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The city of Zurich (“Zug”), Switzerland is planning a new blockchain voting pilot program. This program will track voting locations and the real IDs of each participant in the e-voting project, which will go into effect between June 25 and July 1. This project will be integrated with the existing digital identity project that is already in development, according to the latest announcement.

The pilot program will test the first “blockchain-based consultative vote to all owners of a digital ID.” It will include two yes/no questions and one multiple-choice question in survey format. Blockchain tracking of digital ID in Zurich was introduced on November 15, 2017. The electronic voting solution is just one of a number of use-cases for the ID tracking technology. Other uses could include financial services, licensing and the enforcement of private property rights. The government of Zurich has partnered on these projects with the Institute of Financial Services Zug (IFZ) of Lucerne University. According to Mathias Bucher, lecturer at the IFZ, “Today our digital identity still lies with major search engines and social networks that profit from it. A self-managed, secure and certified identity is indispensable for the functioning of an increasingly digital society.”

Some of the security-related aspects of the new voting system include privacy protection, voting secrecy, immutability, testability and traceability. This enables the public to submit their answers to the survey with the knowledge that their views would be protected by technology. And, in the spirit of this being a pilot program, the vote is only consultative, meaning that it is not binding in terms of policy changes. The city council of Zurich would take the results of the vote into consideration in their policy-making decisions, but would not be bound to comply with the results as would be the case had it been a proper referendum.

The questions that people will vote on include the following:

  1. Do you think it’s good that a fireworks display lights up every year at the Zuger Seefest? (Yes / No)
  2. Do you experience the process of voting with Digital ID as simple? (Yes / No)
  3. Currently various applications of the digital ID are being evaluated. Which of the following applications would you like to pursue? (book lending, parking fee payments, bike lending, tax payments, and referendums)

To facilitate the process of moving the vote over to the blockchain, people are able to register for a digital ID online, using the city of Zurich website to install a “uPort” app. After registration, users have two weeks to pass additional checks to authenticate their ID, using their passports and other ID cards. Currently, approximately 200 people have signed up for the pilot program, scheduled to begin on June 29th, out of a city population of approximately 391,000. While adoption is relatively low, it may provide enough data to show proof-of-concept prior to scaling the project to include more people and cities. This particular test will help to measure the security aspects of the new polling system. Future tests may measure its efficiency, costs and popularity.