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Some have suggested that blockchain, a decentralized, distributed ledger, may be useful for voting.

But in a new paper, researchers at MIT affirm a humorous cartoon from XKCD about potential blockchain voting products: “Whatever they sold you, don’t touch it.

“Perhaps counterintuitively, getting rid of not only outdated voting equipment but also paper ballots risks ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ and making elections much less secure.”

Using blockchain-based technology for voting would muddy the waters further, the paper argues.

One of the papers co-authors is Ron Rivest, one of the three famed cryptographers credited with inventing the RSA algorithm, which revolutionized the public key cryptography that underpins much of transactional security on the internet.

“While current election systems are far from perfect, blockchain would greatly increase the risk of undetectable, nation-scale election failures,” Rivest says in a statement.

For decades, technologists have pondered how to use software for voting in a way that protects sacred voting tenets: secrecy yet verifiability by voters and auditability by election authorities.

But if a private key is compromised – and there are plenty of examples of tear-inducing cryptocurrency thefts – that mean, in voting terms, someone else could cast a ballot.

“Permissioned blockchains also do not address the issues of key management or the security of software and hardware on user devices,” the MIT experts write.

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