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Blockchain voting is the alternative for trusted democratic elections

Digital transformation will eventually make electronic voting backed by blockchain technology one of the main methods for elections all over the world….

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people’s lives, the relationship between governments and citizens, and the entire world economy, and of course, it has had a major impact on the United States presidential election.

Due to social isolation, a large number of American voters opted to vote by mail, which increased vote counting time, led candidate and acting President Donald Trump to judicialize the electoral process with actions in several states, and triggered intense debates about the veracity and legitimacy of the current American electoral system.

Related: Blockchain voting systems could be the future, but current flaws persist

The current voting system in the digital age

Currently, many have proposed “mobile” voting as an alternative more compatible with current times, allowing people to vote without leaving their homes.

We are able to shop online, there are professions that are performed 100% remotely — which has intensified with the current pandemic — but electoral participation still needs to be exercised in person and in a specific location.

Now, does this not go against the digital age where information and technology serve as facilitators of communication, data transfer and business transactions?

How does one make mobile, or remote, voting possible without compromising the security of electoral participation? The addition of blockchain solutions to the mobile voting process can give confidence to the electoral system and bring peace to the electoral process.

Related: Electronic voting with blockchain: An experience from Naples, Italy

The combination of sequential hashing and cryptography in a distributed structure allows for the protection of voters’ identity and the verification of absolutely all votes entered in the blockchain platform, which can enable secure and transparent voting mechanisms with electoral vote monitoring.

Imagine how good it would be to check if your vote was actually counted for the candidate chosen by you, with the absolute guarantee of the secrecy of your vote? All of this is possible with blockchain technology.

Related: The promise and reality of blockchain’s role in global elections

American electoral jurisdictions and blockchain-based pilot projects

Electoral jurisdictions in several U.S. states have tested mobile-application-based blockchain voting for state, federal and municipal elections — primarily to enable remote voting by military and civilian residents abroad via smartphones and tablets, rather than the traditional and mail, fax and paper methods.

West Virginia, for example, enabled mobile voting via blockchain for its state and federal elections back in 2018. Denver, Colorado; Utah County, Utah; and two counties in the state of Oregon also tested pilot projects for their 2019 municipal elections. In total, 29 counties in five states tested Voatz’s mobile voting app in official elections.

In all of the examples mentioned above, to the surprise of many and according to the authorities responsible for voting via blockchain, the electoral process proved to be easier and more accessible.

For that reason, there are already advocates of the use of blockchain in American elections.

The positions of American political personalities on mobile voting

As a result of the good performance mentioned in the previous paragraphs, there are already notable figures in American politics raising the banner of blockchain mobile voting, such as Bradley Tusk — an American businessman, philanthropist, political strategist and founder of Tusk Philanthropies; Mike Queen — deputy chief of staff to the West Virginia Secretary of State; and Jocelyn Bucaro — director of elections in Denver.

But because we are living in the age of polarization, there are also people strongly against mobile voting, including voting via blockchain. In that sense, we can refer to Jeremy Epstein, a member of the Association for Computing Machinery’s US Technology Policy Committee. Here, it is important to note that Epstein — who was a vice chair of the committee at the time — co-authored an electoral security report titled “Email and Internet Voting: The Overlooked Threat to Election Security,” which was developed in conjunction with Common Cause, the National Election Defense Coalition and the R Street Institute.

The report points to blockchain and internet voting as a target for online attacks by foreign intelligence, saying the transmission of ballots over the internet — including by email, fax and blockchain systems — makes them vulnerable.

Despite the pros and cons, are there solutions already in place that can protect citizens from electoral fraud? How would identity verification be used in the process? What projects and solutions can we think of implementing for identity verification in the voting process, and how would they work?

A blockchain solution that can enable a virtual election in the U.S.

The Voatz application, for example, looks for vulnerabilities and signs of commitment or vulnerability from the start. If the app finds that a smartphone has been compromised, it does not allow the user to vote. If the application passes security tests and third-party tools linked to it, the voter is authenticated on their mobile phone by a fingerprint or facial recognition.

