A blockchain algorithm is gaining some traction as a political voting platform in the lead up to the next federal election with advocates hoping to revolutionise democracy.
The algorithm was previously used to power digital cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Blockchain voting relies on stacks of historical records that can only be added to but never altered, and it’s reliant on consensus amongst a chain of computers which verify and add new votes depending on the rules.
“You can think of this as if you were a graffiti artist and you graffitied a wall, only that it cannot be changed.” according to Nathan Spataro, co-founder of political party Flux.
“The beauty of blockchain as a concept is that we can build structures in which there is no central authority.”
Mr Spataro and his fellow co-founder, Max Kaye were the first to introduce the idea of blockchain voting into Australian politics.
Through Flux, they intend to ‘upgrade’ democracy by using puppet senators, whose votes in parliament are dictated by registered Australian voters through a blockchain voting app.
The party’s core premise centres around the concept of Idea Based Direct Democracy which allows voters to engage with policy-making decisions directly and also trade their votes with others if they feel disengaged with a particular issue.
While vote swapping aims to redistribute political capability to apathetic voters with less power, Nivek Thompson, a research assistant at the Institute For Sustainable Futures, is concerned about its role in disengaging the general public from political issues.
“The idea of being able to outsource your vote on particular issues makes sense superficially but it also reinforces the idea that decisions are technical or expertise based - and they’re not,” Mr Thompson said.
“I’m not opposed to it [blockchain voting], but we have to look at how it fits in the system more broadly like 'Why are the people doing this?'" And are their aims to involve more people in
decision making? In which case, allowing people to devolve it to other people is just another form of representative democracy.”
Computational science researcher at the University of New England Dr David Paul said another flaw with blockchain voting lies within its structure, which could theoretically be
exploited to influence votes.
“If someone has control over half of the network then they could actually take control and change the history of a blockchain … if you’re running it on a platform where no one could get that level of control, then you could avoid that problem.” Dr Paul said.
“It should also be noted that this (type of) attack can only really stop somebody’s vote from being counted.”