Blockchain as an instrument for achieving the full exercise of democracy
A more efficient system capable of returning power to the hands of the people (and not just on election day).
By Tatiana Revoredo, ELONTech Liaison, Brazil
It is common cases of use of blockchain in health, smart contracts and personal identification, among other areas. But a use where blockchain technology is being widely considered is in the elections. The use of a blockchain solution in a country’s political decision-making could create a truly democratic system, some advocate. And what few know is that blockchain technology is already being effectively tested for this purpose. As an example, we can cite the US state of West Virginia will use a voting App in Blockchain in the United States Midterm elections, allowing its citizens, residing abroad, to vote remotely via blockchain.
A Boston-based startup called Voatz has created an application to ensure everyone votes securely if a polling place is not available. Such an application will also be made available to the military on mission abroad.
The State has already successfully completed a pilot project with this format in May, under the watchful eyes of four independent auditors. Tusk Montgomery Philanthropies, founded by Bradley Tusk (Oxford Blockchain Strategy Program, 2018), is working with West Virginia to fund the project.
Greater democratic inclusion
In 2017, the OECD quoted in its Blockchain Voting for Peace report the case study of a plebiscite held in Colombia in 2016.
At the time, the nonprofit Democracy Earth Foundation created a blockchain platform to enable Colombians living abroad to participate symbolically in the plebiscite on the peace treaty between the government and the FARC.
The interesting thing here was the possibility of democratic coverage provided by the blockchain.
By the traditional electoral system, only 599 thousand of the 6 million Colombians who lived abroad at that time had the right to vote at the consulate of their countries of residence. The use of the blockchain platform allowed almost all Colombian expatriates to vote in the plebiscite.
In addition to testing the blockchain’s authentication process in a voting context, Democracy Earth also experienced a different concept of democracy. Instead of giving citizens the choice between “yes” or “no” to support the peace treaty, each voter could vote on sub-themes of the proposed peace treaty and indicate the relative importance of each. This different concept of democracy is called “liquid democracy”: a powerful voting model for collective decision-making in large communities.
Delegative democracy or liquid democracy
Liquid Democracy or Democracy Democracy is a direct democracy project in which votes are held by a specific mandate for a particular issue, and is supplemented by a recommendation for action (an analysis of the issue being debated by experts in the field, against). It is a mixed system of direct democracy and representative democracy in which people’s representatives are assigned to vote on each topic, rather than being elected to a broad term of a specific duration. In some cases, in the net democracy, the specific mandate can be delegated.
At present, the german pirate party , the local Demoex Swedish party and the Italian Listapartecipata , whose motto is “Control of government in the hands of the people” (and not only on election day), among others, already practice and defend democracy liquid, on an experimental basis.
And the idea of a liquid democracy gains more and more adepts at the possibility, albeit remote, of the so-called “rule of the people.”
What´s wrong with political decision-making today?
In direct democracy, voters are directly involved in state decision-making. Voters express their opinions by voting on all issues before them. Direct democracies give citizens full control, responsibility and equality. Direct democracies, however, were not viable for larger communities until very recently. How to obtain the vote of all citizens all matters involving the State? That is why indirect democracy has emerged.
In indirect (or representative) democracy, citizens give their right to vote to representatives (deputies and senators) acting on their behalf in decision-making. The representatives are “theoretically” specialists willing to serve and represent the interest of the community in a government body (eg, in the Parliament). However, this brings some problems such as:
• citizens confine themselves to voting on a limited number of candidates who often do not share ideological points of view or interests.
• Most of the time, voters are forced to give up their personal preference to vote for the candidate most likely to be elected.
• the purchase of votes, the halting vote, among others.
But beyond these obvious problems in direct and representative democracies, a not so obvious fault is the fact and that ….
The traditional voting and voting process is not in line with available technology
The current electoral and voting system is outdated. Instead of making voting safe and convenient via the Internet, voters need to go to distant physical voting booths just to fill out a paper ballot.
And as Dominik Schiener rightly points out, this unnecessarily overwhelms voters, which may lead voters simply not to strive to vote.
Or worse, as we saw recently in the first round of the Brazil elections, citizens who were prevented from voting because electronic ballots were defective, polling stations did not have an elevator for the elderly or access for the physically disabled.
Ironically, this is exactly what democracy tries to avoid, Schiener points out, because everyone’s opinion is important and should be included in the collective decision-making process.
The voting barriers that are still standing today, however, prevent this from happening.
The ideal scenario would be an electoral process where everyone can exercise their political preferences directly (without intermediaries), transparent (auditable) and secure (anti-fraud).
Blockchain technology: a light at the end of the tunnel?
There are many inconveniences in the exercise of direct and indirect democracy. And in many countries there is a climate of mistrust about current mechanisms and voting results.
Would blockchain technology be a light at the end of the tunnel?
This innovation that actually encompasses a number of technologies (peer-to-peer networking, cryptography, among others) is not the solution to all the problems in the world. However, its use in the political process and voting mechanisms can be, for example, a good tool in the fight against electoral fraud.
Moreover, blockchain technology could inaugurate not only a new way of validating and authenticating the vote, but putting the effective exercise of power in the hands of the people (and not just on election day).
Its architecture acts as a public open-source ledger, shared, reliable, transparent.
So this allows each vote to become unchanged after being registered on the network, unlike the electronic voting systems currently in use. Basically, by casting votes as transactions in the blockchain, it is possible to monitor the ballot records and be sure that our vote was effectively computed for that candidate or that proposal.
Thus, everyone will agree with the final result of the election, because they would accompany the count of votes in real time, certifying the legitimacy of the democratic process.
Due to the transparency and audacity of the blockchain, it is possible to verify the legitimacy of those who vote, and that no vote has been changed, removed to the illegally added or added illegally.
Of course, some authorities are hesitant to support blockchain technology because of its decentralized structure, the natural risk aversion of policymakers.
Some challenges still need to be overcome, such as:
• the embryonic stage of blockchain technology;
• broadband internet access;
• the reduction of digital anafalbetismo in some countries;
• regulatory barriers;
• resistance of the political leaders who benefit from the status quo;
• and cultural resistance, including in academia .
Just like any emerging technology still in development, many questions are expected.
Even Henry Ford, in attempting to introduce the car in England, encountered obstacles, reflections of the disaster of the American bicycle. In view of the fact that these bicycles did not satisfy the needs of the English clientele, it was deduced – and this was the thinking of almost all the agents of the time – that it would not satisfy any other vehicle either.
If a full democracy liquid via blockchain will occur someday, and if it will really enable the rule of people, only time will tell.
Democracy Earth (2017). The Social Smart Contract. Available at: http://bit.ly/defpaper [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
Dominik Schiener (2015). Liquid Democracy: True Democracy for the 21st Century, Available at: https://medium.com/organizer-sandbox/liquid-democracy-true-democracy-for-the-21st-century-7c66f5e53b6f
Il sito Web della Lista Partecipata (2018). Il controlo del governo nelle mani dei cittadini (e non solo al momento dele elezioni). Available at: http://www.listapartecipata.org/ [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
OECD (2017). Embracing Innovation In Government: Global Trends. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/gov/innovative-government/embracing-innovation-in-government-colombia.pdf [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
Wikipedia. (2018). Delegative democracy. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegative_Democracy [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
Wikipedia. (2018). Delegative Democracy. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegative_democracy [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
Wikipedia. (2018). Demoex. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoex [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].
Wikipedia. (2018). Partido Pirata. [online] Available at: https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partido_Pirata [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].