A new report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says internet voting systems should not be used currently. The organization is also advocating for the use of paper ballots in all U.S. elections by 2020.
A sweeping 156-page report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) entitled, “Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy,” says that internet-based voting systems should not be used at this time until they can be verified as secure.
The authors of the report write that while the use of blockchain as an immutable ballot box “may seem promising,” the technology “does little to solve the fundamental security issues of elections.”
The report is the culmination of a two-year study. The research committee was made up of cybersecurity experts, election scholars, and social scientists.
Overall, the report advocates for the use of human-readable paper ballots by the 2020 presidential election. The goal of the effort is to “protect the integrity and security of U.S. elections.”
The authors of the report note the current lack of technology available that can guarantee the verifiability, secrecy, and the security of a “marked ballot transmitted over the Internet.”
Blockchain Introduces More Security Vulnerabilities For Voting
The NASEM lists a number of justifications against blockchain-based voting systems.
According to the report, blockchain “introduces additional security vulnerabilities” when it comes to elections since malware on a person’s device could alter a vote before it reaches a blockchain.
As a result, the blockchain’s immutability then “fails to provide the desired integrity,” and the voter might remain unaware their vote was altered.
The authors write how the “observability and immutability” touted by blockchain advocates can be achieved in simpler ways. These figures point out how election officials could just publish digitally-signed versions of relevant election data instead of having to rely on a blockchain-based system.
The report says it may be possible to integrate blockchain into an election system by taking advantage of systems like E2E-V and other voting methods. Still, it points out how “the credit for addressing such problems would lie with the additional mechanisms, not with the use of blockchains.”
The NASEM makes a number of recommendations to authorities, besides the advocacy for paper ballots. The organization says electoral administrators should be report any voting system compromises to the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
NASEM also lobbies Congress to provide funding so state and local governments can continuously upgrade their cybersecurity capabilities.
Blockchain Voting Is Becoming More Popular
Despite the recommendations spelled out in the report, voting with the help of blockchain is a trend that is slowly spreading across the world. West Virginia became the first state to test out a blockchain-based mobile application for voting, targeted at first towards out-of-state military personnel.
The town of Zug, Switzerland, tested out a blockchain-based voting system in the summer, and the Japanese city of Tsukuba recently unveiled a new digital voting system to let residents vote on a variety of social contribution project proposals.
What are your thoughts on this report? Does blockchain-based voting have good future prospects? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Bitcoinist archives, NASEM, Shutterstock.