Online voting’s future brighter?

The Swiss city of Zug has declared its experiment in blockchain-based voting (Trends Journal, July 2018) a success.

Because it was a test, the vote didn’t elect any officials. The result wasn’t binding, because the ballot only asked for opinions — about whether “voters” found the process easy, and if they would pay city taxes via smartphone, for example. But the trial run gave evidence that blockchain voting works.

Zug residents were able to register with the city’s e-identity system, then download a voting app to their smartphones. Of the 240 people who registered, 72 voted — a 30 percent “turnout,” higher than most U.S. municipal elections.

Most who voted reported that they found the process easy.

Over the next several months, Zug officials will analyze the results to see if votes were recorded accurately, and whether the blockchain can be hacked.

Other Swiss blockchain fans aren’t waiting.

The Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne is making its blockchain voting system available to municipalities now. And the Swiss government is moving ahead with plans to shift national elections to blockchain-based e-voting in the near future.

Recently, Sierra Leone’s presidential election was monitored by a blockchain, furnished by Agora, a Swiss foundation devoted to “digital democracy.” However, the country’s paper ballots still had to be counted by hand, under the watchful eyes of observers, and then entered into a blockchain for final results.

In developing nations, where elections are notoriously corrupt, Sierra Leone’s experiment could be a step toward protecting the integrity of the vote.

Perhaps surprisingly, Moscow has become a leader in local blockchain-based voting. Its “Active Citizen” program has drawn residents into questions usually decided by officials. Typically, however, the issues being decided aren’t consequential, such as the naming of a new subway stop.

Pricewaterhouse Cooper, the international accounting firm, audited the Russian blockchain and certified it as hack-proof by city officials.

Moscow also has debuted a “Digital Home” blockchain, allowing residents of high-rise buildings to vote on issues, such as whether to replace a building manager.

The US isn’t being left behind in blockchain voting.

In May, West Virginia allowed residents of two counties stationed overseas in the military to use their smartphones to send primary election ballots to a blockchain. The service was supplied by Voatz, a Boston company. If the experiment is judged a success, the state will consider allowing all military residents overseas to vote via blockchain, in November’s mid-term elections.

In many US states, blockchain voting has been proposed. Alec Ross, a former State Department technology policy advisor ran for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s governor in June. “I’m running for governor,” he said, “and I believe in the blockchain.” He got only 2%. But blockchain voting is winning converts globally. TJ


As we have forecast, blockchain-based digital democracy will continue to spread worldwide, fueled by anxiety about “voter fraud,” and well documented international hacking.

The integrity of democratic institutions, in developing countries and in the West, is at stake. The younger generation, for whom digital voting is a routine aspect of their lives, is accepting of innovative technologies such as blockchain to restore integrity in the ballot box. 

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