Electronic Voting

INTRO Following the extensive review of rationale for electronic voting and laying out an implementation roadmap, the Thrupny team have synthesised a plan. See the prequel in the accompanying blog (see below)

THREE 3 X 3 X 3 PROGRAM TO IMPLEMENT ELECTRONIC VOTING


3 Problems 3 Solutions delivered in 3 Months


BENEFITS OF ELECTRONIC VOTING

Before we dig in to how we propose to achieve this seemingly hard task, lets look at the WHY:

  • RESILIENCE – if nothing else sticks from Covid pandemic, the need to be resilient to all kinds of catastrophes should be alot higher in people’s minds and in policy focus. Electronic voting allows for votes to take place without the need to displace the voting individuals, which would be the same in the case of war, flooding or other pandemic events.
  • SOCIAL DISTANCING – as this pandemic proved, and other existing situations such as ash clouds also demonstrate, sometimes people cannot get together, in these situations, the exercise of expressing their wishes, be it at a club, local government or national level.
  • ENFRANCHISE THE DISABLED, HOSPITALISED AND ELDERLY – some people have structural social distancing built into their lives permanently or for a period of time, but should not be penalised for it.
  • REACH OUT TO THE YOUNG – a common theme has been the disenfranchisement of the young in either local or national decision making. Using digital technology is one way to attempt to enhance youth engagement as it is served right on their digital devices. Additionally, while issues of inexperience have been raised, it could be a solution can be found in giving younger people responsibilities in lower level criticality issues, which electronic voting gives the granularity to be able to do.
  • REDUCE VOTE FRAUD – the technologies we are now talking about, based around blockchain but including others, enable a whole new level of transparency, audibility and trusted data that simply were not possible with digital systems before.
  • REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – as the Corona virus pandemic and its consequent global lockdowns have finally conclusively and visibly proved, the impact of humans traveling around is hugely significant to our environment. Allowing voting activities to be remote, along with many other official tasks, can help.
  • GRANULARITY – along with being our favourite word, it is one of our favourite benefits of the new mix of digital technologies, meaning in this case that voting can happen more frequently and for smaller chunks of decisions than with current paper precesses.

So now lets break this down…but before we do lets just do one more thing, set some ground rules. When we are talking about voting, as in our previous lengthy diatribe, we are not just talking about national elections but also any expression of wish or minor authority vote. Additionally when we are saying implemented in three months, this includes the basic analysis of the specific situation, integration of local regulations and most importantly, the identification of the stakeholders that will guarantee the credibility of the voting system.

Also lets not forget that politics with big and small P will impact both features and timelines, but this is the art of the possible, in our view, noting other factors may take part:

WHAT ARE THE THREE PROBLEMS AND THEIR ANSWERS

  1. FAST AND SECURE ROLL OUT – Today electronic identity does not exist in many jurisdictions ANSWER KYC
    • The concept is simple; many countries’ financial regulators today allow the creation of bank account using digital remote Know Your Customer applications. This can be used to jump start digital voting because they require no further administration other than registering the KYC applications.
    • As KYC standards are already regulated by the financial services regulators, this arguably provides enough surety to identify individuals.
    • A key insight is that most countries or authorities already have a census and other certified lists that would include a vast majority of the individuals voting.
    • So using a combination of KYC, automated validation of systems of record and another tool, machine learning, a system can quickly be built that gives a high certainty of individual voting security.
  2. GUARANTEE IDENTITY – How do we guarantee uniqueness of vote ANSWER Digital Identity either from an existing national eID or created from KYC
    • The above validations ensure uniqueness of the voter, in other words the citizen or individual permitted to vote in the given context, and enable electronic voting to start now in the current card based identity world while countries adopt and roll out detail identity.
    • We also have to ensure that this identity is available at several points in time as the registration, voting and possible voting audit can happen at differing times.
    • To keep continuity, we use a digital identity framework, based on a blockchain ledger, many of which are available on the market today. These ensure that a digital identity is maintained as secure and owned by the voter, therefore avoiding repeat KYC validations.
  3. GUARANTEE UNIQUE VOTES – How do we guarantee election officials or incumbents or hackers can’t cheat ANSWER blockchain ledger held by all national stakeholders
    • Now we have to ensure that the votes are unique and registered independently of position, party, we need to ensure the their VOTE is unique and the storage of that vote is trusted by all stakeholders, including voting officials, institutions, voters, auditing authorities.
    • Here is where blockchain is really strong. By creating a distributed ledger among the stakeholders or one that the stakeholders recognize, a “copy” of the voting records is stored on each one of the stakeholders’ controlled environments. This means that all have a new real time copy of all the transactions of each vote, including identity (anonymised or not as required), timing and other useful parameters like location. 
    • Audits can them be made during and after the voting at any time by any party.
    • A blockchain ledger could be set up in multiple ways:
      • Use a public ledger that exists already, this gives security from a large number of copies of the voting records (anonymised where needed)
      • Try to use a government or other trusted body blockchain if that exists
      • Also use a blockchain set up specifically for voting in the given context, for this, candidates for hosting a blockchain node or copy could include:
        • Various relevant operational government entities
        • Audit or regulatory entities 
        • Legal and/or financial regulation bodies that set standards or are called to investigate issues
        • Accredited independent bodies with relevant focus, such as anti corruption think tanks
        • Citizen or voting member representative organisations
        • Political parties
        • Law enforcement authorities or security organisations that are called to investigate issues
    • Even citizens can have either a proxy copy set aside for them (managed by a library or independent association) or even potentially a copy of the voting ledger on their devices (blockchains that support smart phones exist today).

HOW CAN THIS BE DELIVERED IN THREE MONTHS?

Well first let’s cap this conversation by saying that three months is the tech and the roll out to readiness for first trials. It does not mean first general national election in that time because, while physically possible, it is not prudent to propose a whole new system without trials on less sensitive exercises first, as mentioned in our previous lengthy diatribe.

If we also mix in all the political and lack of trust issued associated  with whom proposes eVoting and general mis-understanding in the populace about the technology  being proposed and we have a bonfire of debate that will reach into years. Hence our proposed step by step approach.

On the positive side though, the timeline is studies to provide a custom solution  from existing open source components, a list of which we can happily provide and which may vary depending on the situation.

So the main points are:

  • Regulations exist already in many countries, eg. electronic signature, privacy of data, etc
  • All 3 technologies exist already
  • All technologies are open source
  • Each stakeholder need only host a small server, some stakeholders may be co-hosted, eg. voters
  • Security with blockchain is in the numbers of copies held by stakeholders not highly secure complex systems
  • The interface is via a mobile or web app and non users can be managed via centralised voting hubs, like polling stations of today (note that electronic voting distributes voting to wherever the voter wishes to do it
  • So those not owning a smart phone may still vote via PC or a tablet at a local voting centre with social distancing in place

Now exactly how these technologies mix is the secret sauce we will be happy to share with whom ever is interested.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

Well of course you can call us and start a discussion on implementing electronic voting.

But who is you? Any of the following could implement electronic voting:

  • Federal, National and Regional Governments
  • Regulatory Institutions
  • Associations or bodies constituted with membership voting
  • Corporates for shareholder voting
  • Charitable institutions
  • Local or non-profit associations

We are happy to consult for you with technology independence or design build the whole thing for you based on proven components.

OR just act, but please take these ideas seriously, they can help massively.

Of course we would also love to hear your stories on electronic voting.

Connected Blog:

Blockchain based digital voting, an implementation roadmap