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What Does Blockchain Have to Do With Voting?

Apropos of recent news stories about a blockchain-based voting system that was hacked before its first election, someone asked: “Perhaps final recognition that a lot of blockchain is hype? Or simply an interesting side-story?”

A blockchain can ensure that the lies you see are the same lies that were published, but that doesn’t have much to do with voting.

Voting has a very peculiar security model—you need to verify that each person voted at most once, you need to count all of the votes for each candidate, and you need not link the two. A lot of very bad voting systems are built by people who wrongly assume that its security model is similar to something else, which it is not.

An obvious example is Diebold who built voting machines that worked like ATMs, which was a disaster, since the way you audit ATMs depends on the details of each transaction being linked to the person doing it.

Paper ballots have a lot to recommend them. It’s easy for poll workers to observe that each voter puts one ballot into the box, they’re relatively easy to count (we use mark sense machines here) and compared to the spaghetti code in direct recording machines, they’re quite tamper resistant.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker

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Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

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