Trusted and Transparent Voting Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Computing Science

Abstract

This project aims to explore applications of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) in domains involving voting and collective decision making. There are many domains in which some form of balloting is required, such as voting on proposals or electing in charities, professional organisations, clubs, trades unions, political parties, and private companies. It is important to run such ballots in a way that the result is accepted by all parties even where they do not trust each other.

Current election systems require trusted individuals or third party organisations to run the ballot, which places reliance on their honesty and also on their ability to secure the election against any form of malicious attack. The fact that many such elections are still run using paper ballots demonstrates that this remains a real concern for organisations despite the advantages of convenience, cost and efficiency that electronic elections may bring. Given the associated security issues around the management of electronic votes, it is natural to consider the use of DLT platforms to provide a trustworthy basis for such systems in recording and aggregating votes, since they can provide transparency and an agreed tamper-proof record of the election. The project will investigate how this can be achieved while maintaining the necessary levels of security, and in particular how this is impacted by the underlying design of any particular choice of distributed ledger technology.

The introduction of DLT into the voting domain also enables new possibilities for voting schemes. Political systems around the world have evolved complex election systems, for example single transferrable vote, where the results are cumbersome and time-consuming to calculate, but where the result is considered to better reflect the will of the electorate and hence worthy of this effort. However for non-political elections run with paper ballots this effort is generally prohibitive. Social choice theory within Political Science considers how different voting systems can affect how choices are made, and the ability to support such systems electronically enables the viability of schemes whose tallying mechanisms are more complex but which may give results which match more closely the collective choice of the voters. Hence the project will also investigate the potential impact on organisations and their governance and decision making processes through the variation of voting schemes.

DLT also supports the management of more complex voting rights held by individuals. In many private company applications, particular shareholdings have specific rights and privileges. For example, the originating shareholders of a company may have pre-emption rights over the sale of shares by later shareholders, or priority rights to compensation in the event of a bankruptcy of the company. At present, for privately-held companies, shareholdings and the rights associated to them are generally recorded in written contracts and the relevant information held only in spreadsheets. At least in principle, DLTs could readily support voting in such contexts, with the specific rights accruing to particular shareholders being encoded in agreed smart contracts - i.e., automated (self-executing) performance scripts that also sit on the distributed ledger. A strand of this project will aim to explore the practicality of such ideas.

Although the project is not investigating political or statutary elections at this stage, a strand of the project will consider the longer term roadmap for the technology. As well as considering the longer term impact on organisations through new governance and decision making possibilities, this will include consideration of how DLT may play a part in emerging designs for electronic voting systems for political elections.

Planned Impact

This project will enable distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), together with smart contracts, to be used for voting
applications. This will enable more transparent, auditable and trusted governance of organisations and companies in voting domains where trust may not always be present, for example among shareholders in private companies, or between members of social organisations.

Direct beneficiaries will include private companies as they obtain the means to govern themselves more effectively and efficiently, through a shared understanding across shareholders of their rights and privileges, and the ability to transfer these rights with greater speed and transparency. In addition to improving such systems directly, the disruptive possibilities introduced by smart contracts with DLTs can also support more complex arrangements which have previously not been possible on a practical level. The social choice research within this proposal will investigate these novel possibilities.

Professional organisations, public organisations, charities, companies and trades unions will also be direct beneficiaries of the outcomes of this project, through greater transparency and openness where votes are used to make collective choices, for example for officers of the organization or for decisions to be made by the membership. Management of more complex voting rights and proxy voting can also be more efficiently supported, which also is a driver for a greater level of engagement from voting members within such organisations. Improved transparency will also make it easier for such organisations to meet audit or reporting requirements.

The major challenge for electronic voting systems is political and statutory elections, where there are many complex and challenging issues that need to be solved in order to achieve trustworthy, robust and secure election systems. This is a long-term grand challenge for electronic voting. The contribution from this project, providing new ways of using DLTs to support voting, has the potential to be a key component within an overall solution, enabling electronic political elections over the next 10-20 years.

