Our discussion around blockchain has mostly focussed on business applications so far. However, blockchain has the potential to dramatically impact how we transact democracy. Central to a democratic system is a fair, transparent and trusted method for recording people’s choice. A blockchain network’s distributed, secure ledger has the potential to not only satisfy these requirements, but to do this far more efficiently than ever before.
The cryptographic authentication which ensures identity on a blockchain would allow voters to quickly and easily register and verify themselves for the purposes of participating in political processes. Whether it be an election, referendum or other such task, voters would be able to prove their identity securely. This both minimises any ability for vote fraud and also streamlines the process for voters themselves.
In the same way that voters can verify their identity in a secure manner, blockchain’s reliance on consensus from all parties to the network means that votes cannot be manipulated and the system can be both transparent and dependable. The shared ledger which is the foundation of a blockchain network means that once cast, votes cannot be changed by one party in disagreement with the majority.
Of utmost importance to any political process where citizens have cast their opinion is accurate counting of the votes. If digitised, this process would be much faster than currently and no less secure. In fact, the accuracy of a digital counting system would be far greater and escape the inescapable reality of human error. While it is somewhat exciting to sit in front of the TV waiting for votes to be counted, it would be a much more interesting display of the power of technology and data to watch votes arrive in real-time across a secure blockchain network.
There are even more interesting developments that could be made if democracy was shifted onto the blockchain. Blockchain provides the perfect answer to ‘fake news’. As the importance of transparency and dependability in journalism rises, having a system which would ground news in reliability and security across a network of reputable providers. In this way, both reporting of information about political processes and the recognition of citizen’s votes can be protected by blockchain technology.
Liquid democracy is a concept whereby voters can choose to vote themselves or assign a delegate to vote for them. Importantly, the delegate vote can be retracted and cast by the original owner should it turn out to be inconsistent with their intentions. There are even systems where, for certain issues, voters can have more than one vote which they can allocate across different issues. This would be especially useful in cases like a referendum which may seek to deal with a range of things that traditional voting isn’t able to accurately capture.
At a time where blockchain is finally reaching the mainstream, it’s interesting to consider a case study where the technology has far-reaching implications beyond business applications. For a system that we depend upon as much as the democratic institution of most modern societies, being able to craft a customised blockchain network to found the future of democracy in transparency, security and efficiency would be revolutionary.