How blockchain technology and smart contracts can prove the legitimacy of the Turkish constitutional referendum

Turkish Referendum Blockchain Shift

On Sunday 16th April 2017, the Turkish public went to vote in a historic referendum. The question on the ballot paper – whether to vote “Yes” or “No” on a widespread change of the national constitution.

A majority yes vote, in the world’s 17th largest economy, sees the country turn from being a parliamentary republic to a presidential republic. This means long time President Erdogan being awarded sweeping new powers as the Executive Head of State. By scraping the role of prime minister and handing more decision-making power to the President, one person’s impact on the nation is greater than ever before..

With Turkey seeking accession to the European Union, a vote like this will have great consequences in global politics. But the voting system itself was not without controversy.

Turkey’s main opposition party claim that the inclusion of ballot papers missing a stamp, i.e. those possibly not from registered voters, has cast severe doubts on the legitimacy of the outcome. Whilst we are in no position to speculate on the trueness of the results, we know of a system – based on blockchain technology – that ensures a vote of this magnitude is 100% trusted by all.

How to create trust?

Voting system using Blockchain technology and smart contracts

Firstly, we must think of the current voting cards as information on a database. Each individual who voted will have their identity noted somewhere, and their single choice of vote recorded on this database. But as voting results are only counted and stored by governments and related entities, these organizations tend to have complete control over all the data.

This isn’t to say that they are handling the data in a malicious way. But they do have the potential access to tamper with stored data, censor valid votes in their favor and add fraudulent data.

Then, the obvious way to ensure that no single entity can control the database is to make the database public – and to allow anyone to access and keep a real time copy of this database. This is exactly what blockchain allows you to do.

Using what are known as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) we can create a voting system where we have 100% trust in the accuracy of the recorded votes.

In the Turkish situation for example, each registered of the 58 million registered voters would have verified their ID online, so that they have proved that they are the person who intends to vote. This verification can potentially be done by all kind of secure methods – voice recording, fingerprint, retina scan (in a maybe not too distant future).

Each node, i.e. every other voter, on the public blockchain agrees that this person is indeed the correct and registered voter. At this point a smart contract fulfils its role and delivers a secure one-time voting page to this person.

This person then enters their vote, which is broadcast to the blockchain. This doesn’t mean that the answer the voter gave is known to everyone – the others just know that somebody voted and this is all that is recorded, with an exact timestamp.

After a set time-period, perhaps 24 hours, the ability to vote is automatically closed for everyone and the results are counted and immediately publicly available.

What does it all mean?

Voting security

A system like this has many security benefits. As each verification process and vote are timestamped as they’re recorded, any tampering or changes or fraudulent votes are detected by the whole network and immediately dismissed. This gives 100% trust and transparency in the voting system.

Votes are counted instantly after close, so there is no uncertainty, and a system like this would take minimal manual labor and costs to run as everything is digitally distributed.

Of course, there are challenges to a having a system like this. The obvious would be how to roll out the project the first time it is used. A lot of research and development would be needed to ensure everything is setup correctly and this would take significant time and money. And it may need a good bit of education to the general public on how to use such a system.

But the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial outlay – a system like this would be highly cost effective and time efficient.

We must remember that blockchain, DAOs and smart contracts are all extremely new technologies. They are still in development, but their massive potential is clear for all to see. With public votes like the one in Turkey having such far reaching consequences, we need to have complete faith in them. Blockchain technology gives this security – surely it’s the way of the future.

1 reply
  1. Abhijeet Nagawade
    Abhijeet Nagawade says:

    Conducting national elections based on blockchain and smart contracts technology can be a challenge due to the massive voter base. But this technology can be introduced in public domain through small elections like co-operative societies or municipalities.

    Reply

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