Electoral democracy and integrity are indispensable facets of any democratic
nation and for a voter's trust and liability. Democracy is a governance system
in which sovereign power is entrusted with the people. The people periodically
exercise this power directly or indirectly through a practice of representation
by free and fair elections which is termed Electoral Democracy.
Setting that aside, it is no news that the world is constantly reminded that
India is the largest democracy. Our democracy appears to be the highest accolade
India has any claim to. Paradoxically, this same badge is used as a shield for
deflecting all criticism directed against India for much of its failures.
This is due to inadequate representation of educated public in the elections as
already stated. The reason for the powerlessness of educated urban people is to
some extent due to them being a minority. They are disenfranchised and to a
large extent this disenfranchisement is caused by their perception that their
vote cannot matter. In essence this is voluntary disenfranchisement of the urban
voter which partially accounts for the election of undesirable people to
political office and may lead to coalition governments of undesirable political
Elections in India is adversarial and boils down to which candidate can shell
out more money. The votes of the illiterate and poor is bought and the votes of
the privileged and educated is forsaken. This is where it becomes important for
the Election Commission of India to adopt a mechanism that ensures free and fair
elections, where the votes of the poor cannot be bought and the votes of the
privileged can be protected from being neglected. One such mechanism is the
Blockchain and its interaction with Elections:
A Blockchain is a widely disseminated archive of data that maintains a
continually expanding register of records fully and reliably protected from any
alteration or modification. Each block has a timestamp and link to the preceding
In the 21st century we need an election process that is transparent, fair,
inexpensive, and convenient. Blockchain technology makes it possible to attain a
highly credible and verifiable election process at an inexpensive cost. By using
this technology, one need not venture out of one's house to vote. It can be done
on the personal device itself. Moreover, people's opinions can be routinely
sought on a host of challenging issues. This will lead to grassroot
participation by the people in the governance process.
From a government standpoint, electronic voting technologies can boost voter
participation and confidence and rekindle interest in the voting system. As an
effective means of making democratic decisions, elections have long been a
social concern. As the number of votes cast in real life increases, citizens
become more aware of the significance of the electoral system. The voting
system is the method through which people judge who will represent them in
political and corporate governance. Democracy is a system of voters to elect
representatives by voting.
Therefore, this will usher a new era of electoral democracy, where Blockchain
technology will put power back in the hands of people and not their
representatives who may be vulnerable to many shortcomings. Blockchain
technology can be used for voting. Votes can be cast as transactions. A
blockchain can be designed in such a way that it keeps track of the vote
tallies. In this manner, everybody can confirm and agree on the final count as
the votes can be counted by the voters themselves.
The voters can count the votes and confirm that the votes have been cast, but
they cannot know which party the other individual voters have voted for. They
will only get the final tally and a confirmation that those many numbers of
voters have cast their ballots. Only a voter (and the Election Commission) with
access to his or her private key will know, which party an individual voter has
Because of the Blockchain audit trail, voters can attest that no
votes were removed; changed or no illegitimate votes were added. The
transparency and discretion involved in the blockchain technology acts as a
reassurance and clears the air of speculation around the credibility of this
technology. The bigger a blockchain is, the more impossible it is to hack it,
thereby leaving less to no scope of such mishaps.
While the blockchain technology looks like a sound solution to this predicament,
it does pose a lot of questions such as:
- What about the voting rights of the poor and illiterate who don't have
access to such technologies?
- While it is difficult to hack the entire blockchain, it is quite possible to
hack the individual data and modify it. How can this be solved?
- Stealing biometric data and infecting the blockchain prior to elections are
plausible threats. How can they be overcome?
Such questions are answered in further detail in the second half of this paper.
To begin from the basics, India follows a democratic system of government and a
democracy can take several shapes and forms. One such democracies is the
representative form of democracy. As the name suggests, representative democracy
is an indirect form of democracy wherein a group of people is represented by one
single person in the Government.
Electoral democracy is a subset of representative democracy wherein the people
elect their representatives to the Parliament through exercising their statutory
right to vote. The recent trend in India however unfortunately indicates a
pattern of disinterest among people to enforce this statutory right thereby
putting the integrity of electoral democracy at stake. This fiasco nonetheless
has a solution-Blockchain.
In the recent past, India has shown some positive response towards exploring
Blockchain as possible option for remote voting. The foremost example is that of
the Telangana government, which aims at implementing an experimental run towards
an e-voting idea. It has raised a point towards building the voter's trust
towards such remote voting systems by aiming at holistic user inclusion.
May 2019, the state government published a 'Blockchain Policy Report' (BPR),
which discussed the relevancy of blockchain in a wide variety of domains,
including tax filings, voting, land registry setups, utilisation of healthcare
facilities, creation of tamper-proof voting records, registration of vehicle and
licences, fraud-proof welfare scheme disbursements, and digital identities for
individuals such as refugees, who lack government-issued identity documents.
