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How blockchain and biometrics can secure e-voting in India, U.S. elections

How blockchain and biometrics can secure e-voting in India, U.S. elections

During a meeting held by the Election Commission of India, the IT Secretary of Indian state Telangana advocated for the use of biometric facial recognition for voter identity authentication, as well as connecting the voter’s phone number and IMEI to voter ID for verification, Medianama reports.

“Say if I’m using my phone to do the voting, let it be pre-registered so that the phone number and the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number can also get tagged to the voter ID. We can also make sure that one phone can be used only by two voters so that we don’t run into the problem of proxy voting,” Jayesh Ranjan said during the webinar.

Hinting to an existing facial recognition system with 98 percent accuracy, biometric liveness detection and deep learning for image comparison that is already used by 35,000 pensioners on mobile devices and to renew drivers’ licenses, Ranjan argued the technology could be easily implemented by the Election Commission.

“I see no reason why this authentication and identification of the voter can’t be done using the same liveness detection and matching the photo with the Voter ID card, and of course deep learning tools for image comparison,” Ranjan continued.

In January, Telangana announced facial recognition pilots in elections for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). It was later revealed the accuracy was around 78 percent.

When asked about blockchain based remote voting, Ranjan said he does not believe there is enough demand for the technology. Blockchain has already been deployed for some state operations to strengthen transactions, but in a “voting scenario, it’s like saying every vote will be stored on a ledger, and of course you write a smart contract, which must have the timestamp of the time at which the vote is cast.”

For the time being, Ranjan believes the focus should be on improving existing technologies, encryption tools and machine learning algorithms to near 100 percent accuracy. An initial blockchain-based voting pilot could be conducted in non-statutory elections that could provide enough use cases to analyze performance and then scale nationally.

The Indian government’s principal scientific advisor, K. Vijay Raghavan, agreed blockchain-based mock voting combined with EVMs could be a great way to test the system.

“You can have a dual system where people take part in EVM votes, but also take part on mock buttons for blockchain voting to make sure that the voting can be done in a secured manner for stress testing. I see no inherent problem [in blockchain based voting],” Raghavan said.

U.S. online voting security

With presidential elections fast approaching in the U.S. and COVID-19 remaining a great threat in the country, an overwhelming number of states do not accept mail-in voting fearing fraud and unauthorized interference. In Texas, for instance, only voters aged 65 and over or those who are extremely ill can resort to mail-in voting.

Online voting may solve fraud and health issues, but some still fear advanced cyberattacks could target online voting systems, with ballot interception and impersonation of deceased people.

“We just need to bring together the right technology to make it happen – and that starts with a modern identity system that puts privacy and security first, and taps the power of three key technologies: biometrics, blockchain and mobile,” wrote Husayn Kassai, Onfido CEO and co-founder, for Beta News.

Biometric verification has grown in popularity, already in use by banking institutions and for government services to prevent money laundering and fraud, process that can be easily implemented for voter registration, Kassai wrote. He further explains that blockchain is not only a great tool for cryptocurrency, but it can also prevent ballot interception and hacking.

“E-voting built on a strong identity platform rooted in biometrics, blockchain and mobile technologies can provide the answer to major voting health and fraud concerns, bring our democracy to the 21st century, and help us exercise what is arguably our most important right: to vote in the democratic process,” Kassai concluded.

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