Vote-coins: Secure and direct electronic democracy By Hector Franco and Kevin Sheehan. When democracy was originated, human communities were small enough to gather all free citizens in one place and vote i.e. direct democracy. As communities grow into large states, local gatherings were not a viable action, and so local citizens were elected to represent their community i.e. representative democracy. Now, with the massive spread of the internet it is possible for each citizen to vote on every law or decision at our parliament i.e. new direct democracy. A variation of this new direct democracy is liquid democracy. Where citizens who don’t know how to vote or can’t afford to spend their time learning about political matters, can leave that decision to their elected local representative. This has the advantages of both representative and direct democracy. The main problem with liquid democracy is the same infrastructure as direct democracy. This could be solved with reliable electronic voting, but here is the main concern about electronic voting: “Electronic voting can’t be trusted, anyone could hack the system and change the votes, and no one will notice, and even the most secure systems could be implemented defective by corrupt programmers.” Miscounting votes with the intention to change the electoral results seems to be the main fear. So the next question is: which qualities should an electronic voting system have for us to trust that system more than manual counting? I’m going to suggest the following list: 1. The software has to be secure against hacker attacks 2. It should be possible to verify that the government is using the agreed software and not a variation of it. 3. The hardware has to be secured to prevent hacker attacks, and should be resistant to have some of its servers compromised. 4. The source code of the system should be open to everyone for auditing and verification. 5. The votes should be public so everyone can recount them. 6. Any participant should be able to verify their own vote. 7. The system can’t be owned by any company or government. 8. And optionally voters can keep their vote anonymously. This list may seem utopian, but this article suggests that using the Bitcoins system can not only provide a voting system that satisfies all seven security issues required for a system to be acceptable for government elections but also could enable liquid democracy, a model in which each citizen could vote for every decision or let their trusted representative to vote on their behalf when they are ambivalent or uninterested in the decision. Bitcoin works by broadcasting transactions, once a transaction is accepted all computers of the bitcoin network have a copy of that transaction, which is necessary to process further transactions. A bitcoin transaction has the facility to carry a message, and votes could be broadcasted this way as part of a bitcoin transaction, this detail could solve most of the security issues: Many people already trust the security of the bitcoin network with their own money. Citizens would know the government is using the bitcoin network because it is public and they broadcast the votes and count them using this channel. Any attempt to change the votes via hacking the hardware to the computers supporting the voting system would have to hack most of the computers supporting the bitcoin network all around the world or steal the keys to the bitcoin accounts to broadcast the votes. It is important to note that anyone with the capability for hacking the system in this manner would be capable of becoming rich by stealing the bitcoins themselves. The source code of bitcoins is open for everyone to inspect. Anyone in the world can count the votes independently, of any election every taken by extracting the votes and counting them from the bitcoin network. Voters could verify their vote by checking their vote on the bitcoin chain, this could be done with a different device than the one used for voting, as long as they know the bitcoin account they used to broadcast the vote. The bitcoin network is not owned by a government or a company, but completely autonomous. Keeping the votes anonymous is slightly complicated on the bitcoin network, from this point I’m going to call the right to vote a “vote-coin”, like a bit coin it is virtual and can be transferred between accounts. Other virtual currency networks like zero-coin allow users to transfer coins (virtual tokens) from one account to another in a completely anonymous way, but those systems are not yet as popular as bitcoin. With bit-coin a possibility is to allow the voting devices of the citizens to automatically match each other in pairs and broadcast a single transaction in which their pair of vote-coins is transferred to a new pair of bit-coin wallets, for which external observers do not know who own’s each of the bitcoin addresses, of course the odds are 50-50 for a new account to belong to one citizen or the other, but if this process is repeated multiple times, the identity of the voters can be anonymized.
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