With images of the Wisconsin Democratic primary flooding the Internet this week showing voters braving hail and cold in the midst of a pandemic, Americans could look for a better way to vote from home. Unfortunately, according to a scientific association in the United States, there may not yet be a safe way to do this with their smartphones.
In an open letter dated April 9 to governors, secretaries of state, and state electoral officers, the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) urged authorities not to authorize Internet voting during elections:
“Internet voting is not a secure solution for voting in the United States today, nor will it be in the foreseeable future.”
Internet voting includes “voting by e-mail, fax and the web as well as voting via mobile applications”. Citing a 2018 study on election security, the AAAS points out that electronic voting, especially using the blockchain, could lead to privacy breaches, manipulation of ballots and counted votes :
“If a blockchain architecture is used, serious questions arise regarding the content stored there, how the blockchain is decrypted for public access, and how the votes are ultimately transferred to some type of durable paper document. There is no scientific or technical evidence to suggest that an Internet voting system could or could address these concerns. “
Although voting with paper ballots, by mail or in person, is cumbersome and slow, there may be fewer questions about falsification during elections.
Vote Blockchain in the United States
Currently, in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, there is already talk of how the 2020 presidential election will be held if on-site shelter or lockouts are still needed in November. Allowing electronic voting and voting by mail would allow greater participation and could harm Republicans’ chances of keeping the White House. This may explain why President Donald Trump described postal voting as “horrible” while admitting that he uses it himself.
This is not the first time that election officials in the United States have been reluctant to entrust critical votes to electronic systems. West Virginia recently decided not to use the Voatz blockchain-based platform for residents with disabilities and citizens residing abroad to vote in favor of traditional ballots.
The letter calls Voatz in particular, stating that their servers “surreptitiously violate the privacy of users, alter user votes and control the outcome of elections.”
Although not common in the United States, blockchain voting has had some practice in democratic elections around the world. However, the results have been less than successful.
In October 2017, the Italians used electronic voting for a referendum on the autonomy of Lombardy and Veneto. However, the expenses for voting materials were significant and the time required to count the votes raised questions of falsification.
Despite the risks, other countries are moving forward with blockchain-based voting out of necessity. In 2019, 300 million eligible voters in India did not vote due to their distance from polling stations, which prompted the Chief Electoral Officer to advocate for blockchain-based voting.