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Now that we're past Election Day, a certain sort of "silly season" has begun.
I'm talking about folks coming up with big ideas on how to fix our outdated voting system.
And one of the big ideas out there is using blockchain for voting.
Let's stop that conversation – now.
The other day, the Twitter cryptoverse blew up after Alex Tapscott, co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, had his op-ed on the matter published in The New York Times.
In it, Tapscott presents his case for using a blockchain to carry out online voting. He apparently believes such a process would be much more decentralized and safe from hacking. The only downside, he claims, is a potential delay in the voting process.
Let me just tell you straight up: This is a terribly ill-considered idea, for a variety of reasons.
For starters, votes have to remain secret and anonymous. If not, that can lead to coercion in voting, as Princeton University cryptography professor Matthew Blaze has pointed out on Twitter.
Problem is, blockchains are typically designed to be public.
"If I can verify that my vote was correctly recorded, then your local mob boss can also use my receipt to verify the same thing," Blaze wrote.
Then there's the malware issue…
In a September report on blockchain voting, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said the strategy does little to solve the fundamental security issues of elections, but instead adds more security vulnerabilities.
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"In particular, if malware on a voter's device alters a vote before it ever reaches a blockchain, the immutability of the blockchain fails to provide the desired integrity, and the voter may never know of the alteration," the report's authors concluded.
Even Vitalik Buterin, one of the key founders of Ethereum (ETH), poo-pooed the idea, at least for something as important as a national election.
"There are limited e-voting usecases that make sense, but *really important* to stress, on-chain votes should NOT be used to choose national governments," he tweeted. Later clarifying his position further, he wrote, "Online voting requires some very specific privacy and security properties and specific techniques to achieve them, and just shoving stuff onto a public ledger can often even be actively counterproductive."
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, and have been for years.
The technology is, in a word, impressive.
About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.