Kenyans held national elections on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, and the voting system closely mirrored Bitcoin
blockchain. African governments have traditionally held chaotic elections filled with gross misconduct and outright vote fraud. However, the elections were the most transparent system I’ve seen or heard of, thanks to the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC).
The comparison between the Bitcoin blockchain and the Kenyan voting system used in September 2022 is impressive. First of all, all polling stations were distributed into 46,229 units, and the votes cast at any one polling station were counted, signed and accepted as a permanent record. This compares to the Bitcoin network, which has an estimated 14,951 decentralized nodes spread across the globe, according to Bitcoin analytics firm. Bitnodes.
The system combines manual and electronic transmission systems to ensure safety. Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIE .)
The biometric device (MS) scans the QR-encoded signed forms from each polling station and sends the transcript to IEBC servers for analysis and reporting. Physical ballots in ballot boxes are used as the verification protocol, while physical signed forms are used as the signed transactions.
Then, the IEBC will act as a third party, collecting and analyzing data from these polling stations. This involves collecting all manually signed voting forms, checking them with the returning officer and electronic copy, and sorting them within seven days of the election to announce the official winners. At the time of writing, the IEBC had received and verified 46,193 of the 46,229 presidential election forms and was waiting for the remaining 36 forms until the election results could be announced.
This compares to the ease with which blockchain analytics companies like Chainalysis can query data from the Bitcoin blockchain and spread ideas.
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The consensus mechanism is different from that of Bitcoin. Representatives of political parties will monitor the entire casting of votes inside the polling station immediately after the polling window closes, count each vote and sign the record in the electoral system. This copy, once signed, will serve as a permanent record. IEBC representatives will then send an electronic copy of the signed form to IEBC headquarters, followed by the physical form to the same location. To ensure transparency, party representatives will also send a copy to the party headquarters.
If this Bitcoin is copied, a signed copy of the form will be sent to the other nodes to update all copies.
Each polling station has a maximum of 700 registered voters. The number of voters at the polling station will be either the number of people who voted or the number of people who voted before the voting window closed. This means that each record contains 700 entries. By comparison, the size of a Bitcoin block is one megabyte per block.
To vote successfully, a voter needs to bring an original copy of their national ID card, go to a registered polling station, and log in with an IEBC biometric scanner. To sign a transaction in Bitcoin, a person must have a public address (similar to an ID card) and a private key (compared to fingerprints on a biometric scanner).
When IEBC headquarters receives and verifies a form from a polling station, the form is posted on website as an official copy. Voters, party representatives, media and aspirants can download this data and compare it to their own version of the polling station. They can also count votes to determine election winners before the IEBC releases official results.
This is compared to the public nature of a Bitcoin ledger, where anyone can query any Bitcoin transaction and view its address.
Once a voter logs into the polling station with biometrics, the device sends an electronic signature to the IEBC servers, letting them know that the citizen has voted. While this solves the problem of double voting, the Bitcoin blockchain solves the problem of double spending.
Votes are stored in the IEBC database in the voting system, and the user only needs to sign them. That is, each registered voter’s information is recorded, and they visit the polling station only on election day to sign their preferred candidates. Bitcoins are stored in a ledger on the bitcoin network, and you only use your private keys to sign for the transfer of your bitcoins to a specific public address.
To win the Kenyan presidential election, one must receive 50% of the vote plus one. This means that if someone wanted to steal an election, they would have to tamper with data from 50% of polling places plus one. This will require a significant investment in terms of resources, but will ensure the security of the voting system.
If one or more people wanted to hack the Bitcoin network, they would need to control 50% of the nodes plus one. This will require a huge pool of resources, solidifying Bitcoin as the most secure cash network in the world.
If one region stops working or the voting process goes down, the other regions will still vote smoothly, and the missing data will be appended once the throttling is addressed. In Bitcoin, if some miners or users are offline, their coins are still on the chain and their transactions are appended to the blockchain as soon as they are online.
IEBC designed the system to reduce trust and allow voters to verify all records, while Bitcoin’s infrastructure is designed to eliminate trust and allow users to verify. In Bitcoin, collective nodes are the only point of failure, just as mass polling stations are the only point of failure in the IEBC voting system.
On the Bitcoin network, once a transaction is signed, it is final and verifiable and cannot be modified or reversed. Likewise, once the votes cast have been recorded and signed, they are final and verifiable (you can go and count the contents of the ballot box), and cannot be modified.
The difference between the two is that senior IEBC officials can change voter registration and voter transfer details. There is not a single Bitcoin administrator who can transfer Bitcoin or alter transactions.
Furthermore, biometric devices at polling stations have the full record but can only allow registered voters for that specific location. In Bitcoin, a transaction can be signed by any node on the network. Perhaps this is an IEBC feature designed to ensure that a person does not vote where they do not live.
Voting records are not kept in the voter registration book. The KIEMS device stores the ledger and scans the signed ballot forms while the votes remain in their ballot boxes. On the other hand, Bitcoin ledger stores both addresses and Bitcoins.
While it is debatable whether the system designer was directly inspired by the Bitcoin network, similar features are compelling to conclude that it was inspired by the Bitcoin blockchain. If you want a foolproof system with not a single point of failure, where else would you look?
Disclosure: I own Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.