Bitcoin's Blockchain Tech Could Be the Answer to Voter Fraud

The technology promises to be a secure and efficient way of confirming voter ID.


Michael Scott

Several states have recently tightened their voting protocols, often by requiring people to show a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. Such laws reduce the likelihood of election fraud, but they also come with a cost: Millions of Americans lack government-issued photo ID. According to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, perhaps as many as 11 percent of eligible voters.

The percentage is higher for women, minorities, seniors, students, the disabled, and the poor. That's one reason the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled in August that Texas' voting requirements had a discriminatory effect on blacks and Hispanics, a decision ratified last week by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. To avoid violating the Voting Rights Act, the courts decided, the state must find a way to help voters who face hardships in securing identification.

Many of the people who have trouble obtaining government IDs do already have smartphones. A report by Pew Research Center stating that "roughly three-quarters of Americans now own a smartphone, with lower-income Americans and those ages 50 and older exhibiting a sharp uptick in ownership over the past year." Pew also reported an astonishing 12-point increase in smartphone ownership in 2016 among households earning less than $30,000 per year, to 64 percent of that population.

Enter the blockchain, the technology that undergirds the digital currency Bitcoin.

The blockchain is a decentralized data storage system that facilitates a public ledger of transactions. This ledger can manage a wide range of functions, including personal identification data and ballot storage. All blockchain transactions are verified and cryptographically signed to ensure security, immutability, and anonymity.

The hope is that this technological improvement could serve as a more efficient way of confirming personal identity while mitigating all-too-common voting system vulnerabilities tied to mistakes and fraud.

Amid the rancor surrounding voter IDs, there has been a growing interest interest in a blockchain-based concept known as "self-sovereign ID." Voters could store their identity data on their devices, easily providing identity information to those who need to validate it without relying on the government or any other third-party intermediary.

Armin Ebrahimi, CEO of ShoCard, a blockchain-based data and facial recognition firm, says: "When an individual safely creates a self-certification record on the blockchain and digitally signs that record with a private key that belongs only to them, they can establish ownership of that record. An authoritative certifier can then verify that the individual's record before confirming it on the blockchain."

Ebrahimi goes on to note that in addition to a person's record containing government ID and other information, it can also have a hash of their biometrics (such as facial image). That person can then go to any third party, share their digital ID and certification records, and have their record ownership confirmed utilizing what the authoritative parties have certified through the private keys. In other words, the individual determines who gains access to their digital information, for the purposes of voting or otherwise.

While this model shows promise, it nevertheless take us back to the knotty issue discussed earlier, namely, if the person does not have a government IDs, is there another way to verify their identity?

Here's a thought: A number of credit issuers and banks have online systems for confirming one's identity based on a series of multiple choice questions about their past history scrubbed from public records. While it can be alarming for some users that an analytic tool knows so much about their past, this technique demonstrates that a private firm can do as good, if not a better job as a government issuer, of capturing someone's identity—without taking recourse to government-issued paper such as birth certificates or social security cards.

Bottom line, if the person's identification can be properly certified, the barrier of voting can be made easier and less problematic. The innovative use of the blockchain shows promise in terms of creating a more viable voting process that mitigates concern about voter access and fraud.

Michael Scott is Las Vegas–based journalist focusing on blockchain and digital currencies.

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  1. If you can’t take the effort or afford to get a state id, free in most states, then you sure as hell won’t have a smart phone to use this new tech with. BTW the idea that they can’t afford or difficulty getting an id is pure BS its just an excuse to allow voter fraud on behalf of certain candidates

    1. Smartphones are available basically 24/7 at a wide variety of both physical and online retailers that are easily accessible by anyone living in even moderately populated areas.

      State IDs are issued by a single agency whose few scattered locations are open only when most people are at work. They make you fill out complicated forms and wait in long lines to get something that isn’t actually that valuable.

