Moscow’s government is testing blockchain technology for use in its e-voting system called Active Citizens which has 1.9 million users that have taken part in more than 2,000 votes.
The voting results are not binding, but they are very influential with Moscow’s government never making a decision that goes against the vote since its launch in 2014.
Citizens have voted on “construction and further expansion of bike lanes, expansion of pedestrian zones, free Wi-Fi available in metro and parks, dance courses and music bands playing in the parks,” Moscow’s authorities say in a statement, before adding:
“One of the largest polls was held for “My Street” Moscow redevelopment project. Over 0.5 mln citizens have decided on specific urban and landscape design to be created, trees to be planted, new public transport routes to be launched, the list of the streets to be renovated first and materials to be used etc.”
This direct democracy is now to be secured through blockchain technology in a testing phase with an ethereum based private blockchain to be used, according to Ethnews.
Instead of mining, Parity’s Proof of Authority will be employed which relies on the majority of permissioned nodes verifying transactions or, in this case, votes.
However, Moscow’s government says that all their citizens can join the blockchain system by downloading a node software.
“By doing so, every citizen will become a node of a peer-to-peer network and will be able to record and store the database of votes. Moreover, Muscovites will be able to count the votes up and verify the authencity of results in real time,” they say.
Record keeping has risen as one of the areas where blockchain technology can be employed due to its replicability. As many nodes hold the exact same set of data, the majority of them need to be hacked to alter data, rather than in centralized systems where just one of them needs to be hacked.
That can ensure greater security, but while blockchains are excellent at maintaining unalterability of data once they are within the network system, they do not address in any way many problems that can arise before they enter the system.
With voting, the main problem would be identity, and how you ensure say, to simplify, a blockchain account belongs to an individual and that individual does not have 100 such accounts.
For Active Citizens it is through their phone number and at times they may require official ID such as Passport or Driving License. Once such accounts are established then the veracity of their votes is easier to authenticate because they in effect become computer code which everyone can see.
That may raise concerns regarding privacy, with Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s inventor, stating the test pilot “needs moar linkable ring signatures or [zero knowledge proofs (ZKPs)]. Also, public chain integration would be nice.”
Blockchain voting is a very new thing, and considering we have seen some significant hacks, it probably has a long way to go before it is used in binding elections, but its potential ability to secure entered data far more than some current set-ups may lead to more testing to determine whether the robustness of voting systems can be increased, at least in some aspects.