Online democracy:
how blockchain voting machines work

Zoya Sergeeva
March, 2020
In late February, Polys unveiled e-voting machines that work in a single ecosystem with a blockchain platform – the first ever voting machines to work on a blockchain. Read on to find out more about this unique solution and what it's capable of.

Traditional voting issues

Most countries are still using inconvenient and outdated voting systems that eat up election commission resources. The preparation of paper ballots, with all the accompanying paperwork, is an expensive and lengthy process, while the most time-consuming part of the work is manual vote counting. Even if electronic voting machines are used, the process is often ineffective because since the first devices appeared 20 years ago there have been numerous reports showing that almost every model or brand is susceptible to hacking.

In addition, many electoral systems don't offer remote voting to citizens who are out of the country on vacation or on business. All this, combined with errors when calculating results and falsification of votes, has a negative effect on voter experience and, as a result, turnout.

We created our innovative solution to simplify the voting process, reduce organizational costs, increase turnout and ensure the legitimacy of the results.
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Polys voting machines

What makes Polys unique?

Voting terminals eliminate the need to prepare paper ballots for election commission members. All votes are automatically counted and decrypted by the system, significantly reducing staff costs and maintenance of polling stations. The main advantage is that the terminal works directly with the blockchain network, which eliminates most methods of vote falsification.

There is a prevailing opinion that electronic voting machines are better protected from hacking because they're not connected to the internet – a guarantee that the public as a whole has accepted. However, that's not completely true. Voting results are transmitted to the servers of the election commission through SIM cards built into the voting machines. Although the machines are not connected to the internet, they do use radio signals to send data to cell towers and routers owned by telecom operators. Even when stationary modems are installed in the voting machines, where the connection is via telephone lines, data still goes to cellular routers, because telecom providers have replaced most of their communication equipment with digital systems. Because of this, intruders can penetrate the data transfer channel and intercept preliminary results if the data is not encrypted, install malware, interfere in vote transmission and replace votes, among other things.
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Polys voting terminal
But if voting machines interact directly with a blockchain at the same time, this provides protection against hacking, namely: from changing a vote as it's transferred from the terminal to the blockchain and from intercepting a vote between the terminal and the blockchain. If there is an attempt to do these things, the voter will be immediately notified and won't lose their vote; the attacker won't be able to use the vote either.

Our voting terminal is also protected from the practice of 'ballot-box stuffing'. This is because in our system the voting machines act as a terminal for access to voting (a smartphone, tablet or computer can also be used as a terminal), and the access codes themselves are created outside the terminal. The voter receives their access code in an encrypted format meaning it is impossible to fake a code.

Another important device that works along with the terminal is the Polys activator. It is needed to associate a QR access code with a specific election, for example, regional. Voters can therefore vote in regional elections from any polling station in their country. For instance, a resident of Novosibirsk can go to a polling station in Moscow and vote for a local deputy in Novosibirsk, and their vote will be entered into a single blockchain network.
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Polys activator
It works as follows: a person arrives at a polling station and, after identifying herself, get non-personalized QR code to access a vote. A member of the election commission scans the code using the Polys activator and associates it with the required election. The voter then votes on the terminal, while her identity remains unknown and no data except the vote falls into the blockchain.

The voter can keep the QR code used for access and when voting ends she can check that her vote was counted correctly by the system. In other words, our system provides end-to-end verifiability.

In order for a voter to see that her vote has been made, our terminal prints a so-called paper trail – a small paper ticket that falls into the terminal box after confirmation by the voter. At the end of the vote, these paper tickets can be counted and compared to the number of votes in the blockchain.
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Polys blockchain-based printer
And in order for the Novosibirsk regional election commission to have paper confirmation of the authenticity of a remote vote, we have developed our Polys printers that print data from the blockchain network. They print confirmation of voter registration, her encrypted vote and the decrypted vote after voting ends. Blockchain printers are an important part of the system because they are a secure channel and are guaranteed to only print what is stored in the blockchain and nothing more.