Voting On The Blockchain

Blockchains are good at many things that require security, accountability, and rules.

Voting is one of those things.

I don’t expect that we will see Presidential Elections on the blockchain any time soon. Though it could happen in my lifetime.

I do expect that we will see voting happening on blockchains for organizations and efforts that are getting started now and want to do their governance in a modern way.

There is even a project called Tezos which is a blockchain with governance (ie voting) built right into the core protocol.

Imagine if every voter was issued a token/coin and every candidate/issue to be voted on was issued a wallet. Voters send their coins to whatever wallet they want to vote for. And there you have it, a secure, accountable system for voting on a blockchain.

I haven’t placed a vote on a blockchain yet, but it’s so simple to do that I expect I will be doing it frequently soon enough.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Got to say that the process of voting this morning was kinda down home. Lines around the block at 6.15 am. Non tech to the max.But I felt good. Did my thing and turnout is going to be massive.That in itself is hopeful.

    1. fredwilson

      I am meeting my wife and daughter at 10am to do it family style

      1. awaldstein

        I like that.At the end the day, we are all families and communities doing our part. That’s what makes the world work when it does. It moves mountains at times and creates solace when you don’t get it done.

      2. ShanaC

        I’m having coffee, then writing up a crib sheet about the local elections for shawn and me, and then we are going. And maybe I can convince him to go to ample hills for ice cream afterwards (it is down the block from our polling place)

      3. Crocodile Bungee

        Here in the UK, I sent in my voter registration thing – done online these days – and forgot that my daughter turns 18 this year. A week or so ago, a real human came to the door, asked to see her, checked her ID, entered her on the roll, asked her if she’d like to remain invisible to everyone but the voting authoirities (“Yes, please”), asked her if she wanted a postal vote (“No, thank-you”). He then congratulated her on intending to go to vote in person, said it was much the safest way to do things, scolded me gently for the oversight and went on his (volunteer) way.Good luck over there today; you may need it.

    2. LE

      Lines around the block at 6.15 am. Non tech to the max.Well at least there is one thing better about living in the suburbs. (Well more than one thing but this is one of them). I got to the polling place which was located about 2 minutes from my house on the way to work (4 minutes away). Pulled right up and parked. Walked in. A few people there and two polling booths. Was out in a few minutes or so. Biggest difference I noticed from the state that I last voted in was there was no electioneering at the polling place. Nobody handing out flyers and telling you who to vote for (down ballot).

      1. awaldstein

        You know, I found it a time to talk to the people who live in the neighborhood.People in coats and pajamas, kids asleep on their Dad’s shoulders, coffee handed out.Hate lines usually but not today. Kinda liked the community of this. Cities are made people lots of them and while i hate waiting for a seat at the bar, i love seeing a turnout for this reason.

  2. iamronen

    Expand that story with (for example): – Representation: allowing me to pass my voting token to someone (a personal I believe to be a thought leader on the subject) to vote on my behalf – Continuous democratic participation where “credit” is accumulated through voting and can be “spent” in “kickstarting” social campaigns. – De facto leaders (those who hold large majority of voting tokens on a given subject in a community) emerging through continuous democractic participation … without a need for official elections (representaives can rise and fall in reponse to their actual social cotribution regardless of politcal voting cycles) – A negative interest mechanism which causes the value (credit collected during voting) of policies to fade … forcing a constantant review and refresh of aging policies.. and I believe that what we may find is that we don’t necessarily need a blockchain to do this … that the continuous living process of it makes it more defensible then any cryptographic mechanism (similar to how your investment thesis where investments are protected by network effects instead of patents)I’ve published a slightly expanded version of this story here:

    1. pointsnfigures

      Don’t like the representation idea. one person, one vote. I am even uncomfortable with the latest idea of only allowing taxpayers to vote. reminds me of landowners voting.

      1. Jess Bachman

        What the.. who is saying only tax payers should vote?

