The U.S. Postal Service files a patent for a block-based Secure voting system in order to "provide a reliable voting system"... On...
The U.S. Postal Service files a patent for a block-based Secure voting system in order to "provide a reliable voting system"...
On Thursday , the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) patent application entitled "Secure Voting System" which describes the use of block-chain technology to secure postal voting in the upcoming November presidential elections. The patent filed in February 2020 was made public on Thursday, August 13, as recent comments by Donald Trump that the U.S. president was trying to suspend the U.S. Postal Service and block absentee voting made headlines.
The blockchain is a technology that allows information to be stored and transmitted transparently, securely and without a central control body. By extension, it is a large database that contains the history of all exchanges between its users since its creation. The blockchain can be used, among other things, for the transfer of assets or for a better traceability of assets and products. The great particularity of the technology is its decentralized architecture, i.e. it is not hosted by a single server, but by a part of the users.
Trump's main complaints against postal voting concern doubts as to whether the person whose name appears on the ballot paper actually voted or not, and whether or not the ballot paper was falsified after it was sent. In both cases, the blockchain offers possible solutions. Blockchain-based identity services are already widely developed and by moving the vote to a shared and distributed register, votes would be transmitted almost instantaneously, which would significantly reduce the vulnerability of the ballot paper to tampering.
The USPS wants to use Blockchain technology to make absentee voting a secure alternative to physical polling stations in the context of the covid-19 pandemic. The patent application, which contains 47 pages, says
"This development concerns a voting system that also incorporates the use of cryptographic elements, such as blockchains, like those used with cryptographic coins, to track and secure absentee voting,"
Although postal voting allegedly opens the door to potential fraud, voters seek to facilitate access to voting by registering their political preferences in a context where the coronavirus pandemic has imposed distancing measures. The patent describes voting operations based on a blockchain, with voting codes, electronic signatures and other complex points, operating in tandem with two databases.
"A voting system can use the security of the blockchain and the mail to provide a reliable voting system. A registered voter receives a computer-readable code in the mail confirming his or her identity and the accuracy of the information on his or her ballot during an election. The system separates voter identification and voting to ensure anonymity of the vote, and stores the votes in a register distributed in a blockchain,"
Often a voter cannot or does not wish to go to a polling station to vote. An election official in a jurisdiction may wish to send secure ballots by mail. Or, a jurisdiction may choose to use electronic resources for voting. In this case, a secure voting system is desirable.
Is the initiative sufficient to significantly resist electoral fraud?
The patent application provides a number of illustrations of how the block chain technology would be able to guarantee the vote. The USPS states in the patent:
"Voters generally want to be able to vote for elected officials or on other issues in a convenient and secure manner. In addition, those who conduct elections want to be able to ensure that the election results have not been tampered with and that the results actually match the votes cast. In some variants, a blockchain makes it possible to track the different types of data needed in a secure manner and allows others to easily confirm that the data has not been altered".
The patent application added:
"The security of a voting system can be enhanced by using the reliability and security of the U.S. Postal Service or a similar entity, and this can be incorporated into a secure computer system using a block chain or distributed register to ensure the security of the vote and to prevent tampering with or alteration of electronic voting results,"
According to comments regarding the USPS patent application made by Paul Madsen, technical manager of Hedera Hashgraph, a distributed registry technology, and reported by Forbes contributor Jason Brett :
"Blockchains, or more generally distributed registry technologies (DLTs), have the fundamental value of being able to provide a community whose members are potentially adversarial with a reliable, shared view of data without relying on a single vendor to control that data. To do this, they first enable the community to reach consensus or agreement on the order of transactions that change the data.
Madsen explained that these functions could be useful for recording votes in an election, noting:
"Both functions could be useful for recording votes in an election - as proposed in this USPS patent. The votes of individual voters would be recorded either on the blockchain or actually time-stamped and then recorded elsewhere - and thus, both functions help mitigate the risk of double voting or vote manipulation, while giving voters confidence through transparency of the process".
According to Cointelegraph, this is not the first time the postal service has been interested in a patent based on the blockchain. The USPS submitted a concept in 2018 that exploits this technology for identity authentication, according to the website. In addition, as early as 2016, the USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) encouraged the Post to begin examining the benefits of blockchain technology, according to Brett. The four main cases of technology use described in a report are: financial management, device management, identity services and supply chain management.
Postal voting has become a point of contention among members of the country's political parties, hence the need for block-chain technology. However, such a system needs to be properly implemented before the elections, which are only three months away.
Source: Patent application