The voter then provides their government identification, usually a driver’s license or passport, and takes a selfie for further authentication. Finally, the voter touches the fingerprint reader of their cell phone to verify that the smartphone is actually in the voter’s hands. In this step, the Voatz application combines the selfie taken by the voter with the image of the identity document and, after rechecking all the registration information given, confirms that the voter can vote.

Voters can use their own additional authentication factor, such as an Apple Watch, Google Authenticator or a YubiKey. And if they wish, they can still receive an SMS message or email as an additional authentication factor.

Cybersecurity in a blockchain vote

Regarding cybersecurity, as “all” software has vulnerabilities, it cannot be ignored that denial-of-service and distributed denial-of-service attacks are legitimate risks in a mobile vote. Therefore, it is important to look for backup methods for possible infrastructure failure in the case of a DoS attack on the mobile voting system.

The blockchain part of the process is the least worrying in terms of security. It is just one component of the voting process, which also includes the steps of identity security, verification and validation.

Blockchain, in the case of Voatz, is for the specific application for which it was built: to distribute voting records so that it is more difficult to attack remotely. It also has cryptographic audit evidence of each transaction.

The main security risk in voting via blockchain is in the interface with the electoral jurisdiction, where the ballot is also printed with a hash or encrypted key on top. After it is stored, it is finally digitized in the election systems and software ballot-reading systems. At this stage, the electoral process “is out of reach” for Voatz.

In addition to cybersecurity issues, another point in a blockchain vote that has been questioned is: How would the voting book be processed and the ballots verified in a blockchain solution?

Taking the Voatz app as an example again, it uses a 32-node blockchain infrastructure on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, each hosting 16 nodes in the United States. Cloudflare is among several companies that provide DDoS-protection services, and Voatz has said that the system employs end-to-end encryption and multi-factor authentication for infrastructure nodes.

Another blockchain voting solution was used in Colombia in 2016. “Blockchain Voting for Peace” is a case study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development of a referendum held in Colombia back then. In it, the nonprofit organization Democracy Earth Foundation creates a blockchain platform to allow Colombians living abroad to symbolically participate in the plebiscite on the peace treaty between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as FARC. The interesting thing here is the possibility of democratic coverage provided by the blockchain.

Key takeaways

From what we have seen so far, it is not an exaggeration to imagine that in the near future, many countries will see blockchain technology as an ideal voting method for a society that is increasingly digitized faster than ever.

However, even if the maturity of the technology is reached and it effectively brings greater legitimacy to the electoral process and veracity to the voting system, will we be able to overcome the cultural barriers and digital illiteracy that still exist in today’s world?

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Tatiana Revoredo is a founding member of the Oxford Blockchain Foundation and is a strategist in blockchain at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Additionally, she is an expert in blockchain business applications at MIT and is the chief strategy officer of The Global Strategy. Tatiana has been invited by the European Parliament to the Intercontinental Blockchain Conference and was invited by the Brazilian parliament to the public hearing on Bill 2303/2015. She is the author of two books: Blockchain: Tudo O Que Você Precisa Saber and Cryptocurrencies in the International Scenario: What Is the Position of Central Banks, Governments and Authorities About Cryptocurrencies?

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/blockchain-voting-is-the-alternative-for-trusted-democratic-elections

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Ethereum loses key support level as ETH price falls to two-month lows against Bitcoin

Ethereum’s value against Bitcoin dropped below its 200-day exponential moving average for the first time since March 2020, raising risks of further declines in the coming sessions.

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Ethereum’s native token Ether (ETH) rallied by more than 15% in the first twelve days of October. But, compared to Bitcoin’s (BTC) 30% gains in the same period, the second-largest cryptocurrency is currently in a downtrend when priced in BTC.

So far into October (and the fourth quarter of 2021), the ETH/BTC exchange rate has plunged by over 12%, reaching 0.060215 BTC for the first time in more than two months on Tuesday.

