A think tank run by the European Parliament recently released a discussion paper on the use of bitcoin and blockchain technology in elections, analyzing the topic through the broader lens of electronic voting.
Published on 29th September, the paper was authored by Phillip Nicholas Boucher, a researcher for the European Union Think Tank. Boucher wrote that adoption would represent a major shift in how trust is managed within the voting process, moving that kind of control "away from central actors", leading to "tech-enabled community consensus".
The question, as the paper presents it, is whether the technology could be leveraged to provide either piecemeal or wholesale changes to existing voting systems, including those already operating via digital means.
The European Parliament isn't alone in weighed the concept.
The bitcoin option
The paper goes on to speculate about what form a blockchain-based voting system might look like, suggesting that the bitcoin blockchain could be preferable over something entirely new and untested.
"One way of developing BEV systems for e-voting is to create a new, bespoke system, designed to reflect the specific characteristics of the election and electorate," Boucher wrote. "A second approach that may be cheaper and easier is to 'piggyback', running the election on a more established blockchain, such as that used by the virtual currency, bitcoin."
There are risks, according to Boucher. Perhaps most notable is the need to maintain voter anonymity – what he called "a crucial element of democratic participation".
That kind of individual privacy, he wrote, could become complicated in a wholly digitized environment, particularly within one that is at least somewhat managed by a third party.
Boucher concludes by pointing to efforts in e-voting throughout Europe. More effort, however, would be needed before widespread blockchain voting ever became possible.
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