Russia is set to pilot a national blockchain-based e-voting system in September. The new system was developed in partnership between Rostelecom, Russia’s largest integrated provider, and Waves Enterprise.
Another recent blockchain e-voting experiment in Russia ended in fiasco after the system suffered a number of setbacks and attacks. The Russian government used a different blockchain provider of digital services and solutions, Bitfury, for that particular implementation however. Artem Kalikhov, chief product officer of Waves Enterprise, told Cointelegraph that their work with Rostelecom was independent of that previous pilot. Kalikhov said that the system developed by Waves employes zero-knowledge proofs and many other advanced cryptographic primitives. He also is prideful of the implementation for not relying on a single point-of-failure.
The team is securing the platform using five main encryption keys:
“They generate encryption keys, these keys are being generated in a decentralized fashion by blockchain nodes that run cryptographic services. The public keys get published on the blockchain.”
Later these five keys are combined into a single master key that is used to encrypt all blockchain transactions. In order to decrypt the voting results, one would need to have k out of n (in this case 5) corresponding private keys. As for the question of who will own said private keys, Kalikhov explained that they should be held by independent observers. He acknowledged, however, that this decision ultimately lies outside of Wave's control.
In the past, many have criticized Russia's elections for their perceived unfairness and lack of transparency. We asked Kalikhov if they had received any requests to create a back door from their state-owned partner, Rostelecom. He replied, "No, we don't participate in such endeavors, we value our reputation. We support transparency and decentralization", adding:
Actually, it may sound surprising, but our partners from Rostelecom, they are really keen on making everything transparent and verifiable.
According to Kalikhov, the company is currently focused on scaling the system to tens of millions of users; it currently handles about 1/10th of that amount:
The first run of the new system will happen for the State Duma, which is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, elections on 13 September 2020 on United Voting Day in the Kurskaya and Yaroslavskaya areas. Approximately 600,000 voters can participate in this e-voting.
If the initial pilot proves to be a success and this newly developed platform becomes the backbone of Russia's online electoral process, the country could be the first major nation to use blockchain technology for voting.