MIT: Blockchain Voting Causes More Problems Than it Solves

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  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published a report which says that blockchain voting is not the answer to shoring up the electoral voting system
  • The researchers argue that blockchain voting systems and the infrastructure they rely on are too insecure to prevent interference
  • Mail and in-person voting are the most secure methods of holding national votes, according to the paper

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has issued a report that dampens suggestions that blockchain technology is the answer to end concerns over voter fraud. The U.S. election has been tainted by so far unproven allegations of voter fraud, leading to suggestions from blockchain advocates that the blockchain voting technology already used in some states should be rolled out nationwide. However, the MIT report shoots down these suggestions, saying that the premise is “ripe” for “serious failures” including attackers altering already cast votes and hacking the infrastructure, causing elections to be entirely re-run.

Blockchain Voting of Interest Worldwide

Blockchain voting is something that, on the surface, seems fairly robust – a secure connection to an immutable blockchain allows votes to be cast and not altered, with the identity of the individual also secured on the blockchain. No Sharpiegate, no dead people voting, no independent oversight required.

Blockchain voting systems have been used in Oregon and Utah through the Voatz app, while the past year has seen Russia, Japan, and Thailand explore the possibility of using blockchain systems, leading to suggestions that the time may be right for expansion, especially given how the U.S. election is turning out.

MIT has poured cold water on suggestions that blockchain voting is the answer however in their paper Going from Bad to Worse: From Internet Voting to Blockchain Voting. They suggest that rather than making the election procedure more secure, blockchain voting (or internet voting of any kind) could actually make things worse:

…given the current state of computer security, any turnout increase derived from with [sic] Internet- or blockchain-based voting would come at the cost of losing meaningful assurance that votes have been counted as they were cast, and not undetectably altered or discarded.

Potential Failings “Outweigh Countervailing Interests”

MIT outlines a number of potential technological failings that could negatively impact the vote casting and counting process, stating that some of the potential failings are so grave that they “outweigh countervailing interests” leading to the conclusion that electronic voting is more vulnerable to such failures than paper-based alternatives.”

They cite a number of concerns, including device exploitation, mistakenly cast ballots, network outages, and system hacks as a number of weaknesses any kind of online voting system has, none of which blockchain is exempt from.

MIT argues that the existing voting system, where mail in votes are combined with in-person votes, are the most secure method currently available, despite being time and energy intensive exercises.

It seems then that most of us won’t be blockchain voting for some years to come then, if ever.