Security Analysis of a 13th Century Venetian Election Protocol
I love stuff like this: “Electing the Doge of Venice: Analysis of a 13th Century Protocol,” by Miranda Mowbray and Dieter Gollmann.
This paper discusses the protocol used for electing the Doge of Venice between 1268 and the end of the Republic in 1797. We will show that it has some useful properties that in addition to being interesting in themselves, also suggest that its fundamental design principle is worth investigating for application to leader election protocols in computer science. For example it gives some opportunities to minorities while ensuring that more popular candidates are more likely to win, and offers some resistance to corruption of voters. The most obvious feature of this protocol is that it is complicated and would have taken a long time to carry out. We will advance a hypothesis as to why it is so complicated, and describe a simplified protocol with very similar features.
Venice was very clever about working to avoid the factionalism that tore apart a lot of its Italian rivals, while making the various factions feel represented.