E-voting and advantage of distributed over centralized data base
Today where most of the process are on digital path but still the most important process for any democratic country which is “voting” is carried out manually and hasn’t seen the digital side yet.
Going Digital way;
Many thoughts were put and tried to make the process remotely available, but e-voting system would leave elections vulnerable to cyber attacks from foreign intelligence agencies, criminal organizations, our own political partisans, or even lone anonymous hackers. Any such attackers might silently, remotely, and undetectably spy on votes, tamper with them, discard them, and/or buy and sell them.
There are two key parts of an election, anonymity and trust; how can a voting platform that touts transparency also be secure? Cryptography protects each ballot against tampering from end to end, keeping votes anonymous and immutable though tamper-evident on the blockchain ledger.
Fall in voting turn outs;
Now coming to issue #2, over the years voting turnouts has seen a sharp drop around many countries.
Figures below show voting turnout in most of the leading democratic countries is at fall
The figures captured below are from Indian elections for previous 4 lok sabha elections.
In India the reasons can be plenty of such low turnout, but the most essential reasons and which needs to be sought out are;
- The voting list is specific to a constituency. 90 % of the youth that does not vote is away from his/her home constituency on the election day. Most of the people between age group 18-25 are studying in their college. Similarly many of the people between age group 23-35 are working in places away from their home like from where it becomes impossible to turn out on voting days within their constitution.
- Also there are 10 million NRIs which could account to an average of 18,000 votes to each of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Use of Blockchain:
Case 1 Registration:
1. One time registration within the residing constitution, with the necessary identification details of the voter.
2. Along the identification details, the voter will be prompted for biometric validation, which will be linked to the voters id.
3. Residence proof of the current constitution in pre-defined format set by the authorizing committee. The days of residence can be validated by a smart contract against the existing parameter. e.g. in order to be permitted to vote in the said constituency the voter should be residing in the constituency over a period of 6 months or more.
4. Before the finalizing of the information, the voter is shown the details (avoiding any discrepancies) and after confirmation the digital record created is passed through for nodal verification.
5. Upon successful validation of the residence proof, identification document and biometric details the voters digital record would be registered on the blockchain.
6. Finally the voter would receive an voting card containing a barcode/ QR code (blockchain id in an encrypted format).
Case 2 Updating the constitution:
1. If the voter moves to different constitution, he/ she can upload a new residency proof in a set format.
2. Once the document is uploaded on the registration site, the document would be validated against the set parameters.
3. If validation is successful the voters constitution will be updated, if not he/she can still continue to cast vote for the previous constitution.
Case 3 Voting process:
The current voting process has many disadvantages, to name a few; on the day of voting, the voter has to validate his/her identity at the polling booth by an volunteer manually before proceeding to vote and if the name isnt available on the list, the voter needs to proceed to a different booth and carry out the same process.
Use of Blockchain:
1. On the day of the voting, as the data is available at different nodes the voter can walk into any polling booth. Thus removing the dependency of walking to polling booth specific to voter constituency.
2. Along with the barcode scanning and additional level of biometric validation would help to uniquely identify the voter. This will ensure the elimination of manual verification process of the voter details, which can be tedious, unorganized and confusing.
3. After successful validation the voters constituency would be identify and the list of candidates pertaining to it would be displayed.
4. Once the vote is cast, the digitally encrypted vote (minus voters personal details) would be pushed to the constituency (nearest) node.
5. Voters details would also be updated for the said election, to make sure the voter doesnt duplicates his/ her vote.
The advantage of distributed database rather than a centralized is, data would be available on different nodes (say one per constituency) which will not lead to any bottle necks, also data can therefore be verified and processed independently by multiple nodes, with the blockchain acting as a consensus mechanism to ensure those nodes stay in sync. Increase in throughput, if volume of operation goes beyond the capacity at a particular node, the system can point to a different node for that particular transaction. Reduce in latency, so process running in a constituency in Mumbai need not wait for from data base in Delhi.
This process will not only ensure that the turn out percentage sees an increase but also no proxy voting is carried out.
Why distributed database should be preferred over centralized;
In a distributed database every node processes every transaction, so no individual node is crucial to the database as a whole. Similarly, nodes connect to each other in a dense peer-to-peer fashion, so many communication links can fail before things grind to a halt. The blockchain ensures that nodes which went down can always catch up on transactions they missed.
Comparing with a centralized data base; a primary database runs on high-end hardware which is monitored closely for problems, with transactions replicated to a backup system in a different physical location. If the primary database fails, activity is automatically moved over to the backup, which becomes the new primary. Once the failed system is fixed, it’s lined up to act as the new backup if and when necessary. While all this is doable, it’s expensive and notoriously difficult to get right.
The core value of a blockchain is enabling a database to be directly shared across boundaries of trust, without requiring a central administrator. This is possible because blockchain transactions contain their own proof of validity and their own proof of authorization, instead of requiring some centralized application logic to enforce those constraints. Transactions can therefore be verified and processed independently by multiple “nodes”, with the blockchain acting as a consensus mechanism to ensure those nodes stay in sync.
Lets say, if an organization controls an important database, it also needs a bunch of people (DBA’s) and processes in place to prevent that database being tampered with. People need hiring, processes need to be designed, and all this takes a great deal of time and money. On the other hand blockchains offer a way to replace these organizations with a distributed database, locked down by clever cryptography.
Please feel free to leave any suggestions, comments on the above write up.
Shree has a rich consulting and technical experience in Fintech Domain. He is currently working with Altimetrik as Lead Consultant (Fin Tech and Domain R&D). Previously he successfully served in big MNCs like ANZ and TCS.