Maine Proposes Commission To Study Using Blockchain And Paper Ballots For Elections

Maine Senators Eric Brakey and Garrett Mason introduced a legislative proposal to study the use of blockchain technology for election purposes. The proposal includes an emergency preamble, thereby waiving the procedural rule stating “acts and resolves of the Legislature do not become effective until 90 days after adjournment unless enacted as emergencies.” The Maine legislature allows for emergency legislation when “in the judgment of the Legislature, the[] facts create an emergency within the meaning of the Constitution of Maine and require the following legislation as immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

S. P. 305 calls for a commission to “study the potential uses for blockchain technology to support and enhance Maine’s current paper ballot election system for the purpose of improving paper ballot security, increasing election transparency and reducing costs.” If approved, the commission would consist of bipartisan legislators from the Senate and House as well as representatives from the offices of the Secretary of State and Attorney General. At the end of the study, the commission is to submit a report that “includes its findings and recommendations, including suggested legislation, for presentation to the Second Regular Session of the 128th Legislature” by December 6, 2017.

Incorporating blockchain technology into voting procedures and systems has been widely considered in the global public and private sectors. Recently, Voatz, a Boston-based company, has announced a phone-based application that would allow individuals to cast their votes from their personal smartphones, which includes “mobile-focused security, voter anonymity, verifiability, and irrefutability by utilizing a secured smartphone, a multi-source ID verification process, advanced biometrics, and Blockchain based irrefutability.” Voting and election-related use cases for the blockchain have been the focus of many developers as it highlights some of the best features of the technology: transparency, accountability, and reduced fraud. If the commission is approved, Maine will be the first state to consider using blockchain technology in its election procedures. Hopefully, the final report will include important legislation that will undoubtedly enhance elections and protect against voter fraud.