        1. Pointsandfigures

          I have heard that from elites on both sides of the aisle for years. First time was a hard lefty Northwestern journalism professor.

          1. Jess Bachman

            Sounds like something an elite would say.

        2. JLM

          .The Founding Fathers?Originally only taxpayers were to be authorized to enact taxes. Quaint notion, no?They even prohibited the women folk from voting. Simpler times.Taking a break from Election Judging at Precinct 214 ATX, Travis County. Front lines of democracy. Outside the electioneering 100 foot limit.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. LE

            Of course the notion that a person casting the vote decides the election is deceptive anyway. The election is decided by people with money that can influence the election by getting the vote out, buying ads, getting people to polling places, creators of social pressure etc. An example is the democratic machine in Philly (Bob Brady boy is that guy a throwback to a different era) or Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Obama, Michelle showing up in Philly to help Hillary win. [1]One of the reasons we even have the electoral system is to make sure Daddy is watching and nothing to out of bounds happens.[1] He sucked by the way check out the youtube I am sure everyone who expected the e street band and got a guy on guitar were dissapointed.

      2. iamronen

        I agree however I believe that in a continuous participatory democracy process there is bound to be an overflow of information … I can vote for so many proposals in so many contexts that I can’t possibly keeep up.Hence representation. If, for example, in my village there is someone who is passionate about education and I have to come to know and trust this person I would give him my voting tokens for education .. as if to say “I’m with whatever she says”. That giving-of-my-toke-for-education is COMPLETELY in my hands and I can revoke and change it WHENEVER I want to.I believe this may be a process in which true thought leaders can emerge AND be replaced.

        1. Pointsandfigures

          Most of the time when you play the long game shortvterm continuous decision making is adverse. You do have to give people a chance to lead. And make some mistakes.

  3. Rob Underwood

    I have been thinking a lot about “what’s next” — no matter who wins tomorrow we owe ourselves a heady conversation about where this country is right now and the numerous challenges (and opportunities) we have.On voting I met with a company called Collective Decision Engines ( last week. They do quadratic voting, particularly for polling and survey organizations right now but with long term aspirations to be a model for actual political voting as well. Giving the discussion of alternate voting models, including and especially ranked voting, the quadratic model is really interesting, especially when combined with the blockchain.

    1. ShanaC

      what is quadratic voting?

      1. Rob Underwood

        Here’s a good paper from MIT that both explains what it is and how it might be secured, including with block chain.…Core idea is: “Individuals have a budget of Credits to allocate among multiple decisions, alternatives, or priorities. One vote costs one credit, two votes four, three votes nine, etc. This increasing cost discourages individuals from putting all their credits on the one issue they care most about. By making the cost of the next vote proportional to the number of votes bought, QV encourages individuals to exert influence exactly in proportion to how much the issue matters to them.”It’s something in the longer term that could be useful in actual election, but has immediate value today in things like polling as well as any form of recommendation / favoriting set of use cases. Could also be great here in NYC for things like participatory budgeting.

        1. Jess Bachman

          You have great faith in the intelligence of the American electorate.

          1. Rob Underwood

            It’s not a model yet for actual elections (yet). But it’s already being used in polling. The idea that you have a budget of votes and that each subsequent vote you cast for the same issue/candidate is twice as expensive is actually not that hard to demonstrate, explain, and implement.

  4. kidmercury

    Blockchain tech not secure now, won’t be till the xrate issue is resolved (ie stabilized), which will require private coins and centralization. IN other words, there is still a very large gap between the dream and reality.

  5. Ales Spetic

    One of the insolved issues is anonymity of votes. It is one of the cornerstones of modern democracy. For elections to be credible, one needs to assure tracability and anonymity. Combining the two in a tech solution is way harder than with paper voting.