ETH/BTC daily price chart. Source: TradingView.com

The drop also pushed ETH/BTC below one of its longest-standing support zones, the 200-day exponential moving average (200-day EMA; the orange wave), as shown in the chart above. This raises the risk of more downside with 0.055304 BTC serving as the next possible target.

Bitcoin dominance rises on ETF hopes

More evidence for ETH/BTC’s weakness came from rising Bitcoin’s dominance in the crypto market.

In detail, the Bitcoin Dominance Index (BTC.D), which measures the flagship cryptocurrency’s capitalization against the rest of the crypto market, surged from 42.39% on Oct. 1 to 46.64% on Oct. 12. On the other hand, Ethereum’s dominance (ETH.D) dropped from 18.15% to 17.57% in the same period.

Bitcoin dominance index daily chart. Source: TradingView.com

That shows that more capital flew/rotated into the Bitcoin market than altcoins so far into October.

Related: Institutional crypto products eye record AUM as investors pile into Bitcoin

The rising Bitcoin dominance coincided with expectations that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would approve four Bitcoin-based exchange-traded funds (ETF) in a matter of weeks. The applicants are Global X Bitcoin Trust, Valkyrie XBTO Bitcoin Futures Fund, WisdomTree Bitcoin Trust, and Kryptoin Bitcoin ETF.

SEC chair Gary Gensler hinted at an optimistic outcome for Bitcoin ETFs despite the securities regulator’s history of rejecting similar applications for eight years in a row. Gensler noted that this time, however, the Bitcoin ETF applicants filed under the Investment Company Act of 1940, which offers higher investor protection.

Earlier this week, two “light” Bitcoin ETFs started trading in the U.S., named Invesco Alerian Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF under the ticker SATO and Invesco Alerian Galaxy Blockchain Users and Decentralized Commerce ETF (BLKC). However, the funds invest 80% of their assets in crypto-related companies, not Bitcoin itself.

SATO ETF 15-minute price chart. Source: TradingView.com

The SEC also approved a third crypto equity ETF. Dubbed the Volt Crypto Industry Revolution and Tech ETF (BTCR), the fund will gain exposure “in entities that hold a majority of their net assets in bitcoin or derive a majority of their earnings from bitcoin mining, lending or transacting.”

Bitcoin to go “insane”?

James Seyffart, an ETF analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said the news would be “very bullish” for Bitcoin. Similarly, independent market analyst Lark Davis also predicted “insane” market reactions should the SEC approve a Bitcoin ETF having exposure to actual BTC.

I don’t think people are fully prepared for how insane the markets will go once we get a #bitcoin ETF approved!

— Lark Davis (@TheCryptoLark) October 8, 2021

So it appears, the speculation over Bitcoin ETF approvals raised traders’ appetite for the top cryptocurrency in recent days with BTC outperforming its top rivals, including Ether.

Nonetheless, Ethereum boasts a strong decentralized application ecosystem and remains the key force behind the booming decentralized finance (DeFi) and nonfungible token (NFT) sectors.

David Gokhshtein, the founder of Gokhshtein Media and PAC Global, noted that Ethereum’s healthy network effect could send Ether to $10,000 by the end of this year. Meanwhile, as Cointelegraph covered, an ongoing supply crunch in the Ethereum market should remain a major talking point for the bulls moving forward.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/ethereum-loses-key-support-level-as-eth-price-falls-to-two-month-lows-against-bitcoin

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El Salvador’s Bitcoin detractors: Opposition groups gather as crypto law rolls out

While President Bukele enjoys widespread popularity, his law that makes Bitcoin legal tender does not.

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The year 2021 will probably go down the history books as one of Bitcoin’s (BTC) most interesting years, given its recent uptake by billionaires and adoption by mainstream institutions, not to mention El Salvador’s move to make it legal tender.

In El Salvador’s case, it almost seems as if the whole world is watching this experiment to see whether it will be a success or a total failure for the Central American nation.

