Blockchain to the rescue for same-sex poll?

Published on the 31/08/2017 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

Blockchain used same sex survey poll

With a national same sex marriage poll - and $122 million bill - on the horizon, new scrutiny is being levelled at outdated voting systems…

As the last developed English-speaking country in the world not to allow same-sex couples to marry, and with an estimated 72 percent of Australians in favour of change, it appears we’re now well overdue for a review of this country’s marriage laws. Though parliament has the power to change the law, it won’t, so a referendum is now scheduled, as expensive, labour- intensive and clumsy as it may be.

From a technology perspective, there’s got to be a better way of course and it’s increasingly looking as if that way is blockchain tech. There’s a lot of ink currently being spilled over blockchain – much of it speculative – but new, more direct approaches to democratic processes really do seem to be one area blockchain is about to disrupt for good.

One Australian start-up pinning its hopes on just such a thing is Horizon State. It said its Ethereum-powered voting platform could provide a secure, cost effective and decentralised voting system infinitely better than the antiquated process still in use.

“We’re asking the question: If democracy was designed with today’s technology, what would it look like?” Jamie Skella, co-founder of the startup, told iStart.

“We’re building a platform that will modernise the way we collectively make decisions, creating a way to vote that is immediate, secure and transparent. There are a range of benefits that extend well beyond the current system and saves a lot of money in the process.”

The company has already got a minimum viable product, and, via its association with Australian democratic movement MiVote, has already become the world’s first blockchain-enabled voting system in public use. The company is now looking for ways to scale it to a national level.

“The plebiscite that’s being run in Australia is looking to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $122 million,” said Skella. “If we were to run it using the blockchain, smartphones and computers, it would cost in the vicinity of $2 million to 8 million dollars.”

“Hopefully from these small beginnings we can start to replace postal votes like these and we won’t have to do things like this at $122 million in the future.”

As it stands, there are still kinks to worked out, specifically around scaling, but things are looking good.

“If we ran a national vote right now where everybody wanted to vote on the same day, we’d probably have some issues,” said Skella, “but there is currently a lot of fierce work amidst the Ethereum ecosystem which will solve current scalability concerns during 2018. That would mean that transaction volumes, an equivalent of votes-per-second, would far outweigh commercial networks in relation to credit card processing.”

“Very soon blockchain will outstrip those networks by significant margins as well.”

And while this application could be one of the primary use cases, the technology could, in theory, be used in any situation where collaborative or communal decision making is required.

“You can use it for electoral voting, where officials are elected to parliament,” said Skella. “It can be used for annual general meetings for large enterprises, independents polling their constituency, anywhere there is a need for a vote to be secure or where someone needs to engage a constituency with immediacy and a cost-effective process.”

The company plans to hold an initial coin offering to raise funds for the platform in early October.

Voters will begin receiving ballots for the same-sex marriage plebiscite on September 12 ahead of a count in November.

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