The National Electoral Commission Sierra Leone has come out with a clarification to – and, an outright condemnation – of the news that theirs was one of the first elections recorded to the blockchain. While the blockchain voting company Agora claimed to have run the first blockchain-based election, it appears that the company did little more than observe the voting and store some of the results.
“The NEC [National Electoral Commission] has not used and is not using blockchain technology in any part of the electoral process,” said NEC head Mohamed Conteh. Why he is adamant about this fact is unclear – questions I asked went unanswered – but he and his team have created a set of machine readable election results and posted the following clarification:
“Anonymized votes/ballots are being recorded on Agora’s blockchain, which will be publicly available for any interested party to review, count and validate,” said Agora’s Leonardo Gammar. “This is the first time a government election is using blockchain technology.”
In Africa the reactions were mixed. “It would be like me showing up to the UK election with my computer and saying, ‘let me enter your counting room, let me plug-in and count your results,’” said Morris Marah to RFI.
“Agora’s results for the two districts they tallied differed considerably from the official results, according to an analysis of the two sets of statistics carried out by RFI,” wrote RFI’s Daniel Finnan.
Clearly the technology is controversial, especially in election law and vote-counting. Established players are already trying mightily to avoid fraud and corruption and Agora’s claim, no matter how plausible, further muddies those waters. Was Agora simply attempting a PR stunt in support of its upcoming token sale. That’s unclear. What is clear is the disappointment in Sierra Leone regarding their efforts.