With Sept. 7 marking the official implementation of Bitcoin as a legal tender in El Salvador, a wave of protests in the country against the move has roused suspicions and uncertainty over how the new law will be enforced.

From the arrest of individuals criticizing the Salvadoran government over the new law, to the wave of citizens across the country protesting Bitcoin’s legal status, the seminal crypto is facing some headwinds.

How Bitcoin became legal tender

It all began in early June after Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele announced in a tweet that the country’s legislative assembly had passed a bill making Bitcoin legal tender. The law was set to be implemented on Sept. 7 and would see the country’s 4.5 million citizens able to make purchases with Bitcoin at stores nationwide.

In his announcement, Bukele said that once an official bill to make Bitcoin legal tender was passed, “Chivo ATMs” — Chivo being the name of the official BTC wallet for El Salvador — would eventually be “everywhere” in the country. This would allow El Salvadorans to withdraw Bitcoin in cash without incurring any commissions on their holdings, as is the case with services such as Western Union.

Moreover, Bukele assured citizens that no one will be forced to use Bitcoin. In a statement, the 40-year-old president said that “someone can always queue up at Western Union and pay a commission.”

“What if someone doesn’t want to use Bitcoin? [Well] don’t download the app and continue living your normal life. Nobody is going to take your dollars,” he said.

The first wave of resistance

Following the announcement, a group of protestors called the Popular Resistance and Rebellion Block (BRRP) block emerged to protest against the Bitcoin law.

“President Nayib Bukele passed the law making the cryptocurrency legal tender in the country without proper consultations with the people,” one activist said.

Although the protest group highlighted complexities such as Bitcoin’s volatility as reasons for caution, their main claim is that the law mainly serves large businesses linked to alleged money laundering to the benefit of corrupt officials.

“Bitcoin only serves some large businessmen, especially those linked to the government, to launder ill-gotten money,” one protestor said.

A letter from the BRRP group said that “entrepreneurs who put their capital in Bitcoin will not pay taxes on their earnings and the government would spend millions worth of taxes to execute the whole campaign.”

Indeed, the bill to make Bitcoin legal tender includes some interesting proposals such as a zero capital gains tax on BTC. The bill also promised investors permanent residency in the country with a three BTC investment in El Salvador.

The arrest of Mario Gómez

As the controversial Bitcoin bill became a law on Sept. 7, both supporters and detractors continue to emerge with the latest in events around the law being the arrest of Mario Gómez.

According to several local news outlets in El Salvador, Mario Gómez — a computer and crypto expert as well as an avid critic of the government — was arrested by local police and held for a few hours before being released.

Gómez has been known to regularly post on social media opposing the government’s move to make Bitcoin legal tender. Observers such as Steve Hanke — an economist from Johns Hopkins University — criticized Gómez’s arrest as an “authoritarian police tactic in action.”

Hector Silva, a counselor of the mayor’s office in San Salvador, said, “the arrest of Mario portrays the fragility of the government in terms of the implementation of the Bitcoin law but confirms something even more dangerous.”

“They are willing to manipulate whatever institutions are necessary to push critical voices out of the way,” added Silva.

Although the police released a statement saying that Gómez was detained as part of a financial fraud investigation, news reports claimed that he was arrested without a warrant and an attempt was made to take possession of his phone and computer.

The citizens’ protest

Right before Gómez’s arrest, some retirees in El Salvador took to the streets to protest, worried about the government using the cryptocurrency to pay their pensions.

While speaking to reporters, one demonstrator from the crowd — which included veterans, disability pensioners, workers and retirees — said, “we know this coin fluctuates drastically. Its value changes from one second to another, and we will have no control over it.”

While Bukele has promised that the use of Bitcoin in the country will be optional and that salaries and pensions will still be paid in United States dollars, the protestors still highlighted a lack of knowledge of the technology.

