Concordium Blockchain, COBRA, Aarhus University, the Alexandra Institute, and the IT University have been granted DKK 3.6 million by DIREC, to investigate how to create the best possible online voting system for Greenland.
Due to a change in the law in 2020, many Greenlanders will likely have to cast their vote online in upcoming national elections.
A group of researchers from Concordium Blockchain, Aarhus University, the Alexandra Institute, and the IT University will investigate whether a blockchain-based system will be a more trustworthy e-election on the world's largest island.
DIREC, a collaboration between the computer science departments of eight Danish universities and the Alexandra Institute, has just granted the group DKK 3.6 million for the ambitious Privacy-Preserving and Software-Independent Voting Protocols project. The Department of Social Affairs, Labor Market and Home Affairs of Greenland is going to work closely together with the group on it.
"There are of course many advantages in an online election, however distrust and a lack of regulation ready and secure solutions has prevented the vast majority of countries from moving forward. From Concordium, a science based Decentralized blockchains with the ID at the protocol level, we are eager to participate and solve the potential problems in building online elections on our chain. In Greenland, where enormous distances make it difficult for people to cast their vote, an online solution could potentially increase voter participation, and this is one of the reasons why a change in law in 2020 paved the way for the Greenlandic government to give Greenlanders the opportunity to cast their vote online in the future." says Kåre Kjelstrøm, CTO at Concordium.
"My goal is that we can give the Greenlandic decision-makers good conditions for deciding which system they should use to hold online elections. From a research point of view, the project can also be valuable. Technologically speaking, we are moving into unknown territory and depending on our results, you can easily imagine that the many, many countries that can see the benefits of an election will be able to use our results as well. And finally, Greenland – with its limited population and great distances – is an optimal place to start from, says professor at the IT University, Carsten Schürmann, who is Principal Investigator on the project.
Is blockchain the solution?
Bas Spitters, associate professor at Aarhus University and researcher at Concordium Blockchain Research Center Aarhus,who is internationally recognized for his research related to the verification of blockchain technologies, sees great potential in the project:
"Electronic election protocols use a kind of bulletin board, and Blockchains can be used as a private and secure bulletin board. They are already used in minor elections to ensure that voters can check that their votes have been registered correctly. In this project we will explore whether it can also be used in larger elections. In particular, we aim to verify that the protocols used to verify the votes are inaccessible to outsiders and that they are secure. In addition, in cooperation with Concordium, we must investigate whether, by integrating MitID in their blockchain, it will be possible to give voters the opportunity to identify themselves at the same time that their private information is protected," concludes Bas Spitters.
Carsten Schürmann, who many consider one of the world's leading experts in election technology, has previously been critical of the internet. He is, however, convinced that online voting will become widespread in the coming years and recognizes the importance of creating a trustworthy system for it, which this project can create the best possible conditions for.
"Blockchains provide some relatively new opportunities to create security and increase transparency, which can be really interesting when we talk about internet elections. With this project, we will concretely investigate how blockchain technologies can be used to curb attacks on the election process, detect technical and human errors and preserve the secrecy of the vote. We will do this by developing some protocols for a system which can be verified and which is what we call software-independent," says Carsten Schürmann.