• Eric Waisanen

Privacy-Preserving Blockchain Voting

It’s disheartening in the information age that current voting systems do not fully utilize the technological advances that have revolutionized many other industries. The current systems should be much faster and cheaper than what we’re witnessing. The lack of trust makes a solution even more necessary. Alarming reports are coming from ongoing audits, such as an alleged 72,000 mail-in ballots in Maricopa County that were received but not mailed out. Whether you believe the election to be accurate, or the audit to be sufficiently exposing fraud, we should all agree that we shouldn’t have to rely on trust in this day and age.

A proposed solution for this democracy-threatening problem is the use of blockchain voting. Blockchains are distributed ledgers that allow for verifiable, auditable, and immutable transfer of data. It is near impossible to hack or restructure well-built blockchains such as Bitcoin, and the codes are usually open-sourced. Open source code is a powerful concept that relies on transparency rather than hiding code from the public. In the case of public blockchains, having the code visible on the internet means that the public can confirm the blockchain’s security and reliability. Voting has been possible on the blockchain since shortly after its inception in 2008 with Bitcoin. Using this technology as a means of governance for decentralized systems is not a novel notion, shown recently when the USPS reserved a patent on a blockchain voting system in 2020.

Blockchain voting is not without drawbacks. Up until this point the use of blockchains has only temporarily masked users’ data through pseudonymous addresses. Once an address is doxxed and a user’s identity is tied to it, they then expose all past, current, and future dealings with blockchain interactions. For example, when Mark Cuban won an auction for an NFT (collectible) and publicly acknowledged his purchase, his wallet address was doxxed. Therefore, his address was connected to his name and people were easily able to decipher everything he had bought, owned, and traded. While this is already dangerous enough within fiscal dealings, here it equates to a lack of voter privacy, something imperative to the integrity of the election process.

Our voting system is founded on the idea that people should be able to vote for their favorite candidates and policies with their anonymity preserved. Privacy enables protection from potential ridicule or harassment from opposing individuals. This is something shown to be integral as recently as the 2016 election in which the reporting polls showed data vastly different than the election results. This discrepancy strongly suggests that many people who privately favored President Trump were scared to publicly admit it. While many hope on theoretical solutions that might never exist or become pragmatic, one privacy-preserving, provably accurate solution is already here.

Secret Network is a public blockchain which enables smart-contracts whose data is private by default. Since the blockchain itself is public and open-sourced, Secret Network is readily auditable, but applications built upon it will conceal user data. SEFI, the governance token of the Secret Swap decentralized exchange, will engage in stereotypical on-chain governance. Due to the private by default nature of the Secret Network smart contracts, made possible through Trusted Enclaves in collaboration with Intel SGX hardware, the wallet addresses of those who engage in this voting will be permanently masked from all parties. Transparency can be pre-programmed to verify analytics and further ensure authenticity in voting amounts while keeping the user data private. Essentially, this ensures a provably secure and accurate election.

Implications of this technology immediately impact blockchain governance throughout the cryptosphere, but eventually broaden out to local and national elections. Though it’ll clearly take time and legislation to address the technicalities of implementation, the fact that this technology actually exists means that there’s hope for election processes to evolve with the times. There is now a template for how they can be made secure, efficient, trusted, and far less costly to taxpayers.

If you want to learn more about Secret Network and better understand the technology enabling this novel development, read more here: https://scrt.network/blog/sefi-governance-live-mainnet-private-voting

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