  6. Pete Martin

    I am the CEO / Founder of a company called Votem. We already have a Blockchain-based mobile voting platform (mvp) which we are operating for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame “Fan Vote” ( We have tallied over 1 million votes thus far on our Tendermint-driven platform. We have developed, trademarked and are patenting “Proof of Vote” and are building a permission-based Blockchain platform which we will get certified by the Federal government late next year and expect to have deployed for the 2018 election. We can do full chain of custody auditing using Zero Knowledge Proof so that voters’ anonymity is protected. Just so you know, you can vote online in Alaska during this election (although you have to disclose your identity). This isn’t easy stuff but it’s closer than you might think Fred ;?

    1. kenberger

      URL for Votem?(also your comment needs editing to fix the rockhall link)

    2. Patrik Ring

      Is votem open source?

    3. LE

      We have developed, trademarkedI like the idea but note that you have only ‘applied’ for a trademark (Sept 9 2016) and it hasn’t even been assigned to an attorney yet. Also you don’t list it as a product on your website.

      1. Pete Martin

        Thanks for the clarification…applied for….

      2. awaldstein

        Kinda common practice.I do it all the time though of course I back it up in usage.

    4. Richard

      Haven’t we learned that disruption doesn’t start at the top ? Look at companies like LaZooz for how the voting and the blockchain can change how we conduct transactions.PS Lets use blockchain for getting Bots out of twitter streams.

    5. Fraggle222

      >patenting “Proof of Vote”Hopefully as a defensive patent !! Do you have any statement where you’ve committed yourselves to a defensive strategy only when it comes to blockchain related patents?

  7. pointsnfigures

    I would like to see a blockchain vote. Being from Chicago, where a great wind seems to blow from the cemeteries on election day, I think it would end the talk of rigging. I voted early. I was a judge in a Chicago election. I saw from the inside how they have written the rules so it’s possible to commit fraud. Blockchain would be great-until then I favor Voter ID.

    1. Twain Twain

      Jason Wright in an answer about his experiences at the coal-face of blockchain wrote this: “technically it is also the gamification of delegate voting systems. people think they can spot an opportunity to ‘grab’ value…and try to take it.”Maybe he can shine a light for all of us on where and how the gamification happens.It may be a form of rigging we’re not yet informed enough about.

  8. Twain Twain

    The binary nature of Tezos voting nodes:https://uploads.disquscdn.c…In AI, binary Yes = 1 No = 0 inputs are no longer adequate for the machines to understand language or our ethical values.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Yesterday, TC wrote this about the challenges ahead for tech:*…Part of the reason I haven’t been hands-on with Blockchain is because I knew the problems of binary biases and their lack of granularity have to be solved first.If systems are to be democratically representative of us and if the machines are to understand our language, our values and WHY we make the decisions that we do, we have to make leaps on from |0,1| to systems that can qualify and quantify the decision paths.This includes in all voting scenarios.

    1. Jess Bachman

      I concur.

      1. Twain Twain

        This was just in my Linkedin streams. Blockchain is still in the Boolean state. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        1. Jess Bachman

          I concur with this as well.

  9. David Semeria

    I believe that blockchain voting involves a fundamental paradaox: if the voting ledger is public then the individual votes must surely be kept anonymous for privacy reasons. But voter anonymity is a recipe for disaster. Whilst it’s true that a given vote coin could only be spent once, how can you prove it was the intended owner who actually spent it?

    1. aminTorres

      Potentially you could have a contract that can check for criteria designed to prove who spent the coin and for what. This can be done anonymously ( only you and the contract itself ) an impartial entity which if written well will act in good faith of you and the system.That, or we can just stop worrying about privacy. 🙂

    2. LE

      Good question. Right now under the legacy system there is not a way to prove that I was the one that cast my vote this morning since under audit all they could show is a signature match. That is compare the signature that I applied with to the signature that I showed up to vote with. (They didn’t do that as I’ve mentioned). Both can be gamed easily but not, I would imagine, on a large scale.Additionally I am not sure it matters if a person voting uses their own token. Why? All that matters is that you insure that someone who is allowed to vote only votes 1 time. It doesn’t matter if they use their token or someone else’s token. This is similar to spending money. If I buy something with $1 it doesn’t matter if I trade my $1 for your $1 and spend that, it’s all the same.The question is really how can you insure that someone only casts one vote and that person is allowed to vote. I think if you look at it that way solving the security problem becomes easier.

