Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky’s new blockchain-based Polys voting machines marks a different direction in the growing field of blockchain-based voting—into the voting booth.
Companies like Voatz, Votem, and SecureVote have held several successful trial runs in local U.S. elections of their secure smartphone app-based blockchain systems over the past two years, showing that the systems can work.
Kaspersky’s physical device, for use in polling stations, complements its own blockchain-based, mobile Polys online voting platform.
“From speaking to our customers, we understand the issues and inconvenience they face when organizing paper-based voting,” said Roman Aleshkin, Polys’ head of product, in a release. “[E]-voting can solve some of these issues, allowing more possibilities for remote participation and even increasing turnout of younger voters. However, if physical polling stations were to be closed completely, it would deprive and alienate certain groups of people from taking part in an election and making their voice heard.”
The Polys voting machines, he added, “allow citizens to vote using the method they prefer, in a convenient and transparent way.”
Security and convenience
The idea of putting votes on an immutable blockchain has come up after several years of frequent complaints of voter fraud concerns, largely by Republicans.
While several studies have found virtually no instances of actual voter fraud—the Brennan Center for Justice’s “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth” found incident rates between 0.0004% and 0.00009%—the idea of securing votes on a blockchain was also picked up by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He made it part of his Modernize Voting policy plank.
Polys and other blockchain-based voting systems use multiple nodes—presumably including ones maintained by candidates and political parties—to decentralize vote information. This would provide an immutable “paper” trail.
After authenticating themselves using ID documents, voters would receive a QR code or other token which the Polys machines can scan. Voters would be able to use the mobile app to check that their vote was registered without revealing their name and chosen candidate, Kaspersky said.
The broader Polys system has been tested in several small non-political elections. One of these was the Asia Pacific Spine Society, which used it in a board election open to 59,000 members in 40 countries, according to Kaspersky.
Kaspersky quoted APSS secretary Jenny Wong as saying Polys made the vote easy to run and manage while cutting costs. “The results could be easily shared with members as soon as the election closed,” Wong said. “The security and transparency aspects of Polys make it possible for organizations to run fair and unbiased elections.”