Japanese city first to deploy online voting system based on blockchain

The government of Tsukuba city is leading all other Japanese local governments by introducing an online voting system based on My Number recognition mechanism and blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology brings the much-required voting transparency

Tsukuba city is globally known as the emerging center of scientific research in Japan, and is now the first city to use such a system for voting purposes. The voting system enables voters to register a vote by means of a computer display proceeding with the use of “My Number” card on an electronic reader device.

On the other hand, the use of blockchain technology introduces several key advantages like prohibiting the fabrication and forging of data, greatly improving the overall transparency of the election process. Previously, this voting system has been deployed for different proposal selection mechanisms related to various social benefit schemes.

It was reported that the mayor of Tsukuba, Tatsuo Igarashi, found the system simple to use, contradicting his previous impression of the system being too complicated.

Overcoming systemic complexities

In the beginning, several complications were reported; for instance, many of the people who cast votes forgot their passwords, which were highly essential for the voting. Secondly, it was perplexing to tell if a vote was counted or not after being cast, leading to a certain degree of skepticism.

A professor from Tohoku University who is a prominent supporter of online voting, Professor Kazunori Kawamura said,

“The election boards and managerial federations are somewhat reluctant to introduce such systems in their communities due to the likelihood of technical complications. However, it is fundamental here to boost their reputation by consistently using such voting systems. Especially, expatriates should be encouraged to use them for casting their votes”

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What is Horizon State?

Cryptocurrencies and ICOs are often what capture the minds and wallets of crypto enthusiasts in the crypto/blockchain space, with mainstream media often focusing on the silly ideas, dodgy marketing tactics, downright scams instead of the promising projects. In fact, many non-believers are still unconvinced that cryptocurrencies even have a use case, insisting that it’s all a fad that will die down.

Like pogs. Or, you know, the internet.

However, while the jury is still out on cryptocurrencies (hint: they’re coming, don’t believe the FUD), blockchain technology is here to stay and nobody doubts it. Issues of determining the exact value of cryptocurrencies are still being ironed out, but behind the scenes, the distributed ledger technology underlying them is making massive leaps and bounds in business integration and the public sector.

The World Economic Forum believe that blockchain can add $1 trillion of revenue to the international shipping business, while Australian universities are adopting the tech to verify credentials. $500 billion retail giant Walmart is taking the technology on to handle their customer payments – and the list goes on. There are endless use cases for a technology that can prove where something is, where it came from, and who put it there with no censorship or interference.

One of the most interesting cases is the potential to overhaul and secure voting platforms. West Virginia are already trialing a blockchain app allowing deployed military staff to cast their electoral ballots from overseas in a secure way that can’t be tampered with, unlike the current system of sending votes through the mail or fax (which is apparently still a thing).

Horizon State is a blockchain-based platform and ecosystem that enables efficient vote casting and decision making processes. Forbes described the project as

A global gamechanger and will soon be adopted by political parties, multinational enterprises, global NGOs and communities in developing countries.

It has also been lauded by writers and reporters from Investopedia, Huffington Post, Cointelegraph, and more.

The platform operates through the use of Decision Tokens (HST). Horizon State’s use of blockchain technology addresses the security of the vote. Apart from the obvious security benefits of casting votes on a technology that isn’t owned or controlled by anyone and cannot be deleted or altered in any way, Horizon State points out that in the US, casting a vote can cost the electoral system anywhere between $7 – $27, while Huffington Post puts it at an average of $30 – a massive sum considering the millions of potential US voters – and that’s just in America alone.

It makes sense. The cost of paper, staff to count ballots, security to guard them, buildings to facilitate the voting and counting process – it all adds up, and it could all be replaced by an immutable ledger that assigns each person an ID number with which to cast their vote. No double voting, no issues of hacking, no concerns of gerrymandering by placing election booths far away from certain areas.

If adopted, the project could make a real difference both economically and in the effort to keep voting fair and secure. People could potentially cast their vote from overseas as well, allowing secure absentee voting.

The platform is the latest to join the world’s largest open-source blockchain initiative, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), as revealed in an announcement made yesterday.

“We are proud to join the EEA and are thrilled with the opportunity to work alongside industry-leading companies, and cooperatively spread awareness for the potential of Blockchain in enterprise,” said Jamie Skella, chief product officer, Horizon State. “The EEA provides us with brand new avenues for collaboration and comprehensive resources to leverage this groundbreaking technology to address specific enterprise use case demand.”

The Decision Token (HST)

The ICO ended last year, raising only $839,000. The project hasn’t done too bad since then however, and is currently sitting on a market cap of $29 million. The token actually saw an 18% increase in today’s market rally, and a +40% increase over the last week, with 10% of the total volume changing hands over the last 24 hours. The token is required to operate the platform, and the value is determined by the proposed cost of a vote in fiat.

A campaign is quoted for in fiat, and uses as many tokens as that fiat figure buys in the market, based on the token price at the time. If an election was quoted at $4 per vote, and the price of the token at the time is $0.40, then a vote will consume 10 HST tokens. If the price of the token at the time is $5, then a vote will consume 0.8 HST. The body running the election is guaranteed to pay what they have signed up for, and any token holders who decide to sell at this point receive the dollar amount quoted.

Delivery Architecture

The project released an interesting article about their methods, describing how they don’t consider a team member’s specific technological experience to be important – in the relatively new and fast-growing world of blockchain development, they want great developers with experience in any areas, believing that it’s more efficient to head-hunt talented people who learn fast instead of sticking to the incredibly limited pool of people who already have experience in the field.

A good developer is many times as productive and efficient as an average developer. The specific technology stack a developer used in the past?—?just as their physical location?—?should not be a hinderance. Our delivery architecure has to account for that too.

The project takes a personal approach in trying to get to know candidates before hiring by asking them about personal problems they’ve had in past jobs, and stress the point that they’re only looking for people who truly care about their mission to bring security and efficiency to the democratic voting system along with other potential applications like protection of free speech.

The Team

The team are an experienced bunch – CEO Oren Alazraki held a management position at Datacom prior to leading Horizon State, and the CPO James Skella headed up some major projects as well. There are a total of 23 team members listed on the website in executive, business, development, and marketing roles.

Their main use case may also be their greatest downfall – like many other projects in the space, what they’re proposing is definitely a superior alternative to the current system. The difficulty will be in getting the people in charge of the current system to hand over the keys! Not all governments want a fair electoral system that can’t be tampered with, for obvious reasons, but with the EEA on their side, the Horizon State project has some major allies, and the use case of such a valuable platform simply cannot be ignored forever.

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