This Japanese City is Experimenting with Blockchain Voting

A city in Japan known for being a hub for scientific research is the first in the country to attempt to use a new blockchain voting system, the Japan Times reports. Voters in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture are now able to cast ballots via computer after registering with a number identification system called ‘My Number’. The state of the art blockchain platform is now being used in Tsukuba to decide proposals on social contribution projects.

“I had thought it would involve more complicated procedures, but I found that it’s minimal and easy,” Tsukuba Mayor Tatsuo Igarashi said after casting a vote using the system.

After placing their ‘My Number’ card on a card reader, voters are able to quickly and efficiently cast ballots, which are then secured on a blockchain to prevent the voting data from being falsified or read.

It sounds simple enough, but Tsukuba did encounter some issues on its first attempt at blockchain voting. First, many voters ended up forgetting their passwords, leading to confusion on whether or not certain votes were counted.

“Due to fears of errors, administrative organizations and election boards are likely to find it difficult to introduce these (systems),” said Tohoku University Prof. Kazunori Kawamura, who is familiar with the subject of online voting. “It’s necessary to first enhance their reputation by using it for voting by expatriates,” Kawamura said.

Tsukuba is located in Japan’s Kanto region, on Honshu Island, about an hour’s drive northeast of Tokyo. The city has an estimated population of 227,000 and is home to tech giant Intel’s headquarters.

Other Blockchain Voting Efforts

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the US state of West Virginia unveiled plans in August to allow voters to cast their ballots using a blockchain-powered smartphone app called ‘Voatz’ in this year’s November mid-terms. The decision was aimed at making it easier for military troops serving abroad to cast their ballots.

West Virginia’s mobile voting app has been met with considerable opposition. A significant portion of the country is still entrenched in the hysterics surrounding the recent federal indictment outlining Russian meddling in the US Presidential elections. US intelligence agencies have warned that Russia may attempt further interference in the midterm elections.

“Mobile voting is a horrific idea,”  said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology. He writes to CNN in an email, “It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

CNN reports that officials tested Voatz in two counties during the 2016 primary elections and encountered no problems. West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner, who partnered with Voatz on the project, said that he isn’t calling for the replacement of traditional balloting; his goal with Voats is largely to help troops serving abroad get their voices heard.

“There is nobody that deserves the right to vote any more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us,” Warner said.

As the debate surrounding Voatz in West Virginia continues, come election time it will be left up to each of the state’s 55 counties to decide individually whether or not the voting app can be used within their respective jurisdictions.

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