After hearing about what happened with the election in Kenya and the related discussion about a “tamper proof voting system”, I was wondering how the use of cryptography could be used to make a tamper proof voting system?

I have had a basic look at zero knowledge proofs, but I do not know how these and other protocols could be used to achieve a tamper proof voting system – hence the question.

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    $\begingroup$ It is unlikely that sprinkling magic crypto pixie dust into a disputed general election would change anyone's confidence in the system. Instead, you can have a paper trail, a diverse pool of poll monitors, and mandatory risk-limiting audits of ballots with public participation, all of which are understandable and verifiable by members of the public without a PhD in cryptography. Haven't read it yet, but looks like a good recent summary from the experts: Bernhard et al, ‘Public Evidence from Secret Ballots’, arXiv:1707.08619, to appear in E-Vote-Id '17. $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2017 at 15:18

3 Answers 3


Cryptography allows voters to verify that their ballots are cast as intended, recorded as cast and counted as recorded. This is done via a combination of primitives with the most important ones being zero knowledge proofs. Moreover cryptography allows for voter anonymity by using primitives such as mixnets, blind signatures combined with homomorphic cryptosystems for vote secrecy.

The field of cryptographically verifiable elections has been researched for almost 35 years and the literature is huge. Many systems have been proposed with an emphasis on integrity achieved through end-to-end (E2E) verifiability. The theory is sound, but I guess implementation and security concerns among others do not allow for wide scale adoption.

I recommend this talk by Ben Adida to get you started.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe the largest obstacle to eballot is essentially trust, how do the voters (the vast majority of whom are not cryptographers) know that the system is actually secure (e.g. the votes are actually secret, and the system cannot be rigged). $\endgroup$
    – poncho
    Aug 13, 2017 at 16:47

In cryptography there is quite a huge amount of literature on e-voting.

It allows quite a lot of complicated features: confidentiality of the votes, of course and anonymity of the voters but also the possibility for voters to check if their vote has been counted correctly when the result is published and much more. This question is a bit too broad to answer, here.

In practice, afaik none of these techniques are used by actual voting machines anyway. It is simply assumed that the machines are secure and do not cheat people. That's why there is a discussion about the system being tamper proof. In this context this is probably not about the entire voting process being tamper proof but about the actual physical machines.

This of course reduces e-voting to a bit of a credibility problem because nobody can figure out what these machines do, sometimes it is even illegal but everybody can count pieces of paper.

Note, cryptographic schemes have a similar credibility problem because non cryptographers cannot understand how they work.


A specific example of a secure distributed and verifiable cryptographic voting scheme follows directly from Shamir's Secret Sharing Scheme. Consider this paper on the topic. The authors also mention that this scheme is not dependent on using specifically Sharmir's secret sharing scheme, but any linear secret sharing scheme will do.


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