    2. Eh. I don’t care for the idea of government-issued IDs at all. It’s bad enough that companies foolishly use things like SSNs and dates of birth for ‘security’, but we also have to deal with the fact that the government requires IDs for everything. This is far from ideal. I don’t care enough about voter fraud to support voter ID laws.

  2. Here’s a thought: A number of credit issuers and banks have online systems for confirming one’s identity based on a series of multiple choice questions about their past history scrubbed from public records.

    You mean like Equifax?

    Muh blockchain!!

  3. How about we not focus on mitigating “concern” over voter fraud, as that concern is entirely manufactured for cynical anti-democratic purposes?

    1. We should be worried about all those russians instead.

      1. Funny how assuming voter fraud exists and that Russian hacking was a hoax both help out Republicans.

        1. Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party, Tony? Don’t wait for the translation, answer me now!

          p.s. Funmy how democrats aren’t really all that worried about election integrity (see Chicago, IL).

          1. The word “Chicago” is like the ultimate trump card to you people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told Chicago is an anarchic hellscape of neverending race wars by people who’ve obviously never been to Chicago. And one corrupt political machine at one point in history does not absolve currently serving Republicans for their anti-democratic efforts, as you would know if you weren’t licking their fucking boots so much.

            1. You sound like someone who has no local knowledge of Illinois or Chicago corruption.

              It is an anarchic hellscape in a pretty fair portion of the town.

              Its corrupt political machine did not exist at one point in history. It has existed for decades and is still in control to this day.

              The machine controls not only the City and Cook County, but also exercises a significant level of control over the entire State of Illinois through Speaker Mike Madigan (and also state party chairman) and his ability as Speaker to prevent legislation he doesn’t want passed from ever seeing a floor vote.

              Thats to say nothing about all the tens of thousands of people who have city or state government jobs who got those jobs through the patronage system.

              1. Chicago’s not my favorite place, but you can walk down the street in most areas and not get murdered, and the point is it’s a complete distraction from the point, which is I suppose the point.

                1. So, something along the lines of Lenin was a conservationist and sex behind the Iron Curtain was great, right?

            2. Actually it’s just a wonderfully consistent example of corrupt democrat machines that survives to this day. But then again you didn’t get the other references I made so I’m not surprised that you missed this one as well.

              1. What are you talking about? I know it is your right to be high, or it should be at least…but are you high right now?

    2. Voter suppression is just as manufactured as voter fraud. Both are statistical non-issues. People who want to vote will vote. People who don’t care will not vote. This “well maybe it’s too hard to vote” is BS. If valid voters were being turned away from polls or being prevented from voting do you not think we could be hearing from them? Do you not think the media and Democrats would be parading around these poor patriotic Americans who wanted to vote but couldn’t?

      Felon voting rights is the only issue with merit here.

      1. Hard to quantify how many people choose not to vote because they don’t have the time or don’t feel like standing in line for many hours because Republican assholes have shut down precincts in “certain” areas.

      2. One of them is manufactured and one happens in every election.

  4. The percentage is higher for women, minorities, seniors, students, the disabled, and the poor.

    Those groups literally make up like 90% of the country.

    1. “Everybody but middle class able-bodied white men between the ages of 22 and 65.”


  6. Voters could store their identity data on their devices, easily providing identity information to those who need to validate it…

    And to keep lost or stolen devices from becoming a problem, the blockchain chip could be implanted in your wrist or your forehead, to be easily scanned whenever you want to buy or sell anything, amirite?

  7. Blockchain? Passing a civic literacy test should be mandatory for voting. While I personally favor a top 90-99th percentile threshold for passing, in the interests of “democracy” we could allow the top 50th to vote.

    1. No, no. Authoritarians should not be allowed to vote at all. Support mass surveillance? Strike one, you’re out. Support the Unpatriotic Act? Strike one, you’re out. Support preemptive warfare? Strike one, you’re out. What could possibly go wrong?

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