BPR also advocated the use of biometric facial recognition technologies (FRT)
for voter identity authentication, as well as connecting the voter's phone
number and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) to voter ID for
verification in rural voting systems.
In 2020, the Election Commission conducted several discussions and
demonstrations with various state government, policy think tanks, and private
industry stakeholders to explore the idea of a nationwide remote blockchain
election system. In February 2020, it had collaborated with the Indian
Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) to develop a new technology that will
allow electors to vote from far away cities without going to the designated
polling station of their respective constituencies via a blockchain system.
ECI's collaboration with IIT-M:
One Nation One Elections is difficult to achieve it as it requires amendments of
existing laws and political consensus, said the Chief Election
Commissioner-Sunil Arora in a conversation with The Hindu. He further opined
that the Election Commission of India is working with IIT-Madras on using
Blockchain Technology for remote voting and considerable development in that
direction is expected by 2024 General Elections.
Interacting with Indian Police Service (IPS) probationers at the Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, he also said though "One Nation One
Elections" is desirable, it is difficult to achieve it as it requires amendments
of existing laws and political consensus.
"We are doing a project with IIT-Madras, Chennai, and some of the eminent
scientists. We are doing a Blockchain project. We are very hopeful by 2024 Lok
Sabha elections you will see a lot of fundamental differences the way we
(Election Commission) are working, including this (e-voting)," Sunil Arora
replied when asked if the EC is working to introduce app-based e-voting for the
convenience of citizens to vote remotely. About this collaboration, the CEC
said that "There has been a good progress in this regard and mock trials would
However, this does not mean that citizens will be able to cast votes from the
convenience of their homes, but only that they will be able to vote from other
spots and not the only designated booth.
Explaining the 'blockchain' technology involved in the project, former Senior
Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena had earlier said the concept is a "two-way electronic voting system in a controlled environment on white-listed IP
devices on dedicated Internet lines enabled with biometric devices and a web
camera". It does not mean voting from home. After a voter's identity is
established by the system, a blockchain-enabled personalised e-ballot paper will
"When the vote is cast, the ballot will be securely encrypted and a blockchain
hashtag generated. This hashtag notification will be sent to various
stakeholders, in this case the candidates and political parties," the official
said. Suppose there is a Lok Sabha election and a Chennai voter is in Delhi.
Instead of returning to vote in his or her constituency or missing out on
voting, the voter can reach a pre-designated spot set up by the EC, say in
Connaught Place, in a particular time window and can cast his vote" said former
Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena. A condition precedent to
avail this facility would be to register in such distant polling booths in
advance, prior to the date of elections in order to ensure proper and effective
implementation of this new model.
The Blockchain Model:
In the Blockchain voting system, the voter will download and install the
Blockchain Voting Program (BVP) on the mobile phone or a personal device of
A few days before the actual election, the voter will present the suitable
identity information to have their identity confirmed by the Election Commission
or the organization in-charge of hosting the election.
Once their identity is verified, the voter would be able to request their
ballot, at which point they are issued a ballot in the form of a token by the
The voter will then cast the ballot (token) and securely submit their vote(s) to
the Blockchain-based voting program. This is like transacting a token, but with
the vote cast on the Blockchain. To obtain evidence of voting, the voter will be
able to print out a receipt.
When the voting process closes on Election Day, voters may monitor their vote to
ensure that their vote was cast as they had wished-for and tallied as cast. Each
voter can also audit each vote in the ballot box.
One can satisfy oneself of the total being counted by the Blockchain Voting
Program as accurate or not. All this is done without divulging the identity of
Come to think of it, the advantages of BVP transcend government elections. A
representative or member of a nation's parliament can directly be in touch with
one's voters. The said member can put certain issued of one's constituency for
the opinion poll.
Interested voters can provide their opinion by voting using the BVP. The member
will then come to know the mood of the public in one's constituency. Based on
the poll, one can raise a particular issue in the National Assembly. These
facilities in the new model has a higher probability of securing data privacy
and achieving transparency at the same time.
Data Privacy Concerns:
Many issues with electronic voting can be solved using blockchain technology,
which makes electronic voting more cost-effective, pleasant, and safe than any
other network. Over time, research has highlighted specific problems, such as
the need for further work on blockchain-based electronic voting and that
blockchain-based electronic voting schemes have significant technical
For a small number of users, blockchain works well. However, when the network is
utilized for large-scale elections, the number of users increases, resulting in
a higher cost and time consumption for consuming the transaction. Scalability
problems are exacerbated by the growing number of nodes in the blockchain
network. In the election situation, the system's scalability is already a
significant issue. An electronic voting integration will further impact the
system's scalability based on blockchain.
