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Blockchain: A Lesson in Obfuscation

By Jim Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science

One can hardly throw a brick in Silicon Valley these days without hitting the CEO of a new blockchain startup. Whether it be cyber security, supply chain management, voting, or most anything else, it doesn’t matter what the question is. The answer is blockchain.

As the characters in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy discovered, knowing the ultimate answer isn’t much good without knowing the question. But there is no question associated with blockchain. Instead, the enthusiasm and hype around a hopelessly flawed technology leads us to another Theranos moment, when hope, enthusiasm, and vision bring us to the point of committing fraud on the non-technical public. We should know better.

Let me be clear that I’m not talking about some of the individual ideas behind blockchain. Having a public ledger that can’t be changed by using cryptographic hashing functions may be useful; it has been well known (under the name of a Merkel chain) for a considerable period of time.

New book about positive voting reforms: Vote for US - the People

This blog originally appeared on Rick Hasen's, Election Law Blog [https://electionlawblog.org/?p=104599] on April 9, 2019.
 
By Joshua Douglas

The following is the first of three guest posts by University of Kentucky Law Professor Josh Douglas about his new book, Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting:

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The book is called Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting. It tells some truly inspiring stories of everyday Americans who are working in communities all over the country to fix our election system. In the process, the book advocates for various reforms to our democracy that are already seeing success in numerous local and state elections. And it highlights lot of amazing organizations that are taking on these efforts.

Today I’ll focus on a few of the people I profile in the book – the Democracy Champions in communities all over who are at the forefront of improvements to state and local democracy.

Blockchain Voting: Unwelcome Disruption or Senseless Distraction?

By Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO, U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote

It really gets old being a guinea pig. Not because of the cagey confines, but for the insistence of those who try their ideas out on you. Overseas and military voters continue to be the guinea pigs for unvetted online voting ideas, the new one being “blockchain voting”. We have been here before.

Overseas and military voters do need continued meaningful reforms across all states, and it is good when people truly care enough to examine and invest in solutions. What we do not need is a distraction that introduces new threats to overseas and military ballot integrity. The cliché “disruption model” doesn’t belong in our elections. Particularly in light of Russia’s cyber-interference in elections in Ukraine in 2014 and the US in 2016, we should consider with extra caution the idea of putting the entire voting process online. Russia itself is pushing to use this same technology for voting. Maybe it is worth a deeper look at it before we rush to its implementation? Perhaps investment in a threat detection system, which most state election offices cannot yet afford, would, at minimum, be a wise first course of action.

Blockchain Voting: An imminent threat to democracy

By Josh Greenbaum, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Vote Foundation

So-called “blockchain voting” systems are exceedingly risky and vulnerable to a host of dangerous cybersecurity attacks. The growing hype around the implementation of this technology in elections is a distraction from fundamental election issues that beg for common sense solutions and resources to improve US election systems. Instead of working to solve this existing landscape of issues surrounding secure, verifiable, and auditable voting for all citizens, private companies and individuals are hyping an unknown and unproven technology that is more of a grifter’s dream than anything that could truly alleviate the many roadblocks that exist in our electoral systems.

In addition to providing an unwelcome distraction from the real work needed to help secure our voting systems from a variety of threats, the reality is that blockchain voting systems are at best no more secure than any other type of web-based voting system, which themselves are rife with security and integrity issues. Indeed, blockchain voting systems are vulnerable to a multitude of profoundly serious threats that could easily allow cyber-attackers to control the outcome of an election. The potential for fraud and malfeasance makes blockchain voting a grave national security danger to our voting systems.

Blockchains for Voting: An idea whose time will never come

Blog Source: Election Law Blog posted by Rick Hasen (https://electionlawblog.org/?p=104265)

By Duncan Buell, NCR Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of South Carolina and Advisor to U.S. Vote Foundation

If you were to ask computing and election security experts for the two things they would most strongly oppose when it comes to elections, nearly all would probably answer: Internet voting and the use of blockchains in elections. There is nearly universal agreement that the Internet today is not sufficiently secure for something as important as elections, and that making it secure will be very hard indeed.
 
Not only do blockchains add no value to the election process; blockchains actually introduce new vulnerabilities to the voting process. Nonetheless, several startup companies are promoting Internet voting and claiming their use of blockchains is a benefit. Not surprisingly, it seems that no purveyor of blockchain voting is willing to allow independent testing by experts to see if their claims are justified.
 
The Internet, in general, is not a place for elections.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to authenticate a person attempting to vote over the Internet. It is impossible to guarantee that the voter’s computer has not been infected with malware. It is impossible to guarantee that a denial-of-service attack won’t take place. And it is impossible in current systems and those likely to be available in the near future to produce votes that can be audited without stripping out the voters’ right to a secret ballot.

Discover "My Voter Account" - Your Personal Democracy App

NEW! Discover integrated news content from America's most respected non-partisan political fact-checking site, Factcheck.org.

 

 

Get your voting and election information all in one place. Your Voter Account moves with you, stays with you and informs you. It is your personal democracy app.

 

Create your Voter Account and begin experiencing the MVA service today! Create Voter Account

Press Releases

U.S. Vote Foundation Releases 2018 Post Election Summary Report

Introduction

The 2018 Election Day Voter Experience Survey conducted by U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) together with its Overseas Vote initiative from November 6-12, 2018, provides insight into 5,100 American voters’ experiences of casting a ballot (or not) through five different voting methods, both domestic and overseas; key points are presented here.

217,411 survey invitations were sent to voters on the US Vote and Overseas Vote mailing lists on November 6, 2018 and were further promoted through social media and partner mailing lists including those of American Citizens Abroad and Democrats Abroad. No reminders were sent. Altogether, 5,100 responses were collected before the survey was closed on November 12, 2018.

U.S. Vote Foundation Announces Unprecedented Rise in 2018 Midterm Election User Activity

Website and data services have become an invaluable resource for millions of voters worldwide

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 31, 2018 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and its Overseas Vote initiative experienced a tremendous rise in user activity for the 2018 election cycle with over 1.75 million users, a stunning 10-fold increase over the 2014 midterm elections cycle.

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO of U.S Vote Foundation and Overseas Initiative claims that “…this dramatic growth is a result of the tremendous press coverage and the growing awareness of voting rights and resources, particularly for US citizens overseas.”

Overall, US Vote’s technology supported 1.9 million sessions and 6.9 million page-views for this 2018 election.

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