The team is ideally configured to deliver the expected impact from this project. The team consists of Computer Scientists with experience in implementing distributed ledger technology components, and with DLT security analysis; Political Ecomonists with experience of voting schemes; an industrial partner (Monax Industries) whose core product is a DLT and smart contract platform; and two industrial partners (Electoral Reform Services, and Crowdcube) who are the end users for the research in this project and who will provide the pathway to impact through the incorporation of the project's results into their products and services.
 
Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £39,922 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 10/2019
 
Title Smart Contract Interactions Open Source Material 
Description This open source folder gives different examples of how to connect a website to a blockchain through a nodejs server. Specifically it gives examples on how to connect to the Hyperledger Burrow, JP Morgan Chase's Quorum or Ethereum blockchains. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This folder is used as a basis for the code of one of our work packages 
URL https://github.com/Luker501/WebsiteNodejsBlockchain
 
Title Smart Contract Interactions Open Source Material 
Description This open source folder lists examples of all the ways two smart contracts written in Solidity can interact, as well as some common problems solidity programmers come across 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact 20 stars and 7 forks on github. It has helped me with my teaching material as well 
URL https://github.com/Luker501/SmartContractInteractions
 
Description Governance and Trust Podcast, Centre For the Study of Governance and Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Can blockchain put an end to election fraud? Can it help us rebuild trust in distant institutions and companies that handle our data? How does blockchain actually work? Join us for this podcast on the inner workings and implications of blockchain for governance and society. The Guests Dr. Grammateia (Matoula) Kotsialou and Dr. Luke Riley are postdoctoral research associates at King's College London working on the applications of blockchain in voting and collective decision-making domains. As computer scientists with expertise in game theory and artificial intelligence, they are here to answer all of your questions about blockchain and its future in society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-governance-podcast/id1402038733?mt=2
 
Description A Breakfast Meeting in the House of Commons hosted by the Industry and Parliament Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invitation to Grammateia Kotsialou, to attend a breakfast meeting with 15-20 people in the House of Commons and discuss tax regulations on digital currencies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Attending E-voteID conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attending E-voteID conference that focuses on e-voting systems and investigate their issues and challenges. The conference also focuses on employing distributed ledger technologies in e-voting and how that would influence security and trust. Many plans and ideas were given throughout discussions carried out in the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.e-vote-id.org/e-vote-id-2018-2/
 
Description Blockchain Voting & Democracy Panel Discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This meetup focuses explicitly on what effect blockchain and distributed ledger technology can have on our current voting systems and even our democracy as a whole. We will focus on high-level questions such as whether blockchain and distributed ledger technology can:
- improve the security and transparency of our electoral registers, electronic voting machines, ballot counting procedures & online elections;
- allow citizens to become more engaged in our electoral process;
- provide corporate and organisational governance tools;
- increase the popularity of new types of governance systems such as liquid democracy and decentralised autonomous organisations.

We will also try to focus on the main issues in this area, such as:
- Is blockchain technology ready to host votes for millions of people?
- How should the votes be recorded exactly, what extra cryptography needs to be used?
- Would it be possible for the system owner to stuff the ballot box with fake votes?
- With a decentralised voting system, will we need a type of decentralised ID?
- Would a permissioned or public blockchain work best?
- How would the electorate actually use this system? Especially non-tech savvy people!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/voting-and-democracy-on-blockchain-tickets-44915901671
 
Description Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (Industry Networking Event) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS) are hosting Industry Networking Event, showcasing our activities in the rapidly developing field of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies and will feature a number of invited talks from academia and industry.

The event will take place on Thursday 24 January 2019, 16:00 - 19:00, in the Lecture Theatre F (LTF), Lecture Theatre Building, University of Surrey, and will include light refreshments.

The agenda will include presentations by:

Welcome from Mark Manulis, Deputy Director, SCCS

Steve Pannifer, Director, Chief Operations Office, Consult Hyperion

Rob Learney, Lead Technologist, Digital Catapult

David Michael, CEO / Co-Founder at Streeva

John Collomosse, Professor in Computer Vision, Centre for Vision Speech & Signal Processing

This event will also be an opportunity for you to network with the Digital Catapult and local businesses as well as University of Surrey academics. If you are a business interested in collaborating with the University of Surrey or an academic keen to work with industry in the domain of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies, please join us to find out more.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Convergence of AI and Blockchain Private Dinner Discussion with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Hosted by APPG AI Chairs Lord Clement Jones and Stephen Metcalfe MP, APPG Blockchain Chair Damien Moore MP together with Big Innovation Centre's CEO Prof. Birgitte Andersen, the round table dinner will focus on the Convergence of AI and Blockchain.