      1. sull

        Tack on something like

    3. William Mougayar

      There will be nuances of implementations that address these points.

      1. Steve_Lockstep

        What’s not a nuance is that blockchain was expressly designed for transactions where the parties don’t need to know anything about each other. Any use case where people do in fact need to know and trust each other — like voting, where we need very very high confidence in one-person-one-vote — is a bad fit for blockchain. You need to bear in mind what the thing was designed for.

        1. William Mougayar

          That’s not correct. The blockchain is not a one trick pony, far from it. See graph from my last post.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…

          1. Steve_Lockstep

            You can think about blockchain any way you like. But don’t overlook what it was designed for. It was created for one very special purpose: to enable crypto-currency to flow between people who know nothing about each other. That’s why it requires such an extravagant amount of compute power. And Nakamoto warned that if you’re going to use it for applications where trust is required (like a process for ensuring one person one key) then the benefit of the consensus algorithm is lost.

          2. William Mougayar

            But the Bitcoin blockchain is not the only blockchain out there.

          3. Steve_Lockstep

            True, although the great majority of them are for low-to-zero trust environments. When you refer in your diagram to “The Blockchain” which definite article do you mean?

          4. Steve_Lockstep

            Here’s more detail on why the BTC blockchain is trumped by the off-chain key management necessitated by all non cryptocurrency use cases: https://www.constellationr….

          5. sull

            Bitcoin was designed for that. Append-only distributed ledgers are a more broad breed, which you might be overlooking.

        2. jason wright

          you mean identity, verified?the bitchchain can come in many forms of implimentation to serve various applications.

    4. Kevin Schultz

      I’m not convinced that anonymous voting is a true requirement. It was not always the case in the US elections, and it’s still not the case in primary caucuses. The rationale was to prevent employers from discriminating against employees, but if we just make that a crime it could be policed like any other protected class.

      1. Joly MacFie

        I was reading yesterday J.Zittrain saying anonymity is an absolute requirement in that if a vote can be proven, it opens the door to vote selling.

  10. MelkiSch

    The number of transactions per seconds possible with a blockchain infrastructure as of November 2016 makes it close to impossible to guarantee the validit of a blockchain election/vote.Internet voting norms across countries usually require “verifiability” in the voting system. That verifiability must be “end-to-end” and is time sensitive. It means that an auditor should be allowed to check if a vote was cast as intended, if it was recorded as cast and if is was counted as recorded.At 7 transactions per seconds, this is not possible. And the use case for a private blockchain in an election context is not very relevant.Compliant blockchain elections are not going to happen soon.

  11. Twain Twain

    I think about this kind of hybrid between AI and Blockchain written by Melanie Swan of the New School:https://uploads.disquscdn.c…The main pro is that Blockchain is set-up for time series data (for transactions) and increasingly, e.g. in sequence-to-sequence learning, the time parameters are important.The main against is that AI data is more multi-dimensional than transactions so would be too-heavy and processing intensive for Blockchain — especially since there’d have to be parallelization across several nodes, AT THE SAME TIME.Now … there is a potential workaround of this weakness in Blockchain but the “proof of concept” will likely be done via existing standard ML databases first (including AWS).

  12. mikenolan99

    Estonia has/is launching a trial with voting blockchain. I know this, because I recently graduated from Blockchain kindergarten (Thanks Willian Mougayar)…

    1. Sebastian Aldasoro


  13. Sebastian Aldasoro

    There’s a company form Argentina which was later incubated by Y Combinator called Democracy OS (they had created a party in Argentina before, with the aim of getting one congressman who would vote accordingly to what citizens voted in their platform, but couldn’t make it). They built a platform on the blockchain where citizens can propose, debate and vote for the proposals. The idea is that congressmen would be able to vote accordingly to those votes. Also, I hope Hillary wins.

