How Blockchain Can Stop Hackers From Tampering With Votes

Voting on the blockchain & case study

Leah Zitter
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It’s a given the Russians will return hacking our elections in nine months times, according to a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress:

In 2016, America’s elections were targeted by a foreign nation-state intent on infiltrating and manipulating our electoral system….Experts have warned that a future attack on our election infrastructure, by Russia or other malicious actors, is all but guaranteed.

Twenty-one states were targeted by hackers, and the voter's registration system of Illinois was breached.

Since then, all 50 states have taken at least some steps to update security in their election administration. In 2017, Colorado became the first state to require risk-limiting post-election audits. Virginia switched from electronic voting machines to a paper ballot voting system. Alabama requires election officials to undergo cybersecurity training before elections. And many states are working hand-in-hand on the issue with the Department of Homeland Security or the National Guard.

Last Monday, states had their booths tested. Eleven states – including Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and New York– received a B, 23 states received a C, and 17 states received a D or an F. Not one state received an A. In fact, “all states have significant vulnerabilities that leave them susceptible to hacking and infiltration by sophisticated nation-states,” according to the report.

Thirty-two states allow regular absentee voters and/or U.S. citizens and service members living or stationed abroad to return voted ballots electronically, a practice deemed insecure by election and cybersecurity experts. Worse still, many states use voter registration databases that are at least a decade old. It’s easy for hackers to infiltrate these.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn said the federal government needs to send Russia a message that its hacking is unacceptable. "Hack me once, shame on you. Hack me twice, shame on us." To ignore the hacking would, conceivably, be the end of the American democracy or the “shining city on the hill.”

What to do?

Well, there’s the blockchain.

In 2016, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum, located on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, was under fire by the press over the integrity of its 2016 Inductee Vote.

The controversy ignited when votes jumped form 371,000 in one day to 82,000,000 four days later, going to the band Chicago. It was evident a computer voting bot had rigged the election. The damage to the museum’s reputation was irreversible.

A year later, Rock Hall had its fans from 50 states and over 100 different countries successfully pass their 1.9 million votes over a Votem Blockchain voting platform.

The results?

A Votem case study reported that:

Through Votem’s platform, the Rock Hall had an end-to-end election solution that proved more secure, efficient, reliable, auditable, accessible, and cost-effective than before with immediate and immutable election data and results.

Votem: Blockchain for votes

Votem was born in 2014, when founder Pete Martin attended a conference hosted by XPrize Founder Peter Diamandis and was asked to come up with an idea that would become his “moonshot” legacy that, more specifically, would positively impact a billion people. Pete scribbled: “mobile voting.”

Back in 2014, he had no idea how prescient that decision would be.

Votem is effective becuase it uses the blockchain, a decentralized ledger spread among millions of compteur where no one person is in charge. Each bit of data, vote in thic case, gets uploaded on the ledger with its own cryptographic stamp that contains all relevant background details, like who voted and when. This vote is replicated on the millions of participating nodes, or computer networks. All participating entities can see the data, which is transparent (i.e. they can see the vote and when it was sent) while at the same time unable to see who sent the vote.

Given that the system is decentralized, it is almost prohibitively impossible to alter the data (or vote in this instance), since infiltrating any one node would mean infiltrating millions of nodes simultaneously. The malicious actor would need to gain 51% of the hashing, or processing, power in order to perpetrate any such entry. In contrast, what makes the vote susceptible to hacking on our present system is that it is centralized. Hackers only managed to infiltrate the Illinois voting system because its database was vested in one entity. Without the voting system dispersed among trillions of entities, with each one incentivised to tell the truth, it should be that much harder, if not functionally impossible, to change the system.

The Votem Voting System

Votem’s blockchain technology services independent validators, such as state auditors, election observers, election auditors, and so forth. Each trusted party has its own independent “node” on the Votem blockchain.

Voters cast their votes through their mobiles or through a secure web browser. As votes are cast, each validator verifies the vote in real-time to validate its accuracy. Each of these votes are permanently encoded on the Votem platform, which becomes resilient to change and to adjustment. All votes are programmed with high-level encryption and 3-level authentication (including personal identifying information, a one-time PIN code and biometric verification) for complete security, privacy and anonymity.

Voters can audit any aspect of the election in real time, while retaining voter anonymity. Election officials can also print out paper ballots in their central elections offices if they plan a recount.

According to Votem:

[Our] Blockchain Mobile Voting Platform gives elections officials the transparency, verifiability and ultimately the trust that’s been lacking with most current voting systems and is the only system in the world offering this level security.

In short, Votem is cheap, convenient, secure, private and it eliminates the risk of fraud and controversy. This is because it uses the blockchain. In our troubled times, that’s a necessity.

Just yesterday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) observed, “Russian activities during the 2016 election may have been aimed at one party’s candidate. In 2018 and 2020,” the chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence added, “it could be aimed at anyone, at home or abroad.”

It might be time to consider blockchain for voting.