Towards Realizing Digital Voting: Assessing Readiness of Blockchain Enabled Voting

University essay from Luleå tekniska universitet/Digitala tjänster och system; Luleå tekniska universitet/Digitala tjänster och system

Abstract: Voting and general elections serves as a cornerstone of modern democracies as it is through this process that the public makes their political positions heard and collectively elect leaders. While many parts of governments across the world are focusing heavily on digitization, voting is one area that remains offline and analog in many developed countries. Current voting systems continue to be scrutinized, most notably in the US after the 2016 presidential election where integrity of votes was put into question. This calls for innovation in the area of voting and blockchain has proven to be a disruptive technology in other areas to introduce transparency and integrity with an immutable and append-only ledger to store information. While the basic characteristics of blockchain may be desirable for a voting system, there has not yet been an implementation of Blockchain Enabled Voting (BEV). In this thesis, we assess current proposals of BEV in the context of the nine-degree Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale to get an overview of how mature the technology is in its current state and what needs to be done to reach further maturity. We do this by consolidating necessary requirements to fulfill for a voting system, based on literature review along with guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We follow this up with translating the TRL scale to suit BEV, as the scale was originally designed for technology used by NASA, and then we review design artifacts of BEV in light of this scale. This enables us to make an informed argument about the current state of the technology as well as what is needed to advance the technology for further maturity. Based on the review of current proposals, flight-readiness of BEV in its current state is still immature. Our analysis shows that there are two emerging design principles, complete decentralization, and partial decentralization, where the former is structured similarly to the cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum, who considers all nodes as equals and only has governance through engineering. The partially decentralized approach on the other hand is built on permissioned blockchain with some centralized authority and considers the blockchain as a ballot box, or storage of votes. The results show that both design principles are far from flight-ready as they either do not meet the basic requirements of a voting system or make assumptions about the holistic voting systems, especially in areas of establishing voter eligibility, ease of use as well as scalability and robustness. Further research of both approaches is necessary to establish systems that are more defined and are ready for experimental testing.

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