Citizens have also complained that there has been too little explanation from officials about the pros and cons of Bitcoin. “We don’t know the currency. We don’t know where it comes from. We don’t know if it’s going to bring us profit or loss. We don’t know anything,” one Salvadoran added.

In response, Bukele’s administration has stated that the use of Bitcoin is not mandatory and that necessary training and other alternatives to Bitcoin will be provided.

Mixed opinions

Although President Bukele enjoys incredibly high approval ratings, recent polls concerning the Bitcoin law show a widespread lack of support for the measure. A recent poll conducted by El Salvador’s Universidad Centroamericana José Siméon Cañas shows that up to two-thirds of respondents are inclined toward a move to repeal the law, and more than 70% prefer the U.S dollar over Bitcoin.

International institutions like the International Monetary Fund have also warned about macroeconomic, financial and legal issues brought about by El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin.

Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America Fixed Income Strategy at Amherst Pierpont, said that “the plans for Bitcoin under an increasingly autocratic regime will likely only compound concerns about corruption.”

On the flip side, others remain optimistic that the new law will eventually benefit Salvadorans given that the country’s economy is heavily reliant on remittances sent home by migrants overseas. Last year alone, the country’s remittances totaled $6 billion, accounting for a fifth of gross domestic product.

“El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender by law offers the country some optionality in financial matters and sovereignty,” said Alexander Blum, managing director of Two Prime.

His sentiments were echoed by Alberto Echegaray Guevara — an artist and entrepreneur — who said, “President Bukele’s Bitcoin Law is not only trying to make international money transfer cheaper and easier for 70% of his unbanked population but also creating a new economic hub and new remittances platform in Central America.”

Adrian Pollard from HollaEx told Cointelegraph, “It is typical for new technology rollouts to have bugs and apposition but that’s exactly why it was made voluntary.”

“I suspect there will be more bumps along the road for El Salvador but it will be worth it long term. In fact, I believe other South American nations aren’t far behind and will follow,” added Pollard.

In his announcement, Bukele said that once an official bill to make Bitcoin legal tender was passed, “Chivo ATMs” — Chivo being the name of the official BTC wallet for El Salvador — would eventually be “everywhere” in the country. This would allow El Salvadorans to withdraw Bitcoin in cash without incurring any commissions on their holdings, as is the case with services such as Western Union.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/el-salvador-s-bitcoin-detractors-opposition-mounts-despite-crypto-rollout

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The future of DeFi is spread across multiple blockchains

Creating interoperability, not competition: Multichain solutions will positively impact the blockchain space in terms of accessibility, innovation and economic viability.

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Long stuck in the shadows of Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) finally took hold of the market in 2020 during the decentralized finance summer. Designed to recreate traditional financial systems with fewer middlemen, DeFi is now being used across lending, borrowing, and the buying and selling of tokens. The majority of these decentralized applications (DApps) are run on Ethereum, which saw activity on the network increase during 2020. This activity also trended upwards due to yield farming, also known as liquidity mining, which enables holders to generate rewards with their crypto capital.

But as activity on Ethereum increased, so too did the network’s transaction fees. In May, it was reported that Ethereum gas fees were skyrocketing. It’s intuitive that engaging in DeFi is only worthwhile when handling capital that exceeds any network fees. Consequently, it soon became clear to users that the blockchain was verging on unusable.

Related: Where does the future of DeFi belong: Ethereum or Bitcoin? Experts answer

Without a doubt, Ethereum remains the most active and populated blockchain, but other potential players are popping up, providing a viable alternative to Ethereum. For example, layer one protocols such as Binance Smart Chain (BSC) and Solana (SOL) are attracting billions in assets under management, whereas layer two solutions such as Polygon (MATIC) are capturing Ethereum’s disgruntled users’ attention due to their compatibility with Ethereum-based protocols. This is in addition to delivering low fees and quick transaction speeds. However, despite Ethereum gas fees reaching a high over the past year and the growth of faster networks, none of these chains have killed Ethereum yet.

