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Australian start-up testing new online voting system

An Australian start-up that is currently testing what it says is the biggest dry run of an electronic voting system is confident that it can gradually make headway into getting its system taken up in the country.

XO.1 is in the process of running a 24-hour stress test of its SecureVote system using the bitcoin blockchain network. The test began at 2am AEST this morning.

The test will process 1.5 billion votes in a 24-hour period and, according to the company's chief technology officer and co-founder, Max Kaye, serve as "a demonstration of the processing power of XO.1's proprietary vote anonymisation algorithm - Copperfield - which ensures the auditable anonymity of votes written onto the blockchain via SecureVote".

SecureVote is claimed to be the world's "first high-throughput commercially viable secure, verifiable, auditable, and scalable Internet voting system, with voting delivered via smart-phone app and local electronic voting machines. XO.1’s proprietary Copperfield algorithm enables verification of the vote and the vote count without compromising the privacy of the vote itself".

XO.1 chief executive and co-founder Nathan Spataro (seen right) told iTWire that he was aware of the degree of reluctance that had to be overcome in order to get broad acceptance for a solution like SecureVote.

nathan spataro verticalHe said the company would probably first aim at having SecureVote accepted at the local council level and also by corporates. This would gradually lead to wider acceptance.

"The cost of processing a single vote in last year's federal election was roughly $15," Spataro said. "We are confident that we can come in much lower than that."

Asked whether it was possible to generate a paper trail from SecureVote, he said this would be possible if people went to voting booths and used electronic machines there.

If they used smartphone apps instead, they would receive a digital receipt for their vote. Given the nature of the blockchain, the transactions would be stored at multiple places making fraud highly unlikely, he said.

Asked how SecureVote planned to compete with iVote, a solution that has been used in NSW state elections and will be used in next Saturday's WA elections, Spataro said, "At this stage we don't have a lot to add regarding iVote. SecureVote solves a lot of the problems that have been identified with internet voting systems to date, including, the iVote system through using the bitcoin blockchain to create an immutable record of ballots cast."

The ongoing stress test is estimated to consumer about 4% of the Bitcoin transaction network verification capacity and create a backlog that would take about 24 hours to clear, with delays of up to 30 minutes for some transactions, Kaye said.

"We're building the world's most secure voting technology, and while there aren’t currently any elections which would require 1.5 billion votes, to prove the reliability and scalability of this technology we made the decision to conduct a stress-test a multitude of times larger than our expected first use cases," said Kaye.

"Unfortunately, this will cause disruption to some Bitcoin users as we will be paying a fee to prioritise the processing of our transactions. At the network’s anticipated peak processing times, we’ll delay some transactions by up to 30 minutes, and create a backlog of transactions that will take a maximum of 24 hours to clear."

XO.1 has received $500,000 of early-stage funding and is expecting to be able to market its product by the end of the year.

The progress of the stress test can be tracked at the demonstration here.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.