Legislators in Brazil are planning on using the Ethereum blockchain to improve and verify the process of filing petitions.
University Professor and Congress legislative adviser Ricardo Fernandes Paixão, and Ethereum Foundation programmer, Everton Fraga, started working on the project because they could see that petitions were not being taken seriously in Brazil. According to the Brazilian constitution, filing for a petition is free of cost. After properly describing the problem and typing the official document, if a petition is signed by 1% of the total voters, then Congress must hear the case. Unfortunately, even petitions holding more than the required amount of signatures are not currently given the chance to be heard in the Congress.
Law professor Henrique Araújo Costa says, “In part this is due to the absence of a platform that can securely collect the signatures of one percent of voters. We’ve been through a sort of crisis regarding the legitimacy…of our laws.”
The Ficha Limpa
The Economist reported that political corruption was at a peak in Brazil in 2010 — 147 out of 153 lower house Congress members were facing criminal charges or were being investigated. The same allegations were made for 21 out of 81 senators at the same time for ‘violating campaign-finance laws or stealing public money’. Such a situation brought together civil society organizations who formed the Movement for Fighting Electoral Corruption. The group was able to collect 1.6 million signatures on paper, stating that convicted politicians will be barred from taking part in elections for eight years. The law was successfully passed by the President of Brazil in June 2010.
While the bill was supported by 3 million people online, the group worked hard to gather signatures manually. Considering Brazil has a population of more than 207 million people, following such a procedure would not only delay the petition but also make it costly. Costa explained, “If we do not overcome this security issue regarding the collection of signatures, we will still be further from achieving the exercise of citizenship that our Congress promised decades ago.” But that’s not the only problem standing in the way of petitions. World Bank’s Senior Public Sector Specialist Tiago Peixoto explained that verifying all the signatures is not possible. Hence, finding legislators who will adopt the bill to present it in Congress is then difficult.
Ethereum and Online Signatures
A decentralized and transparent platform like Ethereum provides the perfect solution for improving the problems present in the electoral system. Brazilian legislators plan on launching an app by which people submit personal information and details to sign or propose a petition. It would employ hashing – a one-way process combining the signatures of a specific petition, and transform them into a short ‘string of characters’. Once the transactions are sent to the Ethereum blockchain, they can’t be forged or falsified by any means. It is a win-win situation as signatures are verified by hashing and are collected via mobiles with just one click. Paixão added, “Anyone can audit the system. Each day, you can prove from cryptographic proof that a certain signature is already there.”
While the new system would bring about positive change, the project is still awaiting approval by Congress.
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