If you’ve been following the United States’ presidential elections, you know that Monday was the date of the so-called Iowa caucus for the Democratic Party.
This caucus is meant to be an event where Democrats located in the American state can show their support for their preferred Democratic candidate to take on the almost 100% confirmed candidate of the Republicans, incumbent President Donald Trump.
But when results were meant to be released on Monday night, nothing happened. Well, something happened: the Iowa Democratic Party revealed that an issue appeared in the mobile phone app that precincts used to report results. The issue was not a hack, but rather, a coding error that made the apps only release partial data, not the full data needed to determine a victor.
Candidates have rightfully been displeased with the delay and the errors in reporting.
Some Democrats have said that this hampers the democratic process. And some on the other side of the aisle have suggested that this debacle could help actors rig the caucus (and thus the broader election) in favor of certain candidates.
With all these concerns floating about the digital voting system, it’s not surprising that many immediately looked to blockchain technology — a class of technologies that its proponents say will make everything more secure and transparent.
Iowa Caucus Debacles Sparks Blockchain Debate
With the Iowa caucus being the first real showing of what tens of thousands of Democrats want their candidate to be, the issues with the app used as a backbone in this poll have made many seek solutions.
Founder of blockchain-centric social platform Uptrennd Jeff Kirdeikis wrote the following in the wake of the Iowa debacle:
Iowa is a mess. Can we all just agree that blockchain will solve voting issues and finally get out of the stone age?
Iowa is a mess.
Can we all just agree that blockchain will solve voting issues and finally get out of the stone age?
— Jeff Kirdeikis (@JeffKirdeikis) February 4, 2020
Kirdeikis isn’t the only one who thinks blockchain could fix the voting issues plaguing the world today.
Andrew Yang, a pro-crypto entrepreneur and job-builder turned Democratic candidate (currently the fourth or fifth in the race, polls suggest), revealed in a policy page last year that the current voting system is antiquated, citing the fact that “it’s ridiculous that in 2020 we are still standing in line for hours to vote in antiquated voting booths.”
Yang, like others, thus looked to blockchain, writing on said policy page:
It is 100% technically possible to have fraud-proof voting on our mobile phones today using the blockchain. This would revolutionize true democracy and increase participation to include all Americans—those without smartphones could use the legacy system and lines would be very short.
Not to mention, there have been local trials of blockchain voting systems across the U.S.
Importantly, it isn’t clear how a blockchain-based system would have aided the caucus system, which is relatively more complicated compared to a simple vote-by-vote election, though the narrative has stuck.
Blockchain Voting Not Ready Yet
While there are test-runs of these blockchain applications and prominent supporters of the technology as a means for facilitating democracy, many say that a system where people can securely vote for democratic issues on their phones is likely still a while away.
In Moscow last year, there was reportedly a critical vulnerability in a blockchain-based voting mechanism meant to be used for a local election.
As reported by ZDNet, Pierrick Gaudry, an academic at Lorraine University and a researcher for France’s INRIA, discovered that he could figure out the system’s private keys through public keys.
Not to mention, there are simple concerns in access to digital technologies; despite the betterment of mobile devices, not everyone has access to the Internet and phones and computers around the world.
This would suggest that blockchain voting is still a while away.