The constitution requires that the Brazilian Congress must hear any petition that gets 1 percent of signatures from the electorates. But that constitutional promise has caused political crisis related to the electoral process.
Failure to fulfill this promise had been due to lack of a platform that can securely collect and verify the signatures and petitions, says Henrique Araújo Costa, a law professor at Universidade de Brasília.
It could be one of the first use cases of blockchain in a political system. It is part of the electoral reforms that will strengthen democracy according to Costa.
The congress will develop an app for the blockchain that lets Brazilians register their details, gain an ability to sign a petition or to submit a petition. It also tracks the number of signatures per petition. A user’s name can be inputted (and confirmed) into the hashed string, but the owner cannot reverse on the process. The daily hash is attached to an ethereum transaction which is the added as an entry to the ethereum blockchain. Thus the record is kept permanently. Citizens can also confirm that their names were added by looking up the hash. This can be done using an application or through a free blockchain explorer. Anyone can audit the system.
“Each day, you can prove from cryptographic proof that a certain signature is already there,” says Ricardo Fernandes Paixão, a legislative adviser to Brazilian Congress and a university lecturer, who is heading the project alongside Everton Fraga, a sporting designer and programmer with the Ethereum Foundation.
It will solve various challenges relating to collecting of the signatures and verifying petitions and signatures. For instance, obtaining those signatures from 145 million voters from the population of over 207 million people, in a country larger than mainland United States is a considerable challenge.
Another challenge has been to prove the existence of and to verify those signatures according to Tiago Peixoto, who is a World Bank specialist in using technology for civic purposes.
With the new technology, signatures will no longer be collected by hand or transported by trucks.
“It would be a celebration of democracy,” says Fraga, who is Brazilian. “With this project, we are doing what the constitution says, but in practice, it hasn’t [yet] happened.
It will also reduce costs.
Also, in the current system, the petitions even must have a legislator to adopt them and present them as his or her bill in Congress. To prove how difficult it is for these popular petitions to reach Congress and be passed as law. The Congress has passed only four laws that originated as petitions.
These have been very important in the political process. Many of them force politicians to address issues they may shy away from, and they emanate from very sensitive themes. An example is the 2010 “clean slate law” that prevent convicted politicians from vying.
It will be part of the other reforms that Congress is undertaking.