A call for action for students that are passionate about democracy and blockchain technology.
“Universities for e-voting” is a project creating a voting application for communities called Electeez, based on and powered by the Tezos Blockchain. It relies on a community of students and academics from 25+ universities around the world (more about the project).
The project started at the beginning of 2020 and was therefore presented with the challenge of putting together a project during a time of lockdown. But due to the nature of e-voting as a remote technology, the project could go ahead as planned. On top of that, the pandemic has proven the importance of remote voting technology overall.
The first phase of the project has been successfully finished in April in a cross-university vote on a Tezos test net (Carthage net) and among a group of students and academics across the world spanning from Japan to California. The second phase of the universities for e-voting project started in June 2020 and will be finalized at the end of August 2020. After successfully testing the first version of the e-voting program, the goals for the second phase include the further implementation of the self-tallying E-cclesia protocol, growing of the community, and holding of different student elections.
Technology and Academia: The key milestones are related to three main areas: installation, usability, and security. Moving the e-voting application from a virtual machine used in the first test election to a cloud will eliminate installation problems faced during the first test. The usability will be improved by making the technology mobile friendly and developing a specific admin panel to allow universities to organize their elections. Instead of separating the three voting phases, at the end of phase 2 users will be able to cast their votes in a one-click application. On the security side, the further implementation of the E-cclesia protocol is on the agenda and the team of the University of Edinburgh will be doing further research regarding the formal proof of the time-lock-encryption.
More trials: As trying out the technology and getting more experience in the organisation of elections testing is another main focus of the second phase of the project. We will be starting off with a student vote at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, in August as well as a vote at Ritsumeikan University in Japan and will then learn from these experiences to hold more student elections across our network in September. The network of blockchain enthusiasts, academics, and students provides us with a constant input of expertise and feedback.
Join the “Universities for e-voting” project! If you are a student and enthusiastic about distributed ledger technology and/or e-voting and digital democracy, you can become part of our project and help us organise university internal elections or even join the open-source development of the e-voting platform. If you are an academic, join the project to give us your feedback and input.
Long term Goals
Universities are one kind of institution that has incorporated their own democratic structures (especially when it comes to the student bodies) and has been a testing ground for different trials of e-voting technology in the past. This is why Electis decided to start this non-profit democratic project in cooperation with a worldwide network of students and academics. The goal is to prove the suitability of blockchain technology for secure e-voting and to bring a free to use e-voting solution to academic institutions and beyond.
Electeez and the Universities for e-voting project are a work in progress. Beyond the technological improvements planned for the second phase, there are many more issues to be addressed in regards to creating a secure and trustable e-voting solution. For example:
- Voter registration and identification: this is still offline, and the next step for Electeez is the integration of identification schemes into the platform.
- Efficiency and scalability: making the technology usable for very large-scale elections is posing many challenges.
This is where the community around the Universities for e-voting project comes in as so central to the project. Being an open-source and not-for-profit project, the community and academics are invited to contribute with feedback and their expertise. As the common goal is the improvement of e-voting technology, and the results are open-source and free-to-use, academics are incentivized to contribute their knowledge and expertise. The long-term goal is to make Electeez a secure and reliable e-voting technology for universities and beyond: for more democracy for communities, high-stake and possibly sovereign elections.
… and beyond
What does it mean “more democracy for communities”? It means that not only sovereign institutions but also organizations of our daily life such as our workplaces, social groups, and schools can benefit from more democratic structures and new e-voting tools.
Also, the political sphere beyond nation-state politics is evolving and therefore can make use of the same tools. Black Lives Matter, Climate justice, and Fridays for Future — just to name a few — show that political grassroots movements are on the rise. Participants in these movements want to make their voices heard if issues are not appropriately taken care of by their elected governments.
But grassroots movements also require organisation. There have to be strategic and tactical decisions taken and therefore leadership is crucial to sustaining the campaigns of the movements’ collective claim. As a decentralized movement, the legitimacy of its leaders is crucial, but practically the democratic processes in decentralized communities and grassroots movements are a significant challenge. It requires resources, monetary, and human resources to put together elections or surveys to incorporate ground level opinions into the organisations’ strategies and goals.
What is needed is a free and easy to use platform to organise decentralized democracy on all possible levels, as Electeez will provide in the long run. As political organisations and movements are not limited to single nation-states, this platform has to work cross-border and be open to amendments and changes so as to always keep it up to date on security issues and relevant to different needs and circumstances.