Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, concluded blockchain-powered online primaries over the weekend. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters stayed away from polling booths and preferred to avail themselves of the online platforms that utilize votes registered on a blockchain protocol. Those that did turn up to vote had to adhere to social distancing measures that were put in place, while United Russia also announced it would allow online voting via the voting platform.
The blockchain-based voting was made available from May 24 to May 30. The platform also featured video messages from the candidates with ambitions to gain approval from the party’s voters. United Russia will reveal the results of the preliminaries at the United Russia congress, which is planned to be held on June 19.
United Russia, which is the party of President Vladimir Putin, holds 336 of the State Duma’s 450 seats. However, things may change at the legislative elections which could be held later in the year.
A Bug’s Life
Yet all this is not without its critics, as some quarters have reported that government-run blockchain voting platforms are plagued by bugs, lack true transparency and are susceptible to state manipulation.
This, though, didn’t seem to matter according to several local media reports from around the country that showed voters chose to take advantage of smartphone-and-computer-based voting solutions.
As reported by Per Echo Severa, a media outlet based in the city of Arkhangelsk in the far northwest of Russia, the city’s regional organizing committee for preliminary voting stated that ER “is the only party in the country that forms lists of candidates for elections by conducting nationwide primaries.”
It was reported by the committee chief that United Russia’s election managers and tech experts from the long-distance telephony company and blockchain solutions provider Rostelecom held the encryption keys for the vote.
TV Tomsk reported that in the city of Tomsk a local “situation room” had been set up to “track all possible violations and controversies” as the city’s voters cast their ballots on the platform.
In Ingushetia, meanwhile, a semi-autonomous republic in the south of Russia, the local media outlet Gazeta Ingushetia announced that voters could use the platform to pick their preferred nominees for United Russia’s candidates to stand at September’s election for the People’s Assembly of the Republic of Ingushetia.
And in the Krasnoyarsk administrative region of Siberia, Siberia Novosti reported that 159,885 voters had nominated their preferred candidates using the platform as of May 30.
Whether or not blockchain-powered technology will increase voter turnout, both in Russia and abroad, is still an open debate. Successful pilot projects are sure to play an important role in the future of voting and politics. Yet security experts are well aware internet-based election systems — like reported by Per Echo Severa — are open to attack, regardless of the infrastructure put in place.