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a16z launches an on-chain voting tool

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a16z has announced a new product, Cicada, a private on-chain voting tool. The team is of the opinion that since “all voting systems rely on integrity and transparency to function in any meaningful way,” then, “at face value, it makes blockchains an ideal platform to build these systems.”

Cicada is a new open source Solidity library that leverages time-lock puzzles and zero-knowledge proofs for private on-chain voting. Cicada’s offerings include privacy properties, minimize trust assumptions, and can be used on Ethereum mainnet. Also, the new tool can be adapted and extended in many ways to support different voting schemes and features, the team said.

To achieve running tally privacy, a16z stated that Cicada follows a new cryptographic primitive using a time lock puzzle. “Users can submit their ballots as time-lock puzzles so that they are secret during the vote but can be revealed afterwards,” the team said.

Further, the tool would integrate a linearly homomorphic time-lock puzzle that allows the combination of puzzles, thereby producing a new puzzle that envelops all the original puzzles’ secret values.

The team explained that linearly homomorphic time-lock puzzles are a particularly suitable primitive for private voting.

Some of the drawbacks of this new system identified by a16z illustrate a scenario when an attacker tries to manipulate the vote by casting an incorrectly encoded ballot. According to the team, Cicada will solve this by having voters submit a zero-knowledge proof of ballot validity alongside the ballot itself.

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