In this digital world, the boundaries between technologies become more convergent towards the ecosystem that represents a new global data value chain across industries: Production (IoT, next generation computing); Distribution (Blockchain); and Consumption (AI).

Global digital monopolies are searching everywhere for more and more data to feed their algorithms.

The problem that we are seeing with this is that we are trying to validate existing national/regional policies developed in the era of the knowledge-based economy as a solution. Instead, we should try to develop innovation global policies suitable for the global data-driven economy and under an awareness of the convergent ecosystem.

Let's discuss.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Evening Cryptocurrency Class 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This course focuses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology which combines applied cryptography, software engineering, distributed systems, mechanism design and game-theory. It is the first example of a self-sustaining peer-to-peer network that can reach consensus about a series of events on a global scale without the assistance (or support) of any global institution or intermediary. The first application of a global consensus network was Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, but it has since been taken further by several new projects including Ethereum to support the execution of global programs ('smart contracts'). Throughout the course, we'll study how something like Bitcoin can work, the implications (and beauty) of self-enforcing smart contracts, and focus on bringing all students up to date with state-of-the-art research in this emerging (and exciting) area.

Note that lectures are recording and posted online (with the slides) for anyone in the world to access.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://blockchain.kcl.ac.uk/cryptocurrencyclass/
 
Description Governance in the 21st Century: Can Blockchain Impact Critical Change? Panel Discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact In this fireside conversation, we will be discussing with experts from different sectors of society about the implications of new technologies within government. We shall be exploring some of the fundamental principles of governance, looking at future power relations that may emerge from the embracing of this technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/governance-in-the-21st-century-can-blockchain-impact-critical-change-...
 
Description Liquid Democracy, e-Voting and Blockchain: Can they build a new political and economic system?, Beyond Representation: Future Democracy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This session probed local government's current approach to engagement and asked the fundamental question: is representative democracy enough? If not, how can we go further in engaging communities? The session started with the cutting edge of democratic innovation: liquid democracy, a model enabled by Blockchain in which there are no councillors, and people chose different nominees to hold their vote on specific issues. As this technology removes the importance of elected representatives, it also eradicates the importance of borders - such as ward boundaries. This led to a fascinating conversation about how we engage communities of interest - people who share common interests and values - as much as communities of place.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.redbridge.gov.uk/about-the-council/neighbourhoods-events/beyond-representation-future-de...
 
Description Oral Evidence, Treasury Committee's Enquiry into Digitial Currencies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Scope of the inquiry
The inquiry will cover the role of digital currencies in the UK, including the opportunities and risks that digital currencies may bring to consumers, businesses, and the Government

It will examine the potential impact of distributed ledger technology-such as blockchain-on financial institutions, including the central bank, and financial infrastructure.

It will also scrutinise the regulatory response to digital currencies from the Government, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Bank of England, and how regulation could be balanced to provide adequate protection for consumers and businesses without stifling innovation.

Terms of Reference

This inquiry will examine the use of digital currencies and distributed ledger technology in the UK. The inquiry will cover:

The role of digital currencies in the UK, including the opportunities and risks digital currencies may bring to consumers, businesses and the Government (and associated bodies).
The potential impact of distributed ledger technology on financial institutions, including the central bank, and financial infrastructure.
The regulatory response to digital currencies from the Government, the FCA and the Bank of England in relation to Anti-Money Laundering legislation and how regulation could be balanced to provide adequate protection for consumers and businesses without stifling innovation.
Some of the key questions the Committee will consider in this inquiry include:

Are digital currencies ultimately capable of replacing traditional means of payment?
To what extent could digital currencies disrupt the economy and the workings of the public sector?
What risks and benefits could digital currencies generate for consumers, businesses and governments?
How is distributed ledger technology being applied in the financial services sector, and how might it be applied in future?
What work has the Government (and its associated bodies) done to understand, prepare for and, where relevant, encourage changes that may be brought about by increased adoption of digital currencies?
How might the Government's processes adapt should digital currencies be adopted more widely (e.g. tax implications, anti-money laundering measures)?
Is the government striking the right balance between regulating digital currencies to provide adequate protection for consumers and businesses whilst not stifling innovation?
Could regulation benefit digital currency start-ups by improving consumer trust?
How are governments and regulators in other countries approaching digital currencies and what lessons can the UK learn from overseas?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/treasury-committee/...
 
