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[MK] Distrust of Counting Counts, Solving Snowball Costs... Blockchain Leads Election Revolution

Maeil Business Newspaper Korea  2024-03-03

Distrust of Counting Counts, Solving Snowball Costs... Blockchain Leads Election Revolution

Blockchain Electronic Voting Blueprint

Unhackable Blockchain Technology

Resolving the chronic election controversy

800 billion in taxpayers' money at a time in local elections.

Save up to 70% on electronic voting

It's easier to compare major pledges.

Expecting a policy-oriented vote, not a party

With the April 10 general election just 37 days away, there have been suggestions from academia and industry to consider introducing an electronic voting system applying "blockchain technology." It is a "change of idea" to solve the growing distrust trend and huge cost problems with technology every time an election is held. In Korea, the cost of the state in major elections is at least 300 billion won and up to 800 billion won. In particular, fraudulent election conspiracy theories and election objections have occurred repeatedly, continuing to cause social conflict. Finally, the National Election Commission decided to reintroduce the check system to eliminate suspicions of fraudulent elections. It also argues that the power of the people should be sealed directly even in early voting. Experts stress that two problems, cost and distrust, can be solved with "technology." In other words, with blockchain technology designed to be impossible to hack, it can block disputes on election fairness and drastically reduce costs.

The electronic voting system based on blockchain technology is a method of fundamentally blocking manipulation controversy by applying blockchain encryption technology to voting data while conducting voting on electronic devices such as mobile phones. It is a decentralized ledger technology that distributes voting data to each voter's electronic device and records it. Voters keep everyone's voting data, including themselves, so anyone can identify the problem if certain values are manipulated. Analysts say that it is virtually impossible for a group to manipulate voting records because it has to hack all voters' electronic devices one by one to change their records.

Suppose that eight years later, the 2032 general election will be implemented as a blockchain-based electronic voting system. Voter A accesses the voting application downloaded on his mobile phone, compares and analyzes pledges with candidates of each party, and votes. The vote result value is immediately encrypted and stored in the blockchain network. The NEC can verify that the vote value has not been manipulated and then receive the aggregated result value and announce it as it is.

Now, the NEC should mobilize a wide range of administrative power, including creating polling stations and setting up counting machines across the country, and putting in more than 400,000 people. Voters also go through the cumbersome process of visiting the polling station in person, presenting their ID, receiving a paper ballot, stamping it, and putting it in the ballot box. The introduction of the electronic voting system is expected to drastically reduce cost and time compared to traditional elections.

Estonia has already operated an electronic voting system for 20 years since 2005 and has fully settled it. Utah, Texas, France, Spain, and Australia also partially introduced it in some elections. In 2013, Korea's election watchdog introduced an online voting support system called "K-voting." The system was used in various elections, including the 2020 Chungbuk National University presidential election and the 2023 People's Power Party leader election convention.

The biggest advantage of the electronic voting system is the overwhelming cost reduction. According to the NEC, 391.5 billion won was incurred in the 2022 presidential election and 331.4 billion won in the 21st general election in 2020. It took a whopping 802.8 billion won to hold the local elections in 2022. In particular, the proportion of voting and counting management of the total election expenses was the largest among the various items, with 49.9% of the 20th presidential election and 39.1% of the 21st general election. The NEC said that paper voting cost about 5,000 won per person, while K-Voting estimated the cost per person to be about 770 won, which is one-sixth of that of paper voting. Using blockchain is expected to further reduce costs.

Oh Hyun-ok (Professor of Information Systems at Hanyang University), CEO of Zkrypto, who developed blockchain voting technology and received favorable reviews at the U.S. International Electronics Show (CES), estimated that even if electronic voting is conducted nationwide, the server will only have to pay about 1 billion won per year. However, political science predicts that the reduction in election costs will be 40 to 70 percent, considering election campaigns in addition to voting and votes.

The electronic voting system is also an alternative to preventing disputes over fairness. A representative argument among the conspiracy theories of fraudulent elections is that the NEC rigged the election by throwing away or adding some of the ballots collected for specific group interests. However, in the electronic voting system, the ballot box itself disappears, and the intervention of management personnel can be minimized.

The electronic voting system is also expected to serve as a catalyst for reorganizing the current voting form based on pledges. The current election press is inconvenient for voters because it differs from party to party in form and contains only their own party's pledges. The practice of "don't ask, vote" is repeated every election.

However, in the digital space, since infographics (visualization information) allow for a clear organization of each issue, voters' "consideration ability" is improved. This expands the influence of pledges on voting and further reduces extremist politics. In other words, changes in the form of voting even lead to changes in the quality of politics. Sung Jae-ho, president of the Graduate School of Future Policy at Sungkyunkwan University, said, "Only when the middle class increases, political parties do not flow to extremism, and an agenda-oriented political culture is established."

[Reporter Ahn Junghoon]

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