US Postal Service Envisions Blockchain-Backed Mail-In Voting

Whether the USPS intends to experiment with its mail-in voting system was unclear Thursday.

AccessTimeIconAug 13, 2020 at 8:19 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 9:43 a.m. UTC

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has moved to patent a novel vote-by-mail elections system secured with blockchain technology.

  • An application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and filed by USPS on Feb. 7 envisions combining the "dependability and security" of the USPS with blockchain "to prevent tampering" of electronic ballots.
  • Saying in the filing that voters want a "convenient" means to access the polls, USPS offers a number of different methods to accomplish this objective.
  • Among the various "embodiments" include: mailing out token-linked QR codes; distributing scannable paper passcodes to a digital voting system; storing voter identification on the blockchain; storing electronic voting signatures on the blockchain; and storing the votes themselves on the blockchain.
  • Whether any of these proposals could bolster mail-in ballot security or avoid the pitfalls security researchers routinely lob at existing blockchain-backed voting systems was unclear at press time.
  • Also unclear was the Postal Service's intentions for the patent. A USPS press officer did not immediately respond to questions on whether or when USPS would actually test its methods.
  • Any change to the United States' patchwork voting systems would almost certainly proceed down to the state and county level.
  • Forbes first reported the news, which comes at the height of a rhetorical standoff between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and the very concept of secure mail-in voting. Trump claims secure mail-in voting to be all but impossible.

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