Description Presentation on VOLT project in Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies conference/ University of Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented the VOLT project in Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies conference/ University of Manchester. The audience were academics and researcher who focus on Distributed ledger technologies. Very interesting questions were asked and substantial suggestions were given in the presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation on the VOLT project to the DLT Community of Interest 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented on the VOLT project at the DLT Community of Interest event in Whitehall to an audience of approx 100 DLT enthusiasts and practitioners. The talk generated a substantial number of questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Social Media, Election Fraud and Blockchain Technology Solutions talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact How blockchain can be used for voter registration and why this is useful
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/workshop-on-voter-registration-and-electoral-fraud-tickets-4507687113...
 
Description Talk on a workshop with title Fair Play in Economics and Politics Workshop at King's College London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A maximum number of 25 academics, experts on Fair Play in Economics and Politics gathered up to present their work and get feedback from each other.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description What are Cryptocurrencies? to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Introduction to cryptocurrencies for accountants
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop on Voter Registration and Electoral Fraud 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The aim of this workshop is to bring together local councils, independent bodies and academics interested in voter registration methods and associated electoral fraud. Due to the scheduled voter ID pilots in UK local government elections, this is a popular topic and the academic community would benefit from hearing about the learning outcomes of the pilots. Additionally, the academics can provide quality input on this area due to the extended research on election integrity, voting systems and related technology (e.g. distributed ledger/blockchain). The workshop will focus on the political and technological questions surrounding this topic, therefore you should expect an interdisciplinary nature of presentations and roundtable discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/workshop-on-voter-registration-and-electoral-fraud-tickets-4507687113...
 
Description Written Evidence, Treasury Committee's Enquiry into Digitial Currencies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Our written evidence answer some of the questions of the inquiry:

Scope of the inquiry
The inquiry will cover the role of digital currencies in the UK, including the opportunities and risks that digital currencies may bring to consumers, businesses, and the Government

It will examine the potential impact of distributed ledger technology-such as blockchain-on financial institutions, including the central bank, and financial infrastructure.

It will also scrutinise the regulatory response to digital currencies from the Government, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Bank of England, and how regulation could be balanced to provide adequate protection for consumers and businesses without stifling innovation.

Terms of Reference

This inquiry will examine the use of digital currencies and distributed ledger technology in the UK. The inquiry will cover:

The role of digital currencies in the UK, including the opportunities and risks digital currencies may bring to consumers, businesses and the Government (and associated bodies).
The potential impact of distributed ledger technology on financial institutions, including the central bank, and financial infrastructure.
The regulatory response to digital currencies from the Government, the FCA and the Bank of England in relation to Anti-Money Laundering legislation and how regulation could be balanced to provide adequate protection for consumers and businesses without stifling innovation.
Some of the key questions the Committee will consider in this inquiry include:

Are digital currencies ultimately capable of replacing traditional means of payment?
To what extent could digital currencies disrupt the economy and the workings of the public sector?
What risks and benefits could digital currencies generate for consumers, businesses and governments?
How is distributed ledger technology being applied in the financial services sector, and how might it be applied in future?
What work has the Government (and its associated bodies) done to understand, prepare for and, where relevant, encourage changes that may be brought about by increased adoption of digital currencies?
How might the Government's processes adapt should digital currencies be adopted more widely (e.g. tax implications, anti-money laundering measures)?
Is the government striking the right balance between regulating digital currencies to provide adequate protection for consumers and businesses whilst not stifling innovation?
Could regulation benefit digital currency start-ups by improving consumer trust?
How are governments and regulators in other countries approaching digital currencies and what lessons can the UK learn from overseas?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/treasury-committee/...