Japanese Blockchain Vote Easy to Use, Yet Faces Challenges

In a recent pilot in Japan, blockchain e-voting proved to be user-friendly, yet has a way to go. 

The blockchain-based voting system that the Japanese city of Tsukuba recently trialled appeared to run smoothly, but it will nevertheless take time until such tools get wider acceptance, news outlet The Japan Times reported on Sunday quoting Tsukuba mayor and an expert in the field.

As part of its plan to deploy blockchain technology in voting procedures by the end of 2018, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, launched a pilot at the end of August, in which locals had the opportunity to vote for different social projects. Entitled to take part in the poll were holders of the so-called My Number cards (digital social security identifiers) who were not necessarily Tsukuba residents.

“I had thought [the vote] would involve more complicated procedures, but I found that it’s minimal and easy,” Tsukuba mayor Tatsuo Igarashi commented after casting a ballot via the new system.

The blockchain tool aims to prevent tampering of voting data, enhance confidentiality and optimize the voting process, according to Tsukuba’s website. However, the trial witnessed some weaknesses of the system, like people having forgotten their My Number passwords, the online newspaper wrote.

Another challenge for blockchain elections was pointed out by Tohoku University professor Kazunori Kawamura, reportedly knowledgeable of e-voting:

“Due to fears of errors, administrative organizations and election boards are likely to find it difficult to introduce these (systems).”

To achieve broader recognition, blockchain-based votes first need to gain reputation by being used for voting by expatriates, according to Kawamura.

Tsukuba is said to be a pioneer in blockchain-powered voting in Japan. However, with the new initiative, the city is joining a number of other cities and countries that have decided to trial election platforms powered by distributed ledger technology (DLT). At the end of June, the Swiss town of Zug launched a trial blockchain poll on public matters. Soon after, Lausanne revealed it is working on a DLT e-voting system, too. In a similar move, the US state of West Virginia allowed its overseas troops to cast votes through a blockchain app. Attracted by the NEM protocol, Ukraine introduced a trial blockchain voting at the beginning of August.