In a sign of wider adoption by governments, it was reported that Brazil is turning to the power of the Ethereum blockchain to help record votes in the country’s popular referendums.
These referendums are an important part of the Brazilian democracy. In fact, they are even included in within the constitution as a way for the electorate to get their voice heard. If these petitions are able to get 1% of the citizens’ support then they must be heard in the legislature.
However, given how expansive Brazil is and how hard it can sometime be for people to vote in these popular referendums, there is often a situation where a great deal of people are left out from the process.
This is where the power of an immutable blockchain can come in.
Current Petition Pitfalls
The current system of running these popular petitions is considered a logistical nightmare. People are required to collect signatures for the petitions by hand. For a country with over 145 million people with a landmass the size of Brazil, this becomes impossible.
Moreover, given that the petition relies on people physically signing a document, it becomes nearly impossible to verify the authenticity of all of those who have signed it.
Once the petition has gathered the required votes, it still has to get championed by a lawmaker who will hear it. Perhaps this is the reason that so few of these popular petitions have actually being turned into law.
In fact, there have only been 4 laws that have been passed as result of these petitions. The significance of those laws can have a great impact on the political landscape though. This is because they may address issues where the politicians and citizens have differing incentives.
An example of one of the laws that had a great impact was the 2010 clean state law that implemented legislation that prevented politicians that had been convicted of a crime from running for office.
Democracy on The Blockchain
Given that blockchain technology is able to store information in a distributed ledger in an immutable fashion, it has great potential use cases for this potential challenge. More particularly, it verifies that a signature is authentic and attached to a petition.
The technology behind it will rely on an individual’s digital signature to sign the petition. A mobile App is currently being developed that will accept these digital signatures. They also want the app to have an API so that third party developers can use the technology.
The users will register their details on the app and create their unique cryptographic key (digital signature). Using cryptographic techniques, the voter is also able to confirm that they have voted without knowing anything else about those who voted.
The votes are counted as an Ethereum transaction and are added to the blockchain. Through the use of Ethereum smart contract technology, these votes are then tallied so that the outcome to the petition can be ascertained.
Moreover, given that the blockchain is completely decentralised and the contracts are coded into the public ledger, the system is trustless. There is no reliance on a politician to count them or take them. They are open for public view.
According to Everton Fraga who is one of those working on the project:
It would be a celebration of democracy. With this project, we are doing what the constitution says, but in practice, it hasn’t [yet] happened.
What this shows is that if a country with such a diverse and sometimes chaotic political climate can adopt a decentralised blockchain solution then there are many other countries that can follow suit. Moreover, there are a number of other applications beyond voting and governments can use blockchain to improve public services.
Hence, governments don’t have to lament the lack of centralised control that comes with cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. This demonstrates further how decentralised systems and cryptography can help instil a feeling of trust in the institution.
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