There has been a change to how ballots are stored within the Skypunch Technology system. While evolutionary with respect to how it came to be, this is truly revolutionary in what is now possible—that being immutable and cryptographically verifiable ballots available only from the leading innovator of election technology. If you’re familiar with blockchain, this descends from that and is born out of asking what problem blockchain really tries to solve and how can it be solved better? The answer is a technology effectively purpose-built for elections.
Key properties of the technology are explained below.
The Skypunch systems runs on Amazon Web Services and this new ballot box is no exception. That means the expertise of AWS goes into server and network optimization, security, patching and backups.
Recall the days when bookkeepers using paper would record every single business transaction in a ledger. In the event some piece of data in a transaction needs updating, the original transaction does not go anywhere. It remains untouched, and a new entry is added to the ledger where the correction is made. In this way, a history of transaction activity is chained together. Were 100 such updates to be made, there would be 101 entries in the ledger. (1 for the original transaction, plus 100 updates.) But one should understand that databases have historically not followed this model. Instead, when an update is committed to a database, instead of it creating a new entry, the data in the original entry is overwritten leaving no trace of the state it was in prior to the update. So 100 updates to a single record would still mean only 1 record in the database. That certainly cuts down on the amount of storage space consumed and is perfectly okay when keeping a history of activity is unnecessary, but when a history of activity is required, it usually would mean keeping an “audit table” in a database where previous states of data are logged for audit purposes. But even this has its shortcomings given that someone with access to the database could modify or delete records from the audit table without leaving a trace.
This is where a ledger database comes in. The ability to update and delete data in a ledger database does not behave as it does in non-ledger databases and any data committed to the ledger becomes part of its auditable history.
Immutable is defined by Oxford dictionary as, “unchanging over time or unable to be changed.” In other words, once a ballot enters the Skypunch system, it is not possible for it to be altered by anyone. Because no ballot should ever be modified once committed, election managers may verify the absence of any change history to be certain that the results are being reported using original, unaltered ballots as decribed at Election Verification and Certification.
A cryptographic hash function generates a digest file which may be used to validate the integrity of any data changes. This in turn permits voters to perform verification of their own ballots well after the close of voting for absolute certainty their ballot has been captured and has not been altered since being committed to the system.
Blockchain is built on the concept of decentralized computing which has its uses, particularly when multiple parties, particularly parties unbeknown to other parties, are involved with ensuring the integrity of data before committing that data to the network. But with elections, that is not the case and is one reason why traditional blockchain is so poorly suited for elections. Instead, the act of a voter committing his or her ballot selections to a system occurs between a voter and a trusted authority like Skypunch Technology. It’s not much different conceptually than an account holder depositing money into his or her bank account where the bank serves the central trusted authority.