An e-voting system based on block chain technology is being tested out in Moscow. The project has been named Active Citizens.
Results of the voting aren’t binding, but they are very influential with Moscow’s government never making a decision that goes against the vote since its launch in 2014. According to authorities, citizens have voted on a number of key issues such as 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, among other things.
The underlying blockchain technology is ethereum based, according to reports in the local media. 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. Authorities have said 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.
Blockchain technology’s resilience against tampering makes it a highly reliable tool for record keeping. However, there is an issue pertaining to problems that can arise before the data actually makes it to the system i.e. identity.
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 Reway 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.