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U.S Senate Mulls the Possibility of a Blockchain-Based Voting System 

With the coronavirus pandemic still in full effect, several members of the United States Congress have proposed ways to continue working. It would appear that blockchain could have a role to play in that. 

Earlier this week, reports confirmed that Congress was working on implementing a blockchain-based system that would allow Senators to cast their votes remotely.

A Coronavirus-Forced Innovation 

The reports swirled after the release of a 29-page memo, which posited that Senate members could deploy blockchain in line with end-to-end encrypted applications. With theses, Senators could cast votes on bills and others from their homes.

Like every other aspect of American life, the coronavirus has also significantly affected the Senate. Two Republican lawmakers, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, announced that they would go into self-isolation months ago after they attended the Conservative Political Action Conference. An attendee had tested positive, and the Senators chose the course of action to protect themselves. 

In the weeks since then, several other Congress members announced that they had shown coronavirus symptoms. To help reduce the likelihood of contagion, Congress entered into an extended recess at the end of March, with lawmakers forced to work from home.

Given the importance of the country’s legislative arm, however, it is now necessary to find a way to work around an inability to meet. Hence, the potential for blockchain to help. The new memo was drafter after the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ Roundtable on Continuity of Senate Operations and Remote Voting in Times of Crisis event. 

The document highlighted that the two chambers of Congress have always met in-person to conduct business and attend hearings. However, none of them had thought about developing a contingency should in case an event like this happens.

A Forerunner for Online Voting Projects

It adds that blockchain can use its encrypted distributed ledger to transmit a vote and verify it – the same benefits that many have touted while arguing for blockchain-based voting systems. 

“Blockchain can provide a secure and transparent environment for transactions and a tamper-free electronic record of all the votes,” the memo states. “It also reduces the risks of incorrect vote tallies,” the document adds.

At the same time, staffers were also acutely aware of the potential for 51 percent attacks, which threaten the reliability of blockchains. Assuming that there could be a way to protect against these attacks and other possible bugs, staffers were optimistic that a blockchain-based voting platform for Senators could work. 

It’s worth noting that implementing such a system could serve as a harbinger for possible online voting systems. There have been increased discussions about the viability of such a platform, especially since several countries have successfully implemented them. 

Last year, Estonia conducted parliamentary elections where between 40 to 45 percent of the votes were cast online. Given the benefits that online voting could have in terms of convenience and ease of verification, this could be a game-changer.

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