It must be noted that different
metrics or properties inherent to all blockchain frameworks, present a
comparative analysis of some blockchain-based platforms such as Bitcoin,
Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, Litecoin, Ripple, Dogecoin, Peercoin, etc. One way
to enhance blockchain scaling would be to parallelize them, which is called
sharding. In a conventional blockchain network, transactions and blocks are
verified by all the participating nodes. In order to enable high concurrency in
data, the data should be horizontally partitioned into parts, each known as a
As a username, blockchain utilizes pseudonyms. This strategy does not provide
complete privacy and secrecy. Because the transactions are public, the user's
identity may be discovered by examining and analysing them. The blockchain's
functionality is not well suited to national elections consisting of an
alphanumeric code. In blockchain technology, transactional anonymity and privacy
are difficult to accomplish. However, transactional secrecy and anonymity
are required in an election system due to the presence of the transactions
involved. For this purpose, a third-party authority required but not
centralized, this third-party authority should check and balance on privacy.
Lastly, blockchain-based voting means that before the count is released, no one
can find out the details. It avoids acts such as manipulating late voters'
decisions by issuing a prediction or offering a significant yet unfair benefit
to certain persons or groups as to be the first to know. Nonetheless, upon a
thorough evaluation, one can't help but notice the downsides of implementing a
blockchain-based voting system in a country like India.
Downsides to Blockchain:
While the level of privacy and transparency seem to be remarkable, there are a
few negatives to this framework which easily convinces us to take a step back
and look at the actual effectiveness of this revolutionary idea. A primary point
to note is that the adequacy and efficacy of blockchain technology are often not
evaluated on the basis of sound theoretical and practical claims, but rather on
the intuition of trust, transparency, accountability, decentralisation, and the
guarantee of political equality in a democratic setup.
The blockchain used in
the elections would be very different from the one in current use due to the
involvement of ECI. If implemented, blockchain become a semi-centralised
institution. This would mean the data privacy assured earlier would become
vulnerable and may also make the blockchain weak and hackable.
Network attacks could also reveal where a given user was voting and potentially
suppress votes in the process. In such a case, if the blockchain displays all
the votes to be in public domain, a simple hack into the system puts thousands
of people's data at risk. As a whole, the fundamental issues that arise through
blockchain election are as follows: i) cybersecurity vulnerabilities, ii)
malware attacks by third parties. Further, the application of this system can
involve iii) vulnerable collective choice mechanisms, iv) dubious technical
safeguards, and v) geographical hurdles.
Having said this, it can be stated that blockchain technology in elections is a
double-edged sword and one needs to ponder upon whether there are additional
complications that arise out of the same.
Blockchain voting around the world:
The first use of blockchain voting technology happened in Denmark when the
Danish Liberal Alliance used a blockchain voting system to conduct an internal
vote in April 2014 during its annual meeting. Furthermore, Blockchain
Technologies Corporation used the VoteWatcher system on at least two separate
occasions to count votes at the Libertarian Party Conventions in the United
The first time was in April 2016 at the Party Convention in San Antonio,
Texas. The second time happened at the Libertarian Convention in New York
City in May 2016. Additionally, Rand Paul, the Libertarian presidential
candidate in the 2016 elections has spoken favourably aboutblockchain and
bitcoin in the past. In February of 2016, Ukraine and the United States signed a
memorandum to develop an Ethereum-based voting system, platform). Russia
also announced in April 2016 that it had developed and successfully tested a
blockchain-based proxy voting system.
The benefits of blockchain voting are so plentiful that blockchain voting will
inevitably become more and more common throughout the world. To accelerate that
process, political parties in different countries must continue to push for
wider adoption of the technology and make it clear that this is not in the
interest of any one party but of the democratic government as a whole.
Additionally, general wider adoption of blockchain technology in various
industries will make the technology more well-known and increase the chances of
such system being used throughout the world. Finally and most importantly,
governments must be willing to improve the democratic process in their
respective countries and put the people's will first as a democracy is only as
strong as the ability of its people's voice to be heard.
Elections these days involve a large amount of money, manpower, resources and
time. In the process, the administration and day-to-day lives of people are
affected. Moreover, elections can be manipulated and voters can be coerced to
vote against their will. Many a times, the credibility of the election process
itself is questionable. In such a scenario, we need an election process that is
transparent, fair, inexpensive and convenient.
Blockchain technology makes it possible to attain a highly credible and
verifiable election process at an inexpensive cost. The amount of money saved by
using BVP will be immense. There will be minimal wastage of time, money,
manpower and space. Democracy will not only be feasible, but will be affordable
too. Elections, a costly festival of Democracy, will become a routine activity
of the future if mobile voting through BVP is introduced.
Election activity will be so inexpensive, that governments may automatically opt
for Democracy through mobile voting. Africa and other developing Nations,
experiencing a chaotic hotbed of strife due to poverty, will be able to stand on
their feet, as affordable Democracy can be ushered in.
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