Sierra Leone Holds World's First "Free And Fair" Blockchain-Backed Election

Cryptocurrency investors have endured a difficult week as reports that Japanese regulators are cracking down on local exchanges following a massive heist at CoinCheck - an unregistered local exchange - and the SEC is demanding that US-based cryptocurrency exchanges register with the agency, sent virtual currency prices reeling, eventually pushing bitcoin to a multiweek low on Friday below $9,000.


But in the world of blockchain technology, where even crypto skeptics like Jamie Dimon (who now regrets calling BTC a fraud) and Ray Dalio see a promising future, it was truly the best of times. Earlier this week, the town of South Burlington, Vermont became the first town in the US to record a real estate transaction by registering the deed transfer on a blockchain-based system.


And in another triumph, the first national election to be tracked and verified using blockchain technology unfolded in Sierra Leone this week. The votes are still being tallied, but blockchain voting startup Agora is supervising the first beta test of its vote-monitoring blockchain tech, as Coindesk reported.

As voters lined up to cast votes in what had been a heated campaign between 16 candidates, unbeknownst to them, blockchain voting startup Agora was helping keep track of it all, and through its proprietary distributed ledger, providing unprecedented insight into the process.

In what, by all accounts, appears to be a world's first for the emerging technology, Agora used a private, permissioned blockchain - one inspired by the technology that backs bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies - to oversee the results of a national election in real time. It then relayed the data to individuals entrusted to oversee and verify the nation's democratic process.

Of course, the technology is still very rudimentary, and required Agora employees to physically verify paper ballots before accurately entering their content into the company’s blockchain database.

The company’s tech - which it calls “skipchain” - is what’s known as a “permissioned” blockchain - where only some of the data being entered into the database is visible to the public (in this case, the names and personal information of the voters will remain hidden, while the results of the vote and all non-personal associated metadata should be available for all to see).

As this article was being completed, Agora, a Switzerland-based foundation, was in the process of manually counting the votes and logging them on a blockchain.

"Voters complete their votes on paper ballots and then our team with impartial observers register them on the blockchain," explained Lukasiewicz, who formally joined the company in January after first joining as an advisor.

Stepping back, though, not only is this the first time blockchain has been implemented in a national election, it's also the first live implementation for Agora's stack of blockchain services - what the company calls "skipchain" technology, designed to reach consensus with each node only seeing part of the blockchain.

In some respects, Sierra Leone had a number of advantages that made Agora’s beta testing feasible. For instance, since the end of its civil war in 2002, the country has conducted a number of largely “free and fair” elections. But this year’s vote was also fraught with complications that are still being worked out. Several episodes of political violence preceded the ballot, and already, before the official vote tally has even been released, two opposition parties are expressing “grave concerns” about the fairness of this year’s vote, per Africa News. The Coalition for Change and National Grand Coalition told AN  that their agents were evicted from some polling stations when the counting of votes started…

But in its preliminary report, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, noted that while the election was largely peaceful, free and fair, there were some issues, including the heavy presence of security at polling stations that reportedly intimidated some reporters.

In summary, the blockchain-backed vote is a first and important step toward deploying a seamless system of balloting on the blockchain that would allow voters to record their choices directly onto Agora’s blockchain, without the paper intermediary. And with a handful of other African states interested in working with Agora for future elections, that day might arrive sooner than some skeptics expect.

For those who are still unfamiliar with how the technology works, this two-minute explanation could offer some insight.


Sanity Bear NoDebt Sun, 03/11/2018 - 04:10 Permalink

An election is exactly what you don't want this technology used for, you can't have a secret ballot. Any access wall between personal data and votes cast will obviously be breached to all hell by the first party with the ability and interest to do so.

This will enable any government to individually retaliate against anyone that didn't vote for the winner.

In reply to by NoDebt

GreatUncle NoDebt Sun, 03/11/2018 - 08:42 Permalink

Secret ballot is gone then?

"the names and personal information of the voters will remain hidden" but accessible by government and the intelligence agencies.

Tell you what ... fuck voting because you either vote for the globalist controlled parties and anybody else make you a target.

Fuck voting and the democracy bollocks now.


In reply to by NoDebt

quesnay Sat, 03/10/2018 - 22:44 Permalink

This gives the illusion of "free and fair", but there is more to vote integrity than slapping things on a blockchain. For instance:

- How are voter's IDed? How do we know an ID is valid? How do we know the ID matches the person (i.e. valid ID, wrong person)?

- Who holds the private keys for signing each vote. Surely we are not expected to believe that each individual walked in with a hardware key (which is what would be required). This means there are 'proxies' signing many votes. Proxies are people that can be coereced, or otherwise compromised.

- Can voters be identified? I assume no, especially if actual signing done by proxy observers, but imagine in the future. Will your vote today mean being rounded up tomorrow for wrong thought, or even fired from work since everything is in a public ledger. I know in this case it was a private ledger for an experiment, but in the future the ledger has to be public or it's pointless - "Trust us. The ledger is good and the vote is valid" is no better than what exists now.

The key to voter integrity is actually not the blockchain at all. That's unlikely to solve a single voter fraud issue in the US for instance. The key is a solid ID system that is unique (only one per individual), verifiable and valid (the person is alive, a citizen, not in jail, etc)

techpriest quesnay Sat, 03/10/2018 - 23:30 Permalink

In this case, you would have to eliminate privacy in voting. Not necessarily a bad thing.