  14. LE

    Blockchains are good at many things that require securityAt the polling place that I voted on you simply told them your name and they had you sign on a paper ledger next to where your signature appeared from the voter registration. But the old lady and the ledger didn’t check my signature against what appeared there. So essentially no security at all.

    1. creative group

      LE:are you confirming a Republican and not the traditional noise of Democrat fraud could have occurred at you voting location. Say it isn’t so.

  15. LE

    Imagine if every voter was issued a token/coin and every candidate/issue to be voted on was issued a wallet. Voters send their coins to whatever wallet they want to vote for. And there you have it, a secure, accountable system for voting on a blockchain.There is tremendous infrastructure already deployed and all controlled by different fiefdoms. Additionally certain parties gain or lose by making voting easier or harder depending on what they stand to gain from the process. Encourage or discourage.I noted this morning at the small polling place that I was at the following inefficiencies.There were 3 people at a table checking people in. You had to get in the line (not long but that was when I was there who knows what happens later in the day) depending on what your last name was. (A-F, G-L, M-Z) The line I needed had 3 people in front of me checking in, the others were empty. The line could have been sped up simply by allowing anyone sitting at the table to deal with any voter. (The current paper check in system doesn’t make this easy though it could be changed).Next, there were two voting booths. And one line for each booth. So if you got into a line which was held up by someone taking their time to vote you would be delayed. Obviously it should be ‘next person, next booth’.There was no sample ballot anywhere to be found and no sample voting machine so someone who was voting or for the first time would be able to become familiar with the process. In fact the machine that they were using (electronic) was a bit confusing since it was the first time that I had seen it. I am used to the mechanical machines.As per my other comment there was no security around who you were and whether you were who you claimed to be.

  16. ZekeV

    Voting with tokens could avoid the need to trust voting machines / ballots. We could then safely vote online. Unsolved: removing trust from distribution of the voting tokens to eligible voters. New problem: now possible to link individuals to their votes (even if mitigated with enhanced privacy features of zcash-like transactions?).

    1. creative group

      ZekeV:How do the pro block chain savvy prepotents solve the elderly (old school) voters who don’t want your best way/version interfering with the way they have voted all their adult life? Force them to adopt your way is the best way. Russia already has shown a expertise in manipulation. Wait until they breach it to discover it can be accomplished?

      1. ZekeV

        Well, as I said, recording votes in a blockchain does not solve *all* the problems with security. But assuming distribution of identities is good, the vote count becomes provably valid (big advantage). If Russia or anyone else wants to manipulate the outcome through disinformation (or providing true information as in the case of Podesta’s email habits) that is fair game, nothing we can do about that.

  17. Patrik Ring

    Generally it seems to me like it would be a very hard problem to solve to guarantee anonymity, transparency and traceability in an election on the block chain. It’s crucial that no one can vote on my behalf, and it’s crucial that I can not be forced to verify having voted a certain way. Even if system is 100% open source that does not guarantee that most people can understand how the code works.These are cornerstones of democracy.Don’t fix what ain’t broken. There really aren’t that many benefits to making it digital and there are A LOT of risk involved in doing so.I would propose looking at countries doing this in a more user friendly way than the US as well, like not having a hard to fill out paper ballot but rather pre selected options.The furthest I’d go is to suggest having printers and some sort of system to let you print the correct ballots to avoid wasting large amounts of paper.

