U.S. Postal Service Considering Blockchain-Based Voting Solution

Close-up of a U.S. mail post office box
Credit: Mario Anzuoni - Reuters /

By Landon Manning

Amid uncertainty over the volume of mail-in ballots for the 2020 Presidential election and its ability to process them, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has filed a patent application for a new method of securing them that is based on distributed ledger technology.

The USPS has seen several setbacks as the presidential election approaches — one that promises to solicit a large number of mail-in votes as citizens choose to stay home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus — including cuts in funding and the disabling of existing mailboxes.

As a result of some of this uncertainty, however, a USPS patent was filed on August 13, 2020 for a “Secure Voting System,” which included details about how to use blockchain technology to create an infrastructure for the timely and fraudulent-proof conduction of elections on the federal scale.

“The system separates voter identification and votes to ensure vote anonymity, and stores votes on a distributed ledger in a blockchain,” the patent’s abstract states.

QR codes could be digitally transmitted or physically mailed to voters, who could then confirm their identity against verifying documents that are also stored in the system, per one potential application proposed in the patent.

The electoral process has long been regarded as a major potential use-case for novel applications of distributed ledger technology. At least one state-level election in the U.S. has included blockchain-based components and a nationwide election carried out in Thailand has as well. The Russian Federation carried out a massive pilot program for a nationwide blockchain voting system in August 2020.

Still, the fact that blockchain technology can solve some issues associated with voting might mean little for the federal government’s likelihood of actually putting the technology into practice. Ultimately, only time will tell how far the USPS is willing or able to pursue blockchain technology as a solution to the forthcoming influx of mail-in votes.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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