Private Onchain Governance: The Athens Protocol

Private Onchain Governance: The Athens Protocol

Confidential democracy on-chain The Athens protocol allows any user to take part in DAO on-chain votes without revealing how they are voting by leveraging the power of zero-knowledge proofs

The problem Private Onchain Governance: The Athens Protocol solves

It is often said DeFi is retracing the history of finance at a breakneck pace: following the same broad evolution, but compressing the timelines. We believe DAOs are doing something similar with the history of democracy.

For all the promises contained within the concept of DAOs, most of their implementations so far have fallen well short of their potential. One of the most obvious issues is that despite the promise of a truly democratic way to organise an organisation, the democratic process within most DAOs is flawed. Low participation in voting, and teams insiders being able to decide the outcome of any vote thanks to their voting blocks and their influence on the communities.

We believe one of core issues with the DAO democratic process lies with the public nature of voting on chain, where any interested observer can easily discover how a specific wallet/user has voted in any DAO vote.

Thanks to common sense and years of scientific research, we know that open ballot systems suffer from several issues:
• It exposes the voters to the demands and expectations of their employers, peers and followers
• It creates a strong follow-the-lead effect, where voters align their decisions with other prominent voters rather than fully understanding and forming an opinion on the issue at hand
• It decreases the perceived importance of small vote holders in deciding the final outcome and therefore deters high voters turn-out

If we want DAO governance to flourish, we need a system to ensure private voting, just the way the early Athens democracy introduce secret ballots along its evolution.

The true power of the Athens Protocol is that it allows Goverannce Protocols that are already deployed on chain to opt in to private voting, without needing to change their Governance system at all.

The system works by rolling up similar votes, if enough participants choose to vote with Athens then votes will become completely private.

Challenges we ran into

During development we encountered a number of issues:
• The Aztec rollup wasn't producing block as as they had an issue on testnet
• On their tesnet we were no able to get any Eth
• The Aztec rollup kept going down
• Deploying a bridge was not possible without the team permission

Athens protocol is composed of 3 main components:
• Aztec rollup – Privacy layer 2, used to hide a user’s voting choice. The tokens moved to the rollup will be unavailable until end of the DAO voting period. Users will receive zkvToken$ that will be used to redeem the voting tokens after the vote is complete
• Aztec bridge – decodes the rollup messages and interacts with the Voting factory
• Voting factory – creates the proxy voting contracts for each DAO vote, transfers tokens to the correct proxy voting contract
Additionally, 2 other components support the core ones:
• Athens front end – allows users to interact with Athens to vote and to deploy voting proxies for a specific DAO vote
• Voting proxy contracts – contracts created by the voting factory to carry out the yes/no/abstain votes in a specific DAO vote instance