Design & Architecture

This describes the design and architecture of the electionguard-python project.


✅ Simplicity

Simplicity is the first and foremost goal of the code. The intent is for others to be able to easily transliterate the code to any other programming language with little more than structures and functions. This simplicity applies to all aspects of the code design, including naming.

✅ Extendable and Interpretable

The library is intentionally general-purpose to support the different use cases of "end to end verifiable" voting systems. Different projects may wish to use different layers of the library, including math primitives, encryption functions, and more.

✅ Object Oriented Design (OOD) & Functional Methods

An additional goal is to build a familiar object oriented design with underlying functional style methods. This allows users to simply construct objects in an OOP fashion or directly call the underlying methods in a functional way. This design also facilitates easy testing and composition.

Class methods are used for simplicity, but sophistication with regard to inheritance, object encapsulation, or design patterns is intentionally avoided. These class methods usually rely on the aforementioned functional methods unless the class contains state.

✅ Immutable

The library prefers immutable objects where possible to encourage simple data structures.


dataclass uses the object.__setattr__ pattern in _postinit__ functions to support freezing data classes where possible.


NamedTuple is frequently used for the library's data structures. They are immutable after creation and have a _replace() method that makes it easy to make a copy replacing only one field.

✅ Concurrency

While this library is not explicitly engineered to use concurrency, it's definitely meant to work properly when the caller wants to run more than one thing at a time. This means there is no global, mutable state in the library with the exception of a discrete-log function doing internal memoization, itself explicitly written to be thread-safe.

✅ Union Classes

For both naming purposes and usability, union classes are generally preferred. This can alleviate issues with multiple inheritance

🚫 Exceptions

To allow for easier transliteration, the library will not raise exception across the API boundary since this is not available in all languages. Instead, the library will have a variety of functions that indicate failures by returning None; the caller is expected to check if the result is None before any further processing. Python 3 typing calls this sort of result Optional.This tactic also indicates all exceptions raised are expected to be from bugs.

🚫 Multiple Inheritance

Although a handy python feature, for implementation simplicity this feature is not used and should be avoided.


🤝 Approachable

The python setup is designed to be as approachable as possible from the environment to the continuous integration.


The library contains a Pipfile that can be used with pipenvto ensure the correct dependencies are included, as well as a to install the package itself. There is also a Makefile which allows for simple make commands to ease new developers into the build process. If the user is a new developer, the recommendation is starting with Visual Studio Code since there are many default settings and recommended extensions in the repository.

Folder Structure

The folder structure is kept to a bare minimum. The ElectionGuard library is located in src/electionguard and tests are in tests. Standalone applications or other pieces should be in separate subdirectories. For example, the bench directory contains a simple Chaum-Pedersen proof computation benchmark.


To simplify the command structure, make is used. A Makefile sits in the root directory and contains useful commands that can be used to run setup. These are shown in use in the continuous integration.

🧹 Clean Code

The library uses several tools to assist developers in maintaining clean code. Visual Studio Code is recommended for easier setup.


The library uses Python 3 type hints throughout and ensures return types are defined. Mypy is used to statically check the typing.


Pylint is used for typing; settings are in the .pylinrc file.


Black is used for auto-formatting and checking the formatting of the python code. Settings are in the pyproject.toml file.

🧪 Testing

The goal of the project is 100% code coverage with an understanding that there are some limitations.

Property Based

Property testing is helpful for testing certain properties. The library uses Hypothesis property-based testing to vigorously exercise the library. The library includes generator functions for all the core datatypes, making them easy to randomly generate.

🚀 Continuous Integration

GitHub Actions are being used for continuous integration. Cross-platform is a primary goal and the workflows provided demonstrate how a developer can build in Linux, MacOS, and Windows.

The run workflows