The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has just made public a patent application from the U.S. Postal Service that describes a “Secure Voting System” based on blockchain technology. The USPS filed the patent, which describes “a voting system that can use the security of blockchain and the mail to provide a reliable voting system,” in February of this year.
Forbes reported on the patent disclosure, which comes amidst a turbulent period for the USPS arising from conflict directed by the sitting President. The patent application, which can be found here, says that the system works by having registered voters receive computer readable code in the mail. The code, subsequently, confirms the receiver’s identity and ballot information. “The system separates voter identification and votes to ensure vote anonymity, and stores votes on a distributed ledger in a blockchain,” the patent application adds.
While the patent clearly outlines the use of some kind of “system” based on blockchain, it does offer various “embodiments” of said system. The patent application, for example, says that one embodiment consists of verifying voters’ identity by having them apply to an online ballot system. Once a voter has provided proof of their identity, the system would create an anonymous token for them in the form of a unique identifier. The system would also send the voter a mailed ballot. To ensure there hasn’t been any tampering with the mailed ballot, election officials can compare it to the linked anonymous ballot submitted online.
Forbes notes that elections have used blockchain technology in the past. The Utah Republican election, for example, used the tech. It was also used in Arizona this year to send delegates to the Republican National Convention. Forbes notes the technology was even used for absentee ballots of overseas military in West Virginia two years ago. MIT reported security vulnerabilities with the app used in that instance, however.
Feature image: Paul De Los Reyes