It appears that all types of election processes are being questioned in this festive season. The US presidential elections are already being contested by Donald Trump and now, a new argument has been put forth by researchers at MIT. The MIT researchers are advocating against the use of internet-based or blockchain-based voting systems in the future. A report was published on November 16th, 2020 by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report claimed that blockchain voting technology cannot be deemed a reliable method for promoting a high level of turnout.
In addition, the report said that this would also increase the risk of hackers trying to interfere in the US elections. The cybersecurity team that came to these conclusions comprise of Neha Narula, Ronald L. Rivest, Sunoo Park and Michael Spector. The use of blockchain in the voting process was described by the team as wholly unsuitable where political elections were concerned, at least for the ‘foreseeable future’. They compared this method to those that are independent of software, such as in-person voting and mail-in ballots. One of the primary concerns about the matter were related to the lack of secrecy that was seen in the ballot themselves because it is possible to trace them to the blockchain.
Along with this, another key argument that was made was related to the lack of auditing, if the race turns out to be a contested one, such as what appears to be happening currently in the U.S. The senior author of the report and a professor at MIT, Rivest highlighted that the current election system is nowhere near perfect. Even so, he said that if blockchain technology were to be used for the voting process, there would be a risk of undetectable election failures on a national scale.
Rivest went on to say that any increase in the voter turnout would be lost because there would be lack of assurances about the counting of votes, as they are cast. In fact, Rivest went on to say something that was downright humorous, and even a bit offensive, to some of the blockchain users out there. He said that in his opinion, blockchain systems are so unreliable that he wouldn’t even trust them at a county fair for a jelly bean count, much less doing the counting in a presidential election. One of the major arguments that were made by the team about the use of blockchain technology in the democratic voting process was the difference between voting and financial transactions.
If a financial institution suffers from a hack, they do have the means to compensate their victims for the losses they suffer. This is even applicable to select crypto exchanges, which have the option of freezing any tokens that are related to a hack. According to the report, there cannot be any form of insurance of recourse if the democratic election were to fail, so there wouldn’t be any way for them to compensate the voters if the system is compromised.