Designing a Bitcoin-based Voting System

Bitcoin – a decentralized electric currency system released in 2009 – has inspired all sorts of tech possibilities at PartyX. The Bitcoin system uses peer-to-peer networking, digital signatures and cryptographic proof to enable irreversible transactions without relying on trust – rather, records of all transactions are recorded on a public history, called a blockchain.

We see strong potential that this technology could be applied to online voting. Here’s what it has to offer:

1. Secrecy/Control over private information:

The user decides who can see their voting information, when and how clearly. For example, they may publish their voting data on a specific issue through a trust network they have defined, and they may cancel this access and change their vote. They might have the option to ‘blur’ it; that is, so that it can only be seen by others in a group of 10 other votes or within a certain degree of accuracy, for example. They might do this so that they can enter a collective of people who have agreed to share a similar level of information with each other.

Default is always privacy – or better yet, privacy is a required field. Because the settings might be complex, people might use Ethelo to set their privacy settings, by relying upon privacy settings published by other trusted participants. If a default trust group is required to determine the default settings, that group could be “everyone,” or “everyone who has personally set their privacy settings.”

Information setting out levels of access for personal information may need to be set out in a separate blockchain from the one that holds the voting information. In this case, a query will have to first access the personal information blockchain in order to do certain types of analysis on the vote blockchain.

Anyone can access their own vote, and change it up until the deadline, if there is one. It may be good to offer a second channel of verification if some key information is changed, example SMS cellphone. For example, I will get a text message exactly ten minutes after I log off asking me to confirm I just made changes.

During a period before the deadline, it may be important that votes cannot be revealed to anyone else through any networks. This setting would need to be established when the decision is set up. So, if other people are relying on me, my vote “freezes” as far as they are concerned eg. three hours before the vote. This prevents vote-buying, because it can’t be confirmed that someone didn’t change their vote at the last minute.

It is simple to enforce a voting deadline; anyone can just make a copy of the blockchain at that time. The blockchain might carry a timestamp. If people agree on what the blockchain was at a certain time, that’s what it was.

2. Use existing bitcoin encryption miners.

We design the bitvote/votecoin system so that it can easily plug into the existing bitcoin miner network for encryptions and decryptions. Computer power would be paid for in terms of bitcoins, for whatever a similar amount of computing would earn in terms of bitcoins. This means that there would necessarily be a charge for use of the votecoin/bitvote network. Basically, bitcoins will be the currency that drives this collective decision-making process.

3. Auditability

Anyone can throw the vote blockchain at the Ethelo API to calculate the results.

4. Convertibility

This system would allow influence to be convertible between decision processes… if the two decision processes consent and an influence exchange rate is agreed upon. In this way, we will be treating bitvotes like a currency.

For example, two environmental organizations whose mandates closely overlap may decide to join forces. It is difficult under non-profit law for societies to merge, as there is not an asset like a corporation, which allows consolidation of ownership. However, if both organizations are using Ethelo to consult with their members about direction, and that membership is overlapping to some extent, it makes sense that they merge their decision-making process. If one is vastly bigger than another, they could do this by agreeing on an influents exchange level for the members.

February 13th, 2012 | | 0 Comments