US: no to blockchain-based voting
US: no to blockchain-based voting

US: no to blockchain-based voting

By Eleonora Spagnolo - 10 Apr 2020

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An association of scientists from the United States has written a letter to the governors, secretaries of state and directors of state elections asking them not to vote on the blockchain

The sender of this letter is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an association whose mission is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people”.

The United States is going through a delicate political period: the presidential elections will be held in November 2020. In the meantime, the Democratic Party primaries are underway to choose who will be Donald Trump’s challenger. The Coronavirus has entered this scenario, with the restrictions that are affecting the current election campaign.  If the emergency does not end, the vote may also be affected. 

It is enough to recall that Italy, which was one of the countries most affected by the pandemic, has already postponed both a constitutional referendum scheduled for the end of March and the regional and local elections that were scheduled for May.

To get around the problem of organizing the electoral process, one of the possible solutions could be online voting. But this prospect does not convince AAAS scientists at all. 

In their letter they explicitly write:

“At this time, internet voting is not a secure solution for voting in the United States, nor will it be in the foreseeable future”.

The reason why US scientists say no to blockchain-based voting

Scientists fear not only vote manipulation but also potential DOS attacks, malware, invasion of privacy. That’s why their advice is not to favour the use of online voting, and rather to prefer postal voting or early voting to ensure security, accuracy, and protection at a time when US voters are struggling with the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Their doubts have not been dispelled by the use of a blockchain-based voting system. They state:

“If a blockchain architecture is used, serious questions arise regarding what content is stored in it, how the blockchain is decrypted for public access, and how votes are ultimately transferred to some type of durable paper record”.

Their verdict is clear:

“Blockchain systems do not address the fundamental issues with internet voting”.

If anything, blockchain-based voting seems to be even more feared. In fact, according to a report cited in the letter, using blockchain technology as a voting system would increase the risk of attacks by “malicious actors”.

At this point, the experts analyze an app that allows voting on the blockchain, Voatz, already in the past the focus of analysis by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The experts who studied the app would have identified several vulnerabilities starting with the violation of privacy. But not only that, the risk inherent in the app is also the one that could control the outcome of an election. Moreover, no one guarantees that the vote will actually remain secret and safe from attack.

The other serious issue that AAAS scientists point out when referring to the MIT report on Voatz, is that sensitive data is required to register on the platform. This would expose voters to the risk of identity theft, and ultimately could be a danger to national security.

Their conclusion is that elections must be guaranteed for everyone, despite Covid-19. That is why it is essential to use alternative methods that are not conducted via the Internet or apps. Nor via blockchain


Eleonora Spagnolo

Journalist passionate about the web and the digital world. She graduated with honours in Multimedia Publishing at the University La Sapienza in Rome and completed a master's degree in Web and Social Media Marketing.

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