I've discovered Agora Voting, which is a liquid democracy platform, includes cyprotgraphically secure voting and is cleanly based on python / django. It's reason enough to announce that I'm discontinuing development on Solon and if I'll have time in the future, I will be seen hacking on Agora Voting instead. So please join me at:
Original README contents follows:
Solon is a system that provides cryptographically secure electronic voting (e-voting), particularly focusing on direct democracy platforms instead of replicating the functionality of a classic representative democracy election.
Solon is designed to be used together with burgeoning direct democracy and delegated democracy systems. These typically have requirements that go beyond your average parliamentary elections. In particular, the voting algorithm needs to support the possibility to flexibly delegate (and un-delegate) your vote at any time, and it must be possible to use more advanced vote counting, such as Schulze method and other preferential voting methods.
Currently, we focus on providing a cryptographically secure voting facility that connects with Liquid Feedback. However, the code is modular in this respect, and in the future we will be able to support any other similar system. See "Direct democracy platforms" for other systems we like to keep an eye on.
After starting Solon we have become aware of an open source implementation of a so-called homomorphic e-voting algorithm: Helios Voting. The current focus is on using Helios as the secure voting backend for Solon. Essentially this means Solon acts as integration and orchestration layer between Liquid Feedback and Helios. New issues to vote on are discovered in the Liquid Feedback workflow, the data is then copied into Solon and a Helios ballot is created. Users will then vote securely using Helios, after which Solon will copy the results back into Liquid Feedback.
Solon is currently in active development, and it is not ready to be used yet.
The current code is merely a mockup that is able to connect with a Liquid Feedback system, extract issues to vote on and return results back. It is just a mockup that demonstrates the data flows. The actual code for any cryptographic functionality is completely missing. Integrating with the Helios project is the next step and proof of concept work for this is now in progress.
If you want to contribute to development, join us on Github! The Solon developers think it's an exciting prospect to take representative democracy to the next level, and if you feel the same, you are welcome to join. See "Contributing" below for more info.
Install Liquid Feedback
You need a working Liquid Feedback installation to use Solon. Not only that, but you need a patched version of Liquid Feedback Core. Let's start with that.
We have tested the following versions of Liquid Feedback components:
LiquidFeedback Frontend 2.0.1 LiquidFeedback Core 2.0.11 WebMCP 1.2.3 Lua 5.1 PostgreSQL 8.4.12
Note that the Solon patch for Liquid Feedback is specifically against v2.0.11 of LiquidFeedback Core, and the Frontend version must match the version of Core that you use. So for now those two must be exactly 2.0.11 and 2.0.1 respectively.
0) Tip: Liquid Feedback supports Debian Squeeze. If you are on any other platform, it's probably worth taking that seriously: try using Vagrant or VirtualBox to install Liquid Feedback into a Debian Squeeze instance.
1) Download Liquid Feedback Core 2.0.11. This is currently the only version
against which we provide a patch, newer versions will probably not work.
tar xvf liquid_feedback_core-v2.0.11.tar.gz and
cd cd liquid_feedback_core-v2.0.11/
3) Get the patch:
patch -p1 < liquid_feedback_core-v2.0.11.solon-v0.1.diff
5) You can now follow the instructions from http://dev.liquidfeedback.org/trac/lf/wiki/installation?version=26 to install the full Liquid Feedback system. When it is time to install the Core module, use the directory you have just patched with the Solon enabling patch.
Note that for the Liquid Feedback Frontend, version 2.0.1 has been tested!
6) Finally, you need to configure Liquid Feedback to run in the ext_voting_service mode so that Solon can hook into your voting procedure:
su - www-data psql -c "INSERT INTO system_setting (member_ttl, ext_voting_service) VALUES ('1 year', TRUE);" liquid_feedback psql -c "UPDATE system_setting SET ext_voting_service=TRUE;" liquid_feedback exit
(Note that if the second command above fails, that's ok.)
You can now browse Liquid Feedback via a web browser. When you login as administrator, there's a very small "Admin" link at the bottom of the page. You can use that to create new users and organizations and policies that are used for issue management.
Install Solon itself
Currently Solon is tested on
Python 2.7 Tornado 2.1
Tornado 1.x is known not to work.
7) Install a few Python modules that we need:
apt-get install python-tornado python-psycopg2
git clone https://github.com/henrikingo/solon-voting.git
10) You need to create another PostgreSQL database to be used by Solon. (Note: The current Solon is just a mockup without cryptography, so we call the module "dummy" and hence we tend to use the database name "solon_dummy".) Here we use the same user "www-data" as was used in the instructions for Liquid Feedback:
su - www-data createdb solon_dummy createlang plpgsql solon_dummy psql -v ON_ERROR_STOP=1 -f sql/dummy.sql solon_dummy exit
11) Optionally, edit the configuration file
config.py. (If you didn't change
anything in the above instructions, such as usernames or passwords, then you're
good to go and don't need to change anything in the config.)
12) Start the webserver:
su www-data -c 'python solon_server.py'
Now you can open a web browser and go to localhost:8888. Hit the "execute cron tasks" link to see if you can fetch your first issues from Liquid Feedback to vote on.
If you are exited about the prospect of taking representative democracy to the next level, then you might be interested in joining us. Check out the code at https://github.com/henrikingo/solon-voting
Solon might be especially interesting if you are into cryptography or math. Even if we can use a lot of the functionality directly from Helios (thanks to the wonders of open source!) in the long term we will have to extend it to make it more robust for large scale, "important", voting. But the project isn't exclusive to math geeks! There are a number of skills from Python, HTTP, JSON and automated testing where your help is welcome.
Please read the file TODO.md for an idea on tasks where contributions are especially welcome.
The official project mailing-list is at email@example.com. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/solon-voting
You may also follow, and @mention or DM, @SolonVoting on Twitter.
Solon architecture and design decisions have been described on my blog at: http://openlife.cc/category/topic/solon
If you are interested in the concept of delegated democracy, here are a few links:
As for crypto and e-voting algorithms, it makes sense to start by reading the Helios Voting paper.
Note: Unless you enjoy reading papers stuffed with university level math, some of these links may not be for you. It is still possible to contribute to Solon even if you don't want to torture your brain cells with the actual cryptography. If you do enjoy university level math, brace yourself, because the good stuff has just begun!
The next paper is a good overview of the field of cryptographic e-voting protocols and the requirements such a protocol should meet. Even if you don't want to read about the math involved, I recommend you read at least the beginning of this paper. The introduction in this paper is useful to everyone who want to get an overview of e-voting protocols: Sampigethaya et.al.
The Sampigethaya paper concludes that one [Acquisti protocol] is the most complete solution (at the time of its writing, of course). Before finding the Helios project we were planning to implement Acquisti in Solon. You may still be interested to read about it as it is a concise and well written paper. (But now this is only for math geeks :-)
The following papers are commentaries on Acquisti:
Goulet et.al. implemented Aquisti in software, graduated, didn't keep any copies and didn't publish it as open source:
Direct democracy platforms
Initially, we focus on making Solon work together with Liquid Feedback.
These platforms also have some form of direct democracy or delegated democracy potential in them:
We might try to support them in the future, but for now it's just interesting to keep an eye on how this area develops.
Frequently Asked Questions
This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.
You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/.