On March 7, 2018 the world’s first blockchain-backed presidential vote took place in Sierra Leone. As election suspense heightened, a Swiss blockchain startup, Agora, was working hard behind the scenes to help process and tally the results using blockchain technology.
In this particular election, Agora utilized a custom permissioned blockchain technology that it has built over the last two years. According to Monax, permissioned blockchain networks allow the network to appoint a group of participants in the network who are given the express authority to provide the validation of blocks of transactions or to participate in consensus.
For Agora and Sierra Leone officials, this meant the secure transfer of information to a verifiable blockchain ledger, where independent node operators including the Red Cross, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the University of Fribourg were able to tally and verify each ballot and the election results. Leo Gammar, the CEO of Agora, told CCN, “I am grateful to Sierra Leone for showing the world how visionary they are in bringing free and transparent elections to their people.”
For Sierra Leone, this election was particularly notable, as it was also the first time in the country’s history that more than two candidates had a significant chance of winning, creating the possibility for a more diversified parliament. Historically since 1961, the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) have dominated the country’s parliament. A total of 16 candidates were on the ballot in this election.
This event marks an important first step towards improving the democratic process in countries historically impacted by fraud and corruption with paper ballots. While still early, the implications of blockchain voting could be transformative to democracies around the world. Blockchain technology improves upon previous digital voting systems by ensuring transparency, safety and voter anonymity.
According to Jaron Lukasiewicz, Agora’s COO, additional benefits of using a blockchain voting system versus paper ballots include reduced costs, the removal of human error and faster public access to election results. He explained, “All elections in the future will use blockchain voting systems. Blockchain is the only technology in existence today that can offer a fully-transparent platform for verifiably honest elections.“