The U.S. government released a statement last week that hackers have targeted election systems throughout the country.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed systems, such as registration databases, in more than 20 states showed suspicious activity. The DHS believes whoever did this was trying to find vulnerabilities “to cause confusion and chaos.” At the time of writing, confirmed breaches have occurred only in Illinois and Arizona.
While most voting devices are offline, intelligence officials fear these hackers could try to influence the upcoming November election in some way, such as removing data or committing voter fraud.
The Current Voting System
According to the Help America Vote Act of 2002, all voters’ registration information, such as address and date of birth, must be saved on one centralized server by the state. However, no matter how private and protected it is, having one server invites attacks by hackers who see this as a simple single target. All the information is right there for them to steal.
Additionally, across the country, officials and voters are concerned about voter fraud. Some states are even making it a requirement that a voter must present a specific type of identification before they vote. And there’s no guarantee that that person’s ID is valid.
Ethereum Can Be the Solution
Elections are too important to act carelessly and ignore potential weaknesses. The government needs to offer better protection and implement better security measures. And that security is Ethereum and its blockchain.
The Ethereum network is a blockchain, or public ledger, that records every transaction executed through the technology. Like Bitcoin, it timestamps and tracks the movement of each individual Ether. But Ethereum operates on another level than Bitcoin. It can transact and maintain information that cannot be manipulated.
Ethereum Cannot Be Tampered
Currently, the biggest problem seems to be protecting voter registration information. By implementing Ethereum and its technology into the voting system, no one can engineer election results to their benefit. On a state or even federal level, voters would submit their information into a Dapp or smart contract dedicated to elections only. The Dapp itself would evaluate all the information received during the registration process to verify voter identity. All of their information would be available, but it will be encrypted or hashed within the blockchain, making unauthorized access or manipulation of voter data a nearly impossible task. The information that would remain public are the voter’s address and activity on the blockchain.
The main feature of the blockchain is that the public record of transactions can never be removed or altered. Once something is placed on the blockchain, it stays there forever. If someone intends to eradicate or manipulate data, they will have no way of doing so unless they gain enough computing power over the decentralized network to cause a 51% attack and reverse all transactions made on the blockchain. This, however, is very unlikely to happen and can easily be detected, allowing governing institutions the ability to address the issue before an outcome is announced.
Ethereum Is Public and Transparent
The transparency of the blockchain would present honest election results in real time. There would be an electronic address, or public key, which corresponds to each voter, and this would be the voter’s identity during the election. When they vote, their address would appear on the blockchain along with the outcome of the vote. This method would help prevent voter fraud on many levels such as duplicated voting, unregistered voting, ineligible voting, and most importantly the manipulation of the vote itself.
The same goes for the number of votes. Officials keep a record of the total number of voters registered in their state or county. By having the results displayed in real time, they can see if the numbers are deceptive. Let’s say one county has a total of 35000 registered voters. When the results are tallied, the number jumps to 37000 and those additional 2000 votes lean towards one party. With Ethereum, these misleading and fraudulent votes can be easily spotted and stopped. Officials can quickly react and take the proper steps to restore confidence in the election.
Ethereum Is Decentralized
With a decentralized network like Ethereum, voters’ data will not be stored in just one place, but will be housed throughout a network of computers. Each node in the network verifies its information against the entirety of the network, making it nearly impossible to corrupt the data or restrict access to the data as a whole.
While this technology will immensely change how we vote, it will likely not be implemented any time soon. It would be easier to adopt Ethereum. However, the government is focusing on updating decades-old machines instead.