-nation project that allowed uniformed services members and overseas citizens to use a mobile application to cast a ballot secured by blockchain technology.”

Voter turnout among active service members is sluggish in the United States, according to the Election Assistance Commission, 13% (930,156) of the 7.7 million entitled overseas voters signed up to receive a ballot for 2016’s general election, despite already having “special provisions” which allow them to vote via email. From this figure, only 68.1% (633,593) of these ballots were returned.

Blockchain Voting

Speaking with the Washington Post, Warner’s deputy chief of staff Michael Queen said that only two voters so far had experienced problems with the app, when prompted for thoughts on security, Queen commented that West Virginia has no intentions to extend this voting system beyond that of its overseas military population.

Adding, “Secretary Warner has never and will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting,”

Earlier criticisms of the application were made by security experts such as Joseph Lorenzo Hall, who in August told CNN Business, “Mobile voting is a horrific idea. It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

On the contrary, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology credits those who went ahead with the project as “the bold ones”, adding “There is something to be said sometimes for small-scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs,”

Around the World

Voting on the blockchain had gradually caught the attention of the world, with nations such as Russia and Japan joining in on the experiment.

In August, National Public Monitoring (NOM) a Russian non-profit organization announced the pilot of a blockchain based voting project. Not many details have been shared yet, but the project was declared to a congress of 300 representatives including the “Corps” for Clean Elections.

In Japan, a southern city named Tsukuba revealed that it will be using a pre-tested blockchain system for local residents to vote on local programs.

According to other reports, blockchain voting is a tool for presenting the most accurate poll results, which in some areas of the world could be vital for democracy.

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Blockchain Voting May Be Only Route to Accuracy at the Polls

Paper-based voting is beginning to have its detractors, despite an African politician’s recent animosity towards electronic-based counting techniques planned for the polls in the lead up to Congo’s General Election in December.

Blockchain is being tested in all areas and voting is a field where it could have a significant impact, improving on some existing electronic methods which have been introduced in some regions to provide speed and clarity to the process of electing a government, council or simply making some changes to civic laws.

As the US administration still hedges its bets that things will blow over regarding accusations of Russian interference in the process which led to president Trump’s election, nations around the globe are looking for ways to add far more transparency to the end product of electioneering.

The US has already trialed blockchain voting technology. West Virginia trialed it in this year’s mid-term Senate elections, while the labs in Switzerland’s Crypto Valley experimented with eID, a system designed to allow residents to vote electronically on civic matters. In Indonesia, a country with a 20-year history of vote rigging, an Australian blockchain company is currently working on a digital ballot box based on blockchain to solve this problem, after initial trials in Sumatra.

Estonia in Eastern Europe has been far ahead of the rest, using electronic voting in its elections since 2005 with 30.5% of all votes in their 2015 parliamentary elections cast through the country’s i-voting system. Japan has taken things further by trialing electronic voting with the secure backing of a DLT-based system using ID swipe cards, which are then encrypted.

While electronic voting is a step forward, it isn’t infallible unless backed by DLT. One non-DLT electronic voting system used only in Virginia recently subtracted one vote for every 100 cast. Another used in 23 US states had an unpatched vulnerability for over 11 years.

Congo’s upcoming election to replace President Joseph Kabila after 17 years as the country’s leader is already running into problems due to electronic voting before a vote has even been cast. The introduction of this form of voting and the government’s exclusion of a number of candidates from the ballot has enraged opposition parties. The introduction of tablet devices for the purpose of casting votes has provoked accusations that the machines are even more vulnerable to vote-rigging than paper and that Congo’s poor power supply could cause systems to fail during the election.

“They are not voting machines they are cheating machines,” argues opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. “They are not reliable, too slow and there are 10 million fake voters who have already been registered. We, the opposition, have united to say no to the machines.”

According to followmyvote.com, who are attempting to build an online voting platform using blockchain tech, DLT is the only accurate and truly transparent way of reflecting the will of the people precisely and without error, suggesting on their website: “This way, everyone can agree on the final count because they can count the votes themselves, and because of the blockchain audit trail, they can verify that no votes were changed or removed, and no illegitimate votes were added.”

