In a piece released yesterday, two Brookings Institution fellows, Kevin C. Desouza and Kiran Kabtta Somvanshi, argued for an increased use of blockchain technology in elections. Coming from the respected, century-old policy think tank, the piece is striking for its advocacy of a high-tech solution that has yet to gain much mainstream support.
The article comes after the completion of a pilot program earlier this month carried out in two West Virginia counties. In that program, blockchain voting via a mobile app was available during a primary election to a limited class of voters (those who would normally be eligible to vote via absentee ballot under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act). The state's plan was to perform an audit of the election and then expand the program if it was deemed a success. There has yet to be an announcement of whether such an expansion will go forward.
Desouza and Somvanshi apparently hope it will.
"The idea of using blockchain for elections is worth more than just an experiment," they wrote, referring to the West Virginia program.
Beyond highlighting the possibilities for voting abroad, which was the focus of the West Virginia trial, they also cataloged other possible benefits:
"Mobile voting using a safe and tested interface could eliminate voter fraud and boost turnout ... It is also a beneficial tool for the election commission to maintain transparency in the electoral process, minimize the cost of conducting elections, streamline the process of counting votes and ensure that all votes are counted."
But beyond the technical hurdles, there is also the issue of political will.
"Public officials will have to understand the nuances of the technology and evaluate feedback received from voters and administrators alike," Desouza and Somvanshi claim.