There are several solutions for online voting. Although voting secrecy can be achieved through encryption, system transparency and large-scale implementation remain problematic. The Bordeaux start-up V8te takes up these two challenges thanks to the blockchain and responding to the security recommendations of the CNIL. Explanations with Guillaume Odriosolo, co-founder and director of V8te.
The blockchain has no secrets for Guillaume Odriosolo. Before creating V8te in March 2020, he was CEO of the “Le Vote” service, a digital advisory voting tool developed by Orange and based on the Blockchain. During his 12 years spent in innovation within Orange as an entrepreneur, he founded 5 internal start-ups. After supporting entrepreneurs and the creation of start-ups, Guillaume Odriosolo decided to launch his own start-up in the midst of the Covid pandemic. His ambition: to build the largest online voting platform in the world, 100% self-service.
Engineering Techniques: What Are the Different Secure Online Voting Solutions?
Guillaume Odriosolo: there are two large families. The first includes secure online voting solutions. To be recognized as a secure online voting software publisher, you must pass a security audit conducted by independent experts. They will ensure that the service provider complies with the CNIL requirements and recommendations. These recommendations are divided into three levels which correspond to different types of votes. The first concerns the election of a president of a neighborhood association, the second concerns an ETI (Intermediate Dimension Society) and finally level 3 is potentially aimed at the elections of several million people in different countries.
A dozen publishers comply with the recommendations of the CNIL, but only a handful in France have achieved level 3.
The second category includes blockchain online voting initiatives. They are used in particular for what is called citizen democracy. There is no obligation for this type of vote. As soon as we organize the voting with the delegates, we must respect the Electoral Code.
Our service connects these two worlds, namely compliance with regulations and decentralization of trust.
What is the difference between a secure vote and a blockchain vote?
I’ll answer with an analogy. In the first case there is a box (an opaque urn). The voting process was certified and validated by experts. Even though very serious professionals have done this audit, voters need to trust them. This is the case with the bank. Let’s imagine I bought a very nice watch. To prevent it from being stolen, I decide to put it in a safe. The banker assures me that everything is safe.
In the case of my watch, a blockchain-based service does not claim that its process is tamper-proof. Remember that bitcoin is the first technology in computer history that has never been hacked since its appearance in 2008. No one can say it won’t one day. The blockchain is therefore based on a “transparent” urn. This means that instead of hiding my watch in a safe, I will place it in the center of a table around which there are dozens of people. Any of them can steal it, but none will, because we would know immediately who did it.
With regard to online voting, the blockchain guarantees a high level of security by highlighting the transparency of the processes. If you find that something went wrong or the results look strange, you can check for yourself. As the voting progresses, we publish the fingerprints (an “encrypted” file) of the blockchain (ballot papers, people who voted and who were registered on the list, etc.).
The Ethereum blockchain is known to be very energy-intensive; what solution have you put in place to reduce this consumption by allowing votes on a large scale?
For the time being, we are using this technology which is proof of work¹ and which is indeed particularly energy intensive. Furthermore, its scalability is not very high (Editor’s Note: ability to process many transactions in a short time). For this we have decided to use a very modular and functional platform called Polygon (Layer 2 on Ethereum). It allows you to combine speed and safety, without neglecting decentralization.
However, we are also betting on using Ethereum² proof of participation by the end of 2022 to reduce the energy consumption useful for writing information by 99.99%. This will also improve scalability. Technically, it is possible to organize large-scale voting in some countries such as Switzerland and Estonia which are very advanced in this field. However, in France, if we are to proceed with a safe vote in the main national elections, the law is not ready.
- The oldest of the blockchain consensus protocols. Use miners to verify incoming data on the ledger, validate the authenticity of transactions, and create new blocks.
- The more cryptocurrency tokens a person owns, the higher the security of the network will be considered an important issue for them. A proof-of-stake algorithm involves several network users depositing a portion of their cryptocurrency holdings to become miners.