In the words of Joseph Stalin, perhaps one of recent history’s most infamous manipulators:

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

 

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Japan Latest to Push International Blockchain Voting

In news from Japan, the city of Tsukuba in the south of the country is using a tested blockchain voting system in order to let local residents of the city vote on local programs.

Tsukuba becomes one of Japan’s first cities to utilize blockchain technology in this way. The city is known to Japanese for its role in scientific research and development. Tsukuba Science City represents one of the world’s largest coordinated attempts to accelerate the rate of and improve the quality of scientific discovery, while not claiming to be Japan’s answer to Silicon Valley.

The voting system works by swiping an ID card on to the vote recording machine for verification which then stores the voter’s selected vote on a program of their choice. Once the data is stored, its encrypted via DLT. The system was tested on 8 August, recording 119 responses in relation to voting for different tech applications for a government website.

The city’s mayor, Tatsuo Igarashi, commented that he was surprised at the system’s simplicity. A local news agency reported that local government is measuring its successes before possibly extending its use to remote areas and possibly even overseas.

Only one reported problem emerged from the test, with some voters failing to remember their passwords, meaning counters were unsure if these votes had been entered into the system.

This Japanese test is certainly not the first to link blockchain with the ballot box. Blockchain voting was trialed for West Virginia’s Senate primary election on 8 May, and in a similar trial to Tsukuba’s, the Swiss crypto town of Zug trialed an e-voting system in June, allowing voting on minor social issues and the future of the ID system itself.

Zug’s trial blockchain-powered test vote enabled residents to vote on their annual fireworks display, digital ID library lending, digital entry ID, parking fees and electronic tax returns.

Australian startup Horizon State recently announced that it would be attempting to bring voting clarity to Indonesia with their blockchain system, restoring some faith to the electorate after years of allegations of vote rigging. The next general election in the country is to be held in at the end of this year.

 

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Russia Joins the Blockchain-Electoral Pilot Project Race

Blockchain experimentation and adoption in Russia has reached a new height with the announcement of a blockchain-based electronic voting system.

Russian Experiment

The non-profit Association of Independent Public Observers, also known as National Public Monitoring (NOM), is reported to have announced a pilot project at a press conference in Moscow.

The Russian news outlet, Tass reported that the all-Russian Congress of Public Observers was held by NOM, the Russian Fund For Free Elections and the Association of Lawyers of Russia; partners such as the “Corps” for Clean Elections and Public Association Group 32 were also among the 300 representatives who were in attendance at the Congress.

The federal coordinator of NOM, Fedor Kolomoystsev told reporters, “As part of our congress, we are launching in the test mode an electronic voting system [in elections], which is built on a blocking system.”

Unfortunately, no technical details have been revealed as of yet, and it could be some time before more information or pilot results are made public. Russia has been particularly bullish on blockchain technology this year. In June, Russian banks made positive strides towards facilitating digital currency trading by planning to launch cryptocurrency portfolios for private investors.

Furthermore, the Russian Central Bank also began testing a blockchain system to replace the globally adopted SWIFT payment system. This move comes after economic sanctions from the EU and US prompted Russia to seek alternative options in the event that it is banned from SWIFT.

In Politics

Blockchain technology in 2018 has been flexing its versatile prowess across any industry or sector it touches. And for some time, the use-case of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in political practice has been cautiously approached due to present perceptions of the technology.

This is slowly changing however as some countries are beginning to pioneer the use of blockchain technology in this field.

Earlier in August, neighbouring country Ukraine officially went live with its voting trial using the NEM blockchain. The technology has been commended for being immutable, transparent and secure. The Ukrainian Central Commission also noted on social media that it will continue to run a number of trials.

In early March, the Mountain State of West Virginia in the United States announced a blockchain voting trial that would be piloted during its primary Senate elections in May 2018. This was concluded to be a success and West Virginia Secretary of State Mark Warner’s office reported that there were no problems.

From this, West Virginia pushed ahead to remedy a situation laterally with a blockchain voting system that provides overseas military troops with a smart-phone application that allows for them to vote in the upcoming November elections.

