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Researchers and industry are investigating the possibilities of blockchain-based voting

22 DECEMBER 2022

Researchers and industry are investigating the possibilities of blockchain-based voting

Aarhus University and the Alexandra Institute have been granted DKK 1.8 million by Digital Research Centre Denmark (DIREC) to investigate safe software and protocols for voting and blockchain governance. The Concordium Blockchain is the industry partner in this project.

There is constant interest for internet voting by election commissions around the world. At the same time, there is a need for such internet voting for blockchain governance. However, building such voting systems is hard: the design of cryptographic protocols and their implementation are error prone. Switzerland, which is leading in internet voting, now mandates very high standards for such protocols: it requires cryptographic proofs of security.

Only a very select group of blockchain projects already develops protocols in such a rigorous way. One of them, Concordium, has already deployed such secure cryptographic protocols. They were designed at COBRA, the Concordium Blockchain Research Center at Aarhus University. Thus, the project aims to build on this experience and advance the state of the art in high assurance cryptographic software, especially for internet voting systems and blockchain governance.

DIREC, a collaboration between the computer science departments of eight Danish universities and the Alexandra Institute, has just granted the group DKK 1.8 million for the project: Verified Voting Protocols and Blockchains. The Concordium Blockchain is the industry partner in this project.

Bas Spitters, Associate Professor at Aarhus University and lead of the Concordium Blockchain Research Center at Aarhus University (CoBRA), is leading the project. He is internationally recognized for his research in the verification of blockchain technologies and sees great potential for the project:

“All electronic voting protocols use some kind of bulletin board. Blockchains are secure bulletin boards. They are already used in minor elections to ensure that voters can check that their votes have been registered correctly. In this project, we will explore whether it can also be used in larger elections. In particular, we aim to verify that the protocols used to verify the votes are private and secure.”

Kåre Kjelstrøm, CTO at Concordium, says:
“There are of course many advantages in an online election, however distrust and a lack of regulation-ready and secure solutions have prevented most countries from moving forward. From Concordium, a science-based decentralized blockchain with the identity at the protocol level, we are eager to participate and solve the potential problems in building online elections on our chain. Concordium plans to design a voting scheme to be used for decentralized governance of the blockchain. The voting scheme will allow members of the community to vote on proposed features and to elect members of the Governance Committee.”

Gert Læssøe Mikkelsen, Head of Security Lab, Alexandra Institute says: 
“This project provides a good opportunity for testing novel technologies in solutions for critical digital infrastructure where very high security is required. We will test and participate in the implementation of the solutions developed in the project, and we want to let more industries benefit from the experiences of working with blockchain, digital identity and high security, e.g., public utilities and the finance sector”.

Read more about the project

Finally, the project will collaborate with another DIREC project called Trust Through Software Independence and Program Verification lead by Carsten Schürmann from ITU on the further development of tools for ensuring the quality of voting protocols and their implementation.