US Congress Considers Blockchain Voting Amid COVID-19

The US Congress plans to develop a blockchain-based system to allow remote Senate voting during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

04 May, 2020 | AtoZ Markets – The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the ability of the US Congress to meet and deliberate. It has forced rethinking the functioning of the US national legislature in times of crisis. A memo revealed that the US Congress is considering using blockchain technology as a means for the Senate to conduct remote voting. 

The note highlighted the two main areas that any applicable technology should address: authentication and encryption. If the technology used for Senate voting, it must ensure that only real senators vote and that outside attackers cannot disrupt the process. The report says the blockchain can be deployed alongside end-to-end encrypted applications, or E2EE, to facilitate voting. 

Voting as a blockchain use case has been around for years, and some decentralized protocols and communities are currently using chain mechanisms for governance decisions. But the path to its potential application in the public sector has been fraught with pitfalls, drawing its share of criticism.

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Senate Considers DLT Voting Contingency

The document indicates that the two chambers of Congress have always “met in-person to carry out their work. It includes committee hearings, floor deliberation and votes”, stressing that “neither of the two chambers has emergency plans to allow these functions to take place remotely. “

The Senate staff memo states that through an encrypted distributed ledger, “the blockchain voting can both safely cast a vote and verify the correct ballot. These features have been used to argue in favour of the effectiveness of blockchain voting systems.

“The blockchain can provide a secure and transparent environment for transactions and recording of all votes,” said the memo. “It also reduces the risk of incorrect vote counting,” added the document. Congress also notes that blockchain systems already deployed in the context of voting. The 2019 parliamentary elections in Estonia saw 44% of the votes cast online.

The Senate is unlikely to adopt blockchain voting technology as a solution soon. The idea of remote voting remains controversial, mainly because the legislative process is based on personal contact and deliberations. And while some congressional leaders seem open to the concept of remote voting, progress on this front may be slow.

Nevertheless, this memo is a notable example of how ideas around technology, blockchain or not. It could reshape the functioning of Congress in the wake of this national health crisis.

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