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US Overseas Military Personnel to Vote via Blockchain Mobile App

West Virginia State is to pioneer a blockchain-based voting application for smartphones, which allows for its military troops serving overseas to vote in the midterm federal election ballots this November.

Whilst the United States still wrestles with the notion that Bitcoin could have played a role in the operations of Russian hackers during the 2016 elections, it appears as though progress is being made on the side of blockchain technology adoption.

We use smartphones perform many practical functions like banking, shopping and navigation, so it was perhaps only a matter of time that smartphones would have the capacity to be a part of governmental procedures.

Voting on the blockchain

There are several companies exploring the potential use of mobile apps as viable voting systems, and some are applying blockchain to the concept, a technology that is popularized by its anonymous, transparent and secure nature.

The project is a partnership between West Virginia state and Boston blockchain startup Voatz. To utilize the app and vote, users will be required to register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification and a video of their face. One uploaded, facial recognition software will verify the photo and video and approve voters.

In March 2018, it was reported that West Virginia Secretary of State Mar Warner was trialing blockchain voting for the Mountain State’s Senate Primary election on 8 May. It was decided that should it prove successful, the state would allow for all 55 counties to participate with this new method in the November 2018 general election.

Upon the conclusion of the pilot, it was reported from Warner’s office that no problems were found after four audits of the software, which included components such as cloud and blockchain infrastructure.

At that time, the pilot was offered to those serving overseas in the military and families within two state counties. This was to remedy the issue of late receipts and lack of voter anonymity caused by “absentee ballots” provided to those serving overseas.

Despite its success, the blockchain voting system will be limited to those serving abroad. Warner said, “There is nobody that deserves the right to vote any more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us.”

Blockchain and cryptocurrency in politics

There is, however, skepticism. A chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology was quoted by CNN as saying that “mobile voting is a horrific idea”.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies persist in their boundless potential to penetrate traditions of modern life. Political endeavors in the United States would appear to persist with a love-hate relationship with cryptocurrencies.

Recently, North Carolina denied cryptocurrency campaign donations, a candidate in Wisconsin is going ahead with accepting digital currencies for his campaign despite the controversy surrounding it. A 2020 Presidential election candidate is also accepting multiple cryptocurrencies, a decision that has yet to be met with scrutiny.

 

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West Virginia Pilots Blockchain Voting as System Grows in Popularity

West Virginia Secretary of State, Mac Warner, has announced that blockchain voting will be trialled in the upcoming election for West Virginia’s Senate primary election on May 8th.  If the pilot is successful, the state government plans to extend the new voting method to all 55 counties in the 2018 general election in November.

The pilot is currently being offered to deployed military personnel and families in two state counties.  Previously, absentee ballots offered to overseas services personnel had encountered problems with late receipts and lack of voter anonymity.

Global interest

Blockchain voting is becoming increasingly popular since its first use in Estonian elections which has had electronic voting since 2005 and in 2007 was the first country worldwide to allow online voting. In fact, in the 2015 parliamentary election, 30.5% of all votes cast were through Estonia’s i-voting systems. The country can now boast that it’s probably the only nation worldwide where 99% of public services are available online, noting that one is expected to leave the house for marriage and divorce.

In a 2016 Columbian Peace plebiscite, expat nationals tested the potential of blockchain technology in their own electoral process. This was perfected by utilizing digital innovation so that voters could approve a peace treaty, devised by the tech non-profit Democracy Earth Foundation.

In Australia, attempts to create an incontrovertible and auditable record of every vote cast in elections through blockchain-based electronic voting is on the drawing board. Companies such as SecureVote have developed an online smartphone system where users can poll and vote on party positions. The Australian government indicated that paper was here to stay until legislation could be passed.

There is still research and development needed in order to make such changes to voting systems around the globe. India with its 800 million voters would require a system that can easily handle such numbers. Tech Radar commented that in our connected society it makes little sense not to employ blockchain technology in the future if only to eliminate rigged elections and fraud, citing voting as one of the “10 sectors that blockchain will disrupt forever”.

 

 

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