  18. Jonathan Coffey

    It’s just a hop skip and a jump away from what Nasdaq is doing with the government of Estonia to tie identity to ownership and proxy voting:…Obviously it’s easier to implement on a smaller scale with a single regulatory framework, but agree we’ll be seeing much more of this soon enough

  19. Salt Shaker

    Voted by mail in Seattle. Very civil. Got a form back saying my ballot signature didn’t match their records and to sign and resubmit the form they provided for verification. Was impressed that someone was indeed checking! I liked that. In NYC, in addition to the long lines, there’s always a bunch of sweet little old ladies manually checking registration rolls and signatures, been doing it for years, though I don’t think many are questioned or rejected.Still remember my first time voting at Searingtown Elementary School. Democracy makes me feel empowered!

    1. Anne Libby

      I remember “voting” with my parents at age 5 or so, also at the local elementary school. Even seeing the lines this morning made me feel good about being in a democracy — people showing up.

  20. Pete Griffiths

    It would be extremely interesting to conduct a parallel experiment and check against conventional. The friction of online voting is so low it would be fascinating to see the result.

  21. jason wright

    i don’t think the US is the right country to start experimenting with voting on the blockchain. the population is too large. better to start small and scale it up. in your lifetime? apply for Swiss citizenship.

  22. William Mougayar

    That would be a good thing of course. A key part of this would be the mechanism for issuing identity credentials on the blockchain But currently, that segment is fairly fragmented. Question is: Will we have ONE or several (applications specific) identities on the blockchain?

  23. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:OFF TOPIC (Wireless earbud find)Firefly (2 wireless earbuds without wires for $120.00).https://www.touchofmodern.c…We haven’t ordered yet.DISCLOSURE: None

    1. Quantella Owens

      Off-Topic:@CreativeGroup Am I correct in thinking that you day trade for a living?I’m asking because I’m wondering what your 40,000 ft view of the USD is after tomorrow?thx

      1. creative group

        Quantella Owens:We previously Day Traded for a living in the 90’s-2000’s. We are actively in the market but Commercial Real Estate interests hedges our risks.The USD coincides with our previous sentiment and views on the effect of the election on the equity markets and specifically your question on the USD.Two camps are guiding investor sentiments.’Status Quo’ or ‘Massive Change’.The US and World Markets are hoping for Status Quo (HRC) predictability.The risks being taken regarding the USD will retract after the election. No one really can know what comes tomorrow. Market prediction is rarely accurate. The reason commentary on the market is always after it has closed and not before. Stick with the fundamentals you adhere and don’t deviate. Chasing any new investment strategy will leave you broke. Especially in Forex Trading.

  24. jason wright

    would a blockchain voting solution also help to end the duopoly that is the US political system by creating a pluralistic campaigning ecosystem on the other side of the equation?

  25. Steve_Lockstep

    How to guarantee one person one vote? It will require strenuous key management, to make sure that every eligible voter is in control of a unique private key. Such key management is anathema to the public blockchains, designed for cases where parties know nothing about each other. There is so much trust needed in a voting system, that blockchain just doesn’t fit the bill.

  26. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:We can be the first to say we were wrong on the United States electing a racist, misogynist and xenophobic fool.DJT will be the next President of the United States. No excuses. The majority of Americans have spoken. There will be no obstruction by the meek Democrats.They will lay their head on the block willingly.More of the same with the Republicans. Nothing new to report.They will get the Government they deserve.#termlimits#UnequivocallyUnapologeticallyIndependent

  27. jason wright

    in his victory speech Trump demonstrated that he does have good instincts and the temperament needed for the job.the number one thing i’ve taken away from AVC over the years is that disruption is an inevitability, that it brings opportunity, and of course change. the nature of that change is down to the outlook and actions of each individual. change is good. it’s nothing to fear.

  28. Frank W. Miller

    Lol. Blockchains for president!

  29. Stanislas Marion

    It is not simple at all to implement. It’s actually probably one of the hardest thing you can think of. If it were that simple, it would already exist.

  30. davidkralik

    Corporate America needs to lead the way before Government will listen. Let’s start with proxy voting by blockchain. When half of the Fortune 500 corporations move to blockchain for proxy voting, you will see a change.