Election Monitors Call Russia's Blockchain Voting a Black Box: Report

The Russian Central Election Commission won't allow observers to look under the hood of its blockchain voting system, experts say.

AccessTimeIconMay 14, 2021 at 6:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:56 p.m. UTC
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Russia's blockchain-voting system seems to be getting less transparent with time, election monitoring association Golos said.

Russia's Central Election Commission is currently testing a three-day electronic voting format in anticipation of the nationwide election campaign this fall. Golos told a news outlet Open Media the system became even more opaque than it was last September, when the technology was used for the first time. Back then the website for online voting allowed observers to download data from the blockchain, but now is only shows fragments of transactions' hashes, with no open data to view.

In addition, it's not clear how the system works because it mysteriously rejected some of the voters who wanted to take part in testing, Golos head Grigory Melkonyants told Open Media. He said people told Golos that they were refused the electronic ballots because the system could not check their personal data; in some cases, they were told that they were "not picked by a random choosing method."

Melkonyants said that Golos suggested ways to improve the system to the Central Election Commission, but the recommendations were not accepted.

"The Commission is happy with a system in which nobody can understand anything," he added.

The blockchain voting system used in current testing was built on the enterprise version of the Waves blockchain by the state-backed telecommunications giant Rostelecom, as CoinDesk previously reported. The system was used last September for parliamentary elections in two Russian regions, despite the fact that the Central Election Commission itself admitted the technology needed some more work.

At the same time, Moscow authorities are working on their own electronic voting system, in parallel with the Central Election Commission. Last summer, the city hired Kaspersky Lab to develop blockchain voting tech, which was built on Bitfury's Exonum blockchain. This year, Moscow city hall hired the anti-virus firm again, Cnews reported, for a contract worth $3.6 million, to develop a voting system for the city again.


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