First Results of Sierra Leone’s Blockchain Vote Are In

Blockchain startup Agora has published what appears to be the earliest results for the hotly contested Sierra Leone election, the first presidential vote tracked using the technology.

After the voting concluded on Wednesday, as many as 400,000 ballots were manually inputted into Agora’s blockchain system by a team of 280 accredited observers working in as many locations.

Currently, the exact number of votes for each candidate aren’t being revealed to the public, just the percentages. But Agora, a Switzerland-based foundation, said it plans to make the results auditable in a public format in the coming days.

While this is a milestone for distributed ledger technology, the messy circumstances surrounding the election, not to mention the limited scope of Agora’s work, show how far blockchain is from reaching its theoretical potential for voting.

For one thing, Agora, which was accredited by Sierra Leone’s National Election Committee (NEC), didn’t count all the ballots, just those cast in the country’s most populous district, where the capital city, Freetown, is located. The NEC’s tally is the official one; Agora, like other accredited observers, is providing an independent count for comparison.

“These are the final results from Agora to the Western area,” said Agora’s CEO, Leonardo Gammar. “The NEC is going to have its own results. Other observers are going to have their own results.”

Further, public blockchain purists may have trouble relying on Agora’s count. Some of the technology developed by Agora that grants node operators access is currently patent-pending, Gammar said, so there won’t be a fully open-source repository on Github for outsiders to inspect.

However, future elections are expected to use the full stack of the company’s technology and will be more fully auditable via integration with a public blockchain.

Going forward, Gammar says that by further closing off the opportunities for fraud, and expanding the zones tracked by auditable blockchain software, additional uncertainty about any number of elections held around the world could be removed.

“We were accredited by the NEC to do this, to do a study in the Western area,” he said, adding:

“If they like how it work, if they’re happy with everything, they’ll make it wider next time, and they’ll back us more and more.”

Early returns

The results from Agora’s sample showed the incumbent party candidate Samura Kamara, of the All People’s Congress, with a 12 point lead.

But as the official results from NEC aren’t expected to be announced until Friday night at the earliest. And the wait could be even longer, given complicating factors that can’t be solved by a blockchain…

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