It’s because of this, as we enter the second half of 2021, that the narrative of “Ethereum vs. the rest” is starting to change — developers are realizing the value of a cross-chain future rather than having to pick one blockchain to build on. It’s no longer a case of creating a chain with a competitive edge, but of ensuring all chains can work interchangeably to improve the industry.

Related: A multichain future will accelerate innovators and entrepreneurs

Benefits and drawbacks of a multichain future

Due to its prominence and longstanding presence in the market, Ethereum has the first-mover advantage and remains the most significant blockchain within the DeFi ecosystem as of Q1 2021. But with other chains gaining momentum, it is these alternatives to Ethereum that are providing the benefits of faster transaction speeds and significantly lower fees.

The introduction of other chains isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even for Ethereum fans. After all, a multichain ecosystem brings additional space for new protocols to enter, each with a strong user base. Each new chain also creates a new community, vacancies for services, and an individual identity and culture.

Related: Too little, too late? Ethereum losing DeFi ground to rival blockchains

One possible drawback, depending on how you look at it, is that some blockchains require unique programming languages, such as JavaScript, Rholang, Simplicity, Rust or Solidity, which may present a barrier to entry for developers. At the same time, however, different coding languages can present a new way for developers to solve a problem. And as the blockchain space moves further towards multichain, it may inspire developers to create and innovate as they witness the diversity in viable blockchain projects. It’s for this reason that projects which don’t innovate could be seen as lagging and abandoned by their community.

Not only that, but separated blockchains create innovation silos, presenting challenges to progress and adoption. Joining the multichain future together can be seen as seamlessly connecting these specialized groups. This could be seen as a difficult objective to achieve in the traditional tech world, but cryptocurrency and blockchain are challenging these existing infrastructure monopolies, and this industry has the ability to pioneer an ecosystem that works cohesively rather than competitively.

Related: Life beyond Ethereum: What layer-one blockchains are bringing to DeFi

More blockchains, more value

It’s inevitable that projects will eventually connect multiple blockchains, making the transfer of information from one chain to another seamless. In fact, the cryptocurrency market and multichain adoption is less of a zero-sum game than is often cited. And, as the multichain future becomes more apparent, it will only become clearer that the additional functionality, usability and scalability it brings is contributing to the onboarding of new users.

Related: The great tech exodus: The Ethereum blockchain is the new San Francisco

Rather than viewing the existence of a multichain future with doubt, it should be looked on positively. There are plenty of different smart contract platforms in the crypto ecosystem, all of which impact the blockchain space in terms of accessibility, economic viability and innovation. Blockchains may be separated right now, but everything will come together in the end, creating an interoperable and fast network of protocols that fulfils our daily needs. The beauty of this is that we won’t have to worry about how we’re transacting or what we’re transacting on, as it won’t matter.

We’re still far from achieving the end goal of interoperability, but once it’s achieved mass adoption, the crypto industry will be unstoppable. And, as the sector continues to grow, projects are finding that they have to adapt to a multichain future soon or risk getting left behind.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Michael O’Rourke is the co-founder and CEO of Pocket Network. Michael is a self-taught iOS and Solidity developer. He was also on the ground level of Tampa Bay’s Bitcoin/crypto meetup and consultancy, Blockspaces, with a focus on teaching developers Solidity. He graduated from the University of South Florida.

Without a doubt, Ethereum remains the most active and populated blockchain, but other potential players are popping up, providing a viable alternative to Ethereum. For example, layer one protocols such as Binance Smart Chain (BSC) and Solana (SOL) are attracting billions in assets under management, whereas layer two solutions such as Polygon (MATIC) are capturing Ethereum’s disgruntled users’ attention due to their compatibility with Ethereum-based protocols. This is in addition to delivering low fees and quick transaction speeds. However, despite Ethereum gas fees reaching a high over the past year and the growth of faster networks, none of these chains have killed Ethereum yet.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-future-of-defi-is-spread-across-multiple-blockchains

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