E-voting protocol developed by Myrto Arapinis' team used in election experiment
Reader in Computer Security Myrto Arapinis led a team to develop a self-tallying e-voting protocol, named E-cclesia, which is being implemented on the TEZOS blockchain in an international cross-university election experiment run by the Electis foundation.
The aim of the experiment is to build and test a platform that connects universities and gives them the ability to organise cross-university votes. The platform will provide a means of decentralised voting not only for academics globally, but also for individual institutions to use for internal elections, such as student union elections. The project is powered by the TEZOS network and run by Electis, a community-based, not-for-profit organisation committed to developing technology that strengthens democracy through safe, transparent and accessible e-voting solutions.
Myrto is the scientific director on the project and developed the E-cclesia protocol, which uses a blockchain to maintain a decentralised bulletin board through which electronic voting can take place. The E-cclesia protocol ensures fairness – by preventing results from being leaked while votes are still being cast – and privacy, by separating the identity of the voter from the factor that ensures their eligibility to vote.
Myrto is joined on the project by a number of researchers and alumni from the School of Informatics: Nikolaos Lamprou, Thomas Zacharias, Lenka Marekova, and Ivaylo Genev. Nikoloas is a postgraduate research student in LFCS currently working on the E-cclesia protocol as part of his PhD, while Thomas is a senior researcher in the LFCS security and privacy group and is also working on this project. Lenka, who completed her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh, worked on a previous version of the scheme as her Honours project.
Former Informatics student Ivaylo Genev is the lead developer on the cross-university election experiment, and completed his integrated BA and Masters with Myrto as his supervisor. His role is to implement Myrto’s E-cclesia protocol on the Tezos blockchain. Together, the two hope to develop an e-voting system that is secure and protected from hackers, while ensuring that all votes are anonymous yet authorised.
Looking to future developments beyond the cross-university experiment, Myrto highlights the potential limitations of her e-voting protocol:
“More generally, understanding the tradeoff between decentralisation and privacy is important for the future developments of the scheme. This will also dictate in which contexts and for what type of elections E-cclesia can be useful for.”