By doing so, every key would be registered with a particular person, and there would be an audit trail showing who did what in every step of the election. Further, you would be able to check your own vote at any time in the system.

In reply to by quesnay

SoDamnMad quesnay Sun, 03/11/2018 - 03:11 Permalink

Vote, get on the bus, get your new fake ID while the bus drives to another town, vote, get on the bus,...

I say this over and over on ZH

Forget about Democrats fixing this voter fraud.  Verifiable paper ballots with ID and proof of citizenship would be RACIST, therefore we will never get them as long as Democrats have any power.  Never mind that Guyana requires ID + proof of citizenship + an address check.  Guyanans can't be racist  because they aren't white.


Have blockchain issue the voting ID and then the vote is only recorded when it matches that ID

In reply to by quesnay

Benjamin123 Sun, 03/11/2018 - 01:16 Permalink

Alternative: Do away with voting and choose a parliament through a random lottery of every citizen. You are statistically guaranteed to get a fair representation of the actual country rather than "the most experienced and educated", with both the good and the bad. Arent representatives supposed to represent? Have short terms, like 6 months, that guarantees as well that no one is bought or blackmailed (unless the whole country is blackmailed). Then, a new batch of random people.

This does away with the problem of funding campaigns (if the state funds them only insiders win, if private money funds them only bought-for-shills win, if funded personally only billionaires win). Does away with political parties and pitting half the country against the other. Does away with electoral promises, media lies and assorted circuses. 

GreatUncle Benjamin123 Sun, 03/11/2018 - 08:51 Permalink

The party system whatever nation it is allows the globalists to purchase the party.

Now this is exactly what they have done globally.

The way to fragment their power is ever smaller communities where each community must be personally bought and not just a couple of parties that put up appointed candidates. If the community is 10 then 5 or more must be bought and scale it up accordingly across the nation and it costs them more than they want to pay.

Hence the party system is preferable to them and even better an appointed governance like the EU.

Democrats and Republicans are already up for extermination as parties to an appointed form of governance.

Saves all the bollocks on voting then ... coming soon to a society near you.

In reply to by Benjamin123

roddy6667 Sun, 03/11/2018 - 05:58 Permalink

This whole article overlooks the fact the fact that they only get to vote for candidates approved by the Powers That Be, just as in America. Voting does nothing.

moobra Sun, 03/11/2018 - 06:47 Permalink

If your suburb votes against us then the warlord's thugs come round.

Now head off to the blockchain so we don't lose your votes.

Ah Democracy, more than just a ballot box.

Captain Nemo d… Sun, 03/11/2018 - 07:26 Permalink

Impartial parties registering vote is one weak link. As pointed out above, so is voter ID. If votes can be backtracked to voters, its no longer secret ballot which would be especially critical in a country like Sierra Leone. Yet another "technology application" that can go south. On the other hand if the "authorities" really want to hold a free and fair election then there is no need for blockchain.

Rabid Bear Sun, 03/11/2018 - 08:12 Permalink

Anyone who cannot see that blockchains are the path to RFID digital currency enslavement is very naive. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Whenever I ask people "Who created digital currency?" ....I always get answers like "Well we do not know who created it but that is not important" or "Some Asian guy".....and in the back of my head I'm thinking "So you mean the "World Banks and CIA?"

gaasp Sun, 03/11/2018 - 09:03 Permalink

That paper verification will always have to be part of the audit trail makes any type of 'technology' even a harder sell than the current opaque process.

refill6times Sun, 03/11/2018 - 10:47 Permalink

...unbeknownst to them, blockchain voting startup Agora was helping keep track of it all,...


I'm confused, Do voters put their name on the ballot?


snblitz Sun, 03/11/2018 - 12:41 Permalink

How does a block chain make an election "free and fair"?

It would be nice if even one article explained how the block chain is used to accomplish the claimed task.

Most block chains (maybe all) are third party systems like any other third party system.

How is this for block chain based voting?

I post a vote via a public/private key pair that I only I know.

the vote goes into the public ledger. Only I know which vote is mine.

I can check my own vote **and** I can add up all the votes that appear in the ledger.

But how do I stop ballot stuffing?

Currently, no one cares if 104% of registered voters vote in a district.  So counting will not help.

Generally speaking, the only way to stop ballot stuffing is to break voter privacy.

How many of you actually know why we have a secret ballot?

Many  think it is so your vote cannot be used against you, but the problem that was experienced in the past was mainly vote buying.  To get paid you had to provide evidence as to how you voted.

The block chain system described above allows you to validate your own vote while not breaking your anonymity, but it also allows you to prove to third parties how you voted.

Hence the system suffers from both ballot stuffing **and** vote buying.

Let me know how you are going to stop ballot stuffing without breaking anonymity.

Bitcoin is a block chain and a public ledger.  This explains how it works:



Dragon HAwk Sun, 03/11/2018 - 14:12 Permalink

Id to vote,  block chain scans the id and logs it as a individual vote on the chain,  checks for duplicate, require a duplicate check  in the id list, could be done,  personally i have no problem with volunteers allowing un anonymous voting for extrapolation use,  like somebody said  google already knows  how i will vote, it's How the Cheaters vote that concerns me.