US Congress Considers Blockchain-Based Voting Amid COVID-19

The United States Congress is contemplating developing a blockchain-based system to allow remote Senate voting.

A staff memo has revealed that the U.S. Congress is considering blockchain technology as a means for the Senate to conduct remote voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The report states that blockchain may be deployed alongside end-to-end encrypted, or E2EE, applications to facilitate voting.

The memo was composed after the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ Roundtable on Continuity of Senate Operations and Remote Voting in Times of Crisis event. 

The discussion came as the Senate prepares to reconvene this week.

Senate considers DLT-based voting contingency

The document states that Congress’ two chambers have always “met in-person to conduct business, including committee hearings, floor deliberation, and voting,” emphasizing that “neither chamber has contingency plans to allow those functions to proceed remotely.”

The Senate staff memo asserts that through an encrypted distributed ledger, “blockchain can both transmit a vote securely and also verify the correct vote — noting that said characteristics have been used to argue for the efficacy of 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.

Congress also notes that blockchain-like systems are already being deployed in the context of voting — citing Estonia’s 2019 parliamentary elections that saw 44% of votes cast online.

Senate concerned about security vulnerabilities

The report identifies concerns regarding a 51% attack on the blockchain used to host Senate ballots, emphasizing that “any remote blockchain voting system would need to be properly set up to eliminate any threat of 51 percent attack.”

The Senate also expresses anxieties concerning “possible vulnerabilities from cryptographic flaws and software bugs.”

The memo comes amid increasing discussions surrounding the efficacy of blockchain-based solutions to governance challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin being urged by members of Congress to consider blockchain-based stimulus distributions.

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