Shielded Voting - The New Normal in DAO Governance? 🛡️
Remember how, if in a group of 10 friends, 9 of them vote for a particular thing, you often feel like voting in a similar manner? This is essentially voter influencing and is part of human nature. But certainly, this is not the most democratic option, right? Shutter Governance recently announced a new DAO governance tool that enables shielded voting. But what is shielded voting? 🤔
Shielded voting can be defined exactly as the term states - ‘shielded’ voting which means that the way members of a DAO cast their vote - would be shielded till the results are announced. This way Alex, as a community member, cannot see how Reya, has voted. There is zero voter influence! In summary, shielded voting is ensured as the Shutter governance tool uses threshold encryption. The way that governance tool has been designed has been done in a manner wherein the goals are such that issues with voter misbehavior, voter apathy, and voting incentive systems are fixed. ⚒️
Shielded Voting Mechanism
Source: Shutter Governance
Therefore, in the previous voting regime, everyone could see what the results look like, i.e., how many people voted for the proposal while how many voted against the proposal, and hence, where the majority lay; in a shield voting mechanism, the results are unknown. The only detail displayed is the total number of votes casted. Whether these votes were for or against the proposal, remains a mystery till the voting period concludes! 🔍
Shutter has primarily worked with Snapshot in order to develop shielded voting. While Shutter is the one to launch and develop the governance tool, Snapshot will be the one to integrate it and ensure that it is a mechanism that is widely accessible as well as available to all interested parties. Therefore, it will now become a voting type that is available on Snapshot! Of course, the integration of this governance tool by no means creates a mandate on DAOs to opt for shielded voting, at the moment - it is merely an option that is available.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe it should become a mandate? 💭
How does shielded voting work? ⬇️
To enable shielded voting, Shutter Governance has improved the commit-reveal mechanism. This means that with the implementation of Shutter Governance, votes are encrypted during the voting period. The votes are consequently, decrypted and accordingly, revealed only after the voting poll closes.
Let’s break this down for you.
Imagine that the election process is going on in your country, in order to choose the Prime Minister. Every adult citizen gets one vote, and there are primarily 2 political parties in contention. During the voting period, of let’s say 4 days, the votes are never revealed. You will never know how your friend voted unless she reveals it herself to you. Therefore, there is zero voter influence and your vote is entirely unbiased, as well as fair! 🚀
Let’s talk more about the voting encryption system now. Shutter Governance has referred to this as “threshold encryption” and the system that they have managed to build is so flexible that it can be implemented both on-chain as well as off-chain. It is pertinent to note that most of the major web3 projects such as MakerDAO, Uniswap and 1inch, among others, create an inclusive as well as impactful governance system wherein all token holders can vote on decisions pertaining to the project. Since token holders and community members automatically have a stake in the project, involving them in the governance processes as well, makes the system much more efficient.
How the process works is that, in order to vote on a proposal that incorporates Shutter Governance, the user requests the eon key with the Keypers signature. Then there is a signature check against the Keyper registry in order to make sure that a fake key is not accidentally given out. Subsequently, the vote(s) is then encrypted with the Proposal Key that is derived from the Eon Key as well as the Proposal ID. After the voting period is over, the votes are automatically decrypted and therefore, displayed in public.
A demonstrative image of the above process can be seen below 👇🏼
Source: Shutter Governance
It can be seen in this image that first, a plaintext vote is generated, for instance, “Alex votes against Proposal 2329yh”. To ensure that this vote is shielded, the Shutter Governance tool is implemented and this plaintext vote is now encrypted and an encryption key is generated by the Keypers (read: ‘keepers’, get it?). The Keypers only ‘keep’ the decryption key. The encrypted vote moves on to the transaction pool which is filled with many such encrypted votes that are now all together moved on-chain once the voting period is complete. However, the voting results are naturally encrypted as well. The Keypers employ the decryption key, and decrypt all of the votes, in order to finally display the voting results! 💯
On Snapshot, however, the implementation of the governance tool is slightly more complex and can be understood from the image below 👇🏼
Source: Shutter Governance
Why Shutter governance? What are the benefits? 🔉
It is interesting to put forth the perspective that the group of people that vote, i.e., usually the token holders are often those with very different interests. For instance, while some token holders are end-users of the platform and would therefore vote according to what would benefit the users, others may be investors or developers who would naturally think quite differently! This is simply because the interests of each of these subgroups, so to say, do not align with each other. This would also create bias within these subgroups and that could affect impartial voting. What are some of the benefits that Shutter Governance brings with it? ⬇️
Pre-voting information symmetry
Have you ever noticed the amount of information asymmetry that exists in every unshielded vote? When the first person casts their vote, they have the least amount of information, i.e., they don’t know what the majority votes are towards; however, when the last person votes, they have the most amount of information, i.e., for instance, 90% of people have voted in favor of the proposal, while 10% have voted against it. This is not just information asymmetry but also creates inherent voter bias because the last person is most likely to definitely vote for the majority as they would think that voting for the minority would make their vote insignificant. There is, therefore, an active improvement in the fairness of governance decisions because every voter has equal access to all necessary information. 💯
Say no to censorship!
Since the voting process is such that it is very easily possible to censor the votes, the system operator could simply halt the vote if they think that the vote is not going in the direction that they hoped for. The interesting aspect is that in off-chain voting, because it is off the blockchain quite literally, there are no traces pertaining to the vote ever even happening, therefore automatically making it easy for censorship. On the other hand, with shielded voting in place, the user can easily prove that they did vote, and how they voted, and verification of the result of the votes is also possible. 🔥
Voter apathy and misbehavior: Solved!
Voter apathy essentially refers to the lack of concern or enthusiasm toward voting and this usually happens because a voter may feel like their single vote among a thousand, probably doesn't matter. This also results in voter misbehavior as they are less likely to actually vote the way that they want to and are more likely to simply follow the majority without thinking. But what if they don’t know the majority? What if we implement shielded voting and it’s all a secret till the results are out? Wouldn’t that solve the issue? 🪄
Yes, it would! This would also improve ballot integrity substantially as the voters would remain honest and unbiased during the entire voting process thereby automatically resulting in effective governance. No more persuasion of voting 🚀
To Conclude - the last bit of reading!
Snapshot released the following statement while announcing its intention to integrate the Shutter Governance tool:
“Really excited to integrate shielded voting as a new voting type into Snapshot. This is a recurring request from our users to have a system where you don’t get spoiled on what others are voting for, the commit-reveal mechanism developed by Shutter addresses this in a robust and elegant way. Using shielded voting the voters won’t know what others have voted and thus will not be influenced, voters will forge their own opinion and collectively achieve a more fair decision.”
Time to say yes to voter fairness and a hard no to the tyranny of the masses! 🚀
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