Depending on whom you ask, blockchain-based voting is either the best idea ever or the worst.
On the one hand, there’s the promise of tamper-proof voting—your vote will count because it can’t be deleted. On the other hand, it’s not very private, and may introduce new vulnerabilities to an already vulnerable electoral infrastructure.
Mina, a lightweight blockchain built by O(1) Labs, has suggested a possible workaround: zk-SNARKs, a cryptographic proof employed on the privacy blockchain Zcash as well as Mina’s forthcoming mainnet.
Basically, zk-SNARKs allow people/machines to verify that a transaction is correct without giving much in the way of further details, such as who made the transaction. That’s theoretically perfect for when you want to tally votes but don’t want to divulge who voted for whom.
Unencumbered by the extraneous data that lives on some other blockchains, Mina, formerly Coda, weighs in at just 22kb, which allows users of the blockchain to run it from their mobile phone without losing any speed. But it’s more Ethereum than Bitcoin, meaning it wants people to build on the platform it’s created.
Instead of decentralized applications (dapps), developers can create SNARK-powered applications (snapps), in which some data lives off-chain to maintain privacy and speed. The Mina homepage suggests possible use cases, including proof of credit score for borrowers, proof of identity, or proof of Coinbase balance.
And voting for organizations.
In a blog on the subject of blockchain voting, O(1) Labs co-founder and CTO Izaak Meckler notes that many organizations’ elections already suffer from privacy issues, while also having difficulty auditing results or confirming individual votes have been counted.
The solution is there on the Mina protocol, Meckler contends, just waiting to be developed.
"A verifiable electoral system should be private in the sense that each vote will have no identifying information attached to it,” said Meckler in a press release. “It will be verifiable in the sense that at the end we’ll have a small proof of the result that can be easily checked on almost any device, including a browser or a phone."
But such a system would require political will in addition to technical expertise if it were to move beyond boardrooms into local, state, and national elections.
Said Meckler, “It needs to be accompanied by powerful, mass organizations of people that are capable of detecting and responding to manipulation on every level, from voter suppression, to propaganda, to outright fraud at the point of vote counting."
Any candidates to figure out that piece of the puzzle?