Guillaume Odriosolo: “With blockchain, we make online voting transparent”

There are different solutions for online voting. While vote secrecy can be achieved through encryption, system transparency and large-scale deployment remain problematic. Bordeaux start-up V8te faces these two challenges thanks to blockchain and responding to CNIL security recommendations. Explanations with Guillaume Odriosolo, co-founder and director of V8te.

Blockchain keeps no secrets for Guillaume Odriosolo. Before creating V8te in March 2020, he was General Director of the service “Le Vote”, a digital consultative voting tool developed by Orange and based on Blockchain. During his 12 years spent in Innovation at Orange as an intrapreneur, he founded 5 in-house 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 world’s largest online voting platform, 100% self-service.

Engineering Techniques: What are the different secure online voting solutions?

Guillaume Odriosolo, co-founder and director of V8te (DR).

Guilherme Odriosolo: there are two big families. The first includes secure online voting solutions. To be recognized as a publisher of secure online voting software, you must pass a security audit performed by independent experts. They will ensure that the service provider complies with the CNIL’s requirements and recommendations. These recommendations are divided into three levels that correspond to different types of votes. The first concerns the election of a president of a neighborhood association, the second concerns an ETI (intermediate size company) and finally level 3 is potentially intended for the elections of several million people in several countries.

A dozen editors meet the CNIL recommendations, but only a handful in France have achieved level 3.

The second category includes online voting initiatives on the blockchain. They are used in particular for what is called citizen democracy. There is no requirement for this type of voting. As soon as we organize voting with representatives, we must respect the Electoral Code.

Our service connects these two worlds, namely regulatory compliance and decentralization of trust.

What is the difference between a secure vote and a blockchain vote?

I will answer with an analogy. In the first case, there is a box (an opaque urn). The voting process has been certified and validated by experts. Even if very serious professionals have carried out this audit, voters must trust them. It’s the bank’s case. Let’s imagine that 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 inception in 2008. No one can say that won’t be the case one day. The blockchain is therefore based on a “transparent” urn. This means that instead of hiding my watch in a safe, I’m going to put it in the middle of a table around which there are dozens of people. Each of them can steal it, but no one will, because we would immediately know who did it.

Related to online voting, blockchain guarantees a high level of security by highlighting the transparency of processes. If you find that something has gone wrong or the results look strange, you can check for yourself. As the voting progresses, we publish fingerprints (an “encrypted” file) from the blockchain (ballots, people who voted and who were registered on the list, etc.).

The Ethereum blockchain is known to consume a lot of energy; what solution have you put in place to reduce this consumption and allow large-scale voting?

We currently use this proof-of-work¹ technology that is in fact particularly energy intensive. Also, its scalability is not very high (Editor’s Note: ability to process many transactions in a short amount of time). That’s why we decided to use a very modular and functional platform called Polygon (Layer 2 on Ethereum). Allows you to reconcile speed and security, without neglecting decentralization.

Even so, we are also betting on using Ethereum’s proof of stake² until the end of 2022 to reduce the consumption of useful energy for recording information by 99.99%. This will also improve scalability. Technically, it is possible to organize large-scale voting in some countries like Switzerland and Estonia, which are very advanced in this field. However, in France, if we want to move forward with safe voting in major national elections, the law is not ready.

  1. The oldest of the blockchain consensus protocols. It uses miners to verify incoming data on the ledger, validate the authenticity of transactions and create new blocks.
  2. The more cryptocurrency tokens a person owns, the more network security will be considered an important issue for them. A proof-of-stake algorithm involves different network users depositing a portion of their holdings in cryptocurrencies to become miners.

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