Japanese city trials blockchain to replace traditional voting booths

It is the first time in the country that distributed ledger technology will be used to offer online voting options.

Japan is well-known for developing and trying out technology ahead of the rest of the pack and now the blockchain is being piloted as a way to modernize local voting systems.

According to local media Japan Times, the city of Tsukuba in the Ibaraki Prefecture has adopted a new online voting system based on the blockchain.

Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technologies, was first associated with cryptocurrencies as the backbone of trading virtual coins including Bitcoin (BTC).

However, the technology has far more potential applications than the trade of virtual assets. The ledger is distributed across a number of nodes which contain a record of the data stored within the chain, updated in real-time, which makes it very costly and difficult to tamper with.

Information can be recorded in a generally secure and transparent way, which means that distributed ledger technology may have a place in smart contracts and a variety of financial and legal systems.

In Tsukuba, the city will allow voters to cast their ballots on a PC after displaying their "My Card" ID 12-digit number. This number will give them access to the private blockchain and allow them to cast their votes.

Each individual number is then connected to a vote and the information is time-stamped and stored on the decentralized, peer-to-peer network.

According to the city's website, this should "prevent tampering of voting contents and confidentiality, and achieve appropriate and efficient voting."

TechRepublic: Blockchain: A cheat sheet

Paper-based voting systems are still the most common way to cast your ballot. Estonia was the first country to introduce online voting options, which was made possible due to the country's national ID card rollout several years ago.

Blockchain looks promising in the field but there are still challenges ahead for those exploring the technology as a potential replacement for government elections.

See also: Alleged head of BitConnect cryptocurrency scam arrested in Dubai

In Japan, many voters could not remember their passwords for voting, and it was "difficult to tell whether a vote has been counted."

In addition, while the blockchain by nature is decentralized, there must still be a central authority in place to make sure that only those permitted to vote are able to do so -- and this requirement will change based on each individual country's rules.

Read also: Could blockchain be the missing link in electronic voting? | Electoral Commission exploring how technology can simplify voting process | CNET: Senate intel committee creates 6-step plan for election security

Earlier this week, Google announced imports of the Ethereum blockchain into its BigQuery service. The company says that analysis of the blockchain will allow for improved business decision-making and may prove useful for predicting when Ethereum itself requires an upgrade.

Previous and related coverage