The All Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain held an evidence session considering how distributed ledger technologies (DLT) could support democracy. Chaired by Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, I was delighted to join the discussion and sit on a virtual panel alongside other witnesses:
- Dr. Luke Riley, Head of R&D, Quant Network
- Dr. Robert Herian, Associate Professor of Law, University of Exeter
- Tracey Lane, Practice Manager Public Administration & Institutional Reform, World Bank
- Prof. Steve Schneider, Director of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security, University of Surrey
Blockchain could restore trust in our voting system, increase voter ‘turnout’ and greatly secure the entire system.
There’s a trust problem in our politics right now, both nationally and globally. We explored this with a Lords Select Committee Inquiry on Democracy and Digital Technologies.
There is a trust issue with the very process of elections themselves. Voting, remains a paper-based process, schools as polling stations, pencils on paper and into a ballot box. Many blind and partially sighted citizens are unable to vote independently or privately in the existing system something I am trying to address through amendments to the Elections Bill.
It could be better. We have the tools, the technology, to restore trust and improve engagement, security, accessibility and inclusion.
New technologies, in tandem with the right mindset, leadership and collaboration could offer more than hope for an inclusive electoral experience for us all. It is possible that it is blockchain that could be the link to this electoral transformation. Not a silver bullet, not technology alone but, crucially, more than enough potential benefit for some serious investigation, commitment and concept proofing.
So, more amendments to the Elections Bill. These amendments would require the Government to research the benefits of blockchain for both electronic voting and improving the security of the electoral register. The amendments in full:
Insert the following new Clause— “Electronic voting Within 3 months of the passing of this Act the Secretary of State must commission research into the desirability of electronic voting, including— (a) lessons to be learnt from similar systems in other countries, (b) the accessibility and inclusion benefits which may result from such a system, and (c) the use of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, with the aim of ensuring security and immutability of votes cast.”Proposed amendment to the Elections Bill
Insert the following new Clause— “Investigation of technological solutions to increase the security of the electoral register. Within 3 months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must consult on how the UK electoral register could be established utilising immutable distributed ledger technologies, including how these technologies could increase the security of the electoral register.”Proposed amendment to the Elections Bill
I have drafted these amendments to emphasise that what we need now is Government investment in and investigation of the opportunities.
The expert witnesses giving evidence to the APPG evidence session helped highlight and explore the issues that we must be aware of. There are important questions around privacy, security, resilience, public interest and authority. Where does no single point of truth become no single point of accountability? We must be able to interrogate where the power is in the technology itself. But I am heartened that we are having these conversations and I hope the Government listens to my calls for research and consultation on the benefits of blockchain for democracy.