Russia’s first political party primaries to be held on blockchain

A few weeks ago the Russian United Democratic Party Yabloko held primaries to select its candidate for the Moscow mayoral election. The party staged two rounds of debates between 21 candidates. The winners of each round were chosen via the Polys online voting platform, marking the first use of blockchain technology in Russian primaries. In this article, we reveal more about this exciting new experience.

How it all begun

The driving factors behind the party leadership's decision to work with Polys were speed and economy. The need for online voting had existed for some time — for voting in regional offices, primaries, meetings, etc. Since the organization and logistics of offline voting are extremely time-consuming and expensive, it was decided to switch to an online voting system and, thanks to its blockchain technology, Polys was able to provide the right level of reliability and security.

The first ‘test’ vote using the blockchain technology was held at a Yabloko conference in early May. This involved a public vote where all the participants voted from their smartphones, which significantly simplified and accelerated the process. After that, there was no doubt that voting for the party’s primaries should take place on the Polys platform.

Blockchain voting at the primaries

At the primaries, the party held two rounds of debates. The first round lasted for five days, with 21 candidates taking part. They discussed town-planning policy, the economy, as well as city management, ecology, and transport. Four candidates were selected to participate in the final round of debates.

This was the first time in Russian history that blockchain technology had been used in party primaries. This example is one of the first in the world where the entire process, from the creation of a vote to registration and the casting of votes, was recorded automatically through a smart contract. Polys is an online voting system where all the business logic is built on smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.

Polys specialists deployed a private blockchain in Yabloko’s IT infrastructure. There were two Polys applications working on this blockchain – one for the organizers of the vote, the other for the voters. The creation of the vote, the receiving of the individual votes and the counting process all made use of blockchain technology, guaranteeing a fair election (data entering the blockchain cannot be deleted or rigged) and ensuring the result is fully transparent. Anyone participating in the vote can download the blockchain and make sure it is correct and secure. It’s important to note that the entire voting history was preserved on Yabloko’s servers.

The Polys online voting system not only simplified and accelerated the process but also demonstrated the potential of blockchain technology to provide simple, transparent and secure voting.

Challenges and wins

Another important condition laid down by the party leadership was the option of an in-person vote for older voters and those party members who, for one reason or another, couldn’t vote online. The Polys team, therefore, provided offline terminals that were located at the Yabloko office. Those participants opting to vote in-person received unique codes in hard copy and voted via the terminals. Even those participants that were less proficient technically could cope with this setup and voting proceeded quickly.

During voting there was also a problem sending out invitations to some domains – not all users received the message on time. But Polys offered a simple solution – we sent out duplicate invitations by text message instead.

The Polys team gained some very valuable voter feedback regarding the application interface and we are now working on new features, taking into account user comments. For example, we plan to add an option to share information about votes on social networks.

But most importantly, we received lots of excellent reviews from enthusiastic people about Polys’s work. Many voters understand the importance of modernizing the electoral process both to reduce costs and to increase transparency and security.

"Using new technologies in party life allows us to forge ahead, develop and attract new supporters," the vice-chair and head of the organizing committee of the Yabloko party primaries said.

In conclusion, I’d like to add that the effectiveness of online voting based on blockchain technology is now clear to the Yabloko party. The next elections to select Yabloko’s candidates for the Moscow City Duma will be organized via online voting at all the constituency debates.