Blockchain Voting Talks Revived After Ballot Box Is Set Ablaze

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In Brief
  • A man has been charged with lighting a Boston ballot box on fire.

  • 35 of the 122 ballots in the box were lost.

  • Blockchain technology could help prevent fraud and manipulation in elections.

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A man police are calling “emotionally disturbed” was arrested for allegedly burning a ballot box in Massachusetts. Of the 122 ballots found in the box, 35 were deemed illegible and will go uncounted. Meanwhile, other jurisdictions are considering a blockchain-backed voting system to protect voter security



Not only tensions, but temperatures are running high in the lead up to November’s controversial US election. On Oct 26, 2020, Boston municipal court arraigned Worldy Armand for setting fire to a ballot box outside a Boston Public Library location.

According to CBS News, authorities acquired footage of the 3 AM fire that damaged the box and many ballots inside.

After police released images of the man, it did not take long for local law enforcement to find and arrest their suspect.

 

Police maintained that Mr. Armand’s behavior was that of an “emotionally disturbed” individual, not part of a plot to undermine democracy. Still, prosecutors say that Mr. Armand has a rap sheet that includes a history of setting fires in New Hampshire. The District Attorney added:

“Although this individual appears to be emotionally disturbed without a deliberate or specific intent to intimidate or interfere with the voting process, the ability to vote without interference is central to our democracy. No matter the intent of Armand when he set fire to these ballots, his actions strike a nerve in our society at a time of nearly unprecedented political divisiveness.”

Armand has been charged with willful and malicious burning. The maximum sentence for this type of arson is three years in prison.

This news comes just one week before the U.S. election that is likely to be the highest early and absentee voter turnout in history.

Blockchain Voting Brings Solutions

Though the U.S. media is reporting controversy over possible voter fraud or manipulation with so many absentee ballots this year, solution for secure, remote elections can theoretically exist on blockchains.

The major push for mail-in and early voting was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, as people are anxious about going into public spaces. But some jurisdictions are already using blockchain technology to create secure electronic voting. It might come as a surprise that the pioneering country in this area is Russia.

In August 2020, Waves Enterprise and Russian telecommunications company Rostelecom developed an e-voting platform to be used in upcoming elections.

Waves, whose CEO Sasha Ivanov is of Russian descent, actually carried out e-votes in two provincial elections without a hitch in September. The code was even published on GitHub.

Preventable Headache

It may be too late for this year’s election, but the immutability and security of distributed ledgers are a major candidate for e-voting systems of the future. E-voting on a blockchain, if implemented properly, could provide incontrovertibly safe vote-from-home conditions. Substantial research has been put into the idea, and some lost votes could have been prevented.

According to the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, most of the 122 ballots in the box were not badly burned, though 5 to 10 were destroyed and 35 were deemed ineligible to be counted.

Luckily, the voters will still have their voices heard, as those who lost their ballots will be mailed new ones. The proper authorities say they will double-check there are no repeat voters. Anyone concerned their ballot might have been destroyed was asked to contact the Boston Election Department.

Boston voter Sarah Carlson, who had voted at the ballot box in question, felt frustrated and defeated, telling CBS News:

“I’ll be honest. My reaction was kind of, ‘What’s next 2020?’ This year has been so tumultuous and so full of surprises.”

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Harry Leeds is a writer, editor, and journalist who spent much time in the former USSR covering food, cryptocurrencies, and healthcare. He also translates poetry and edits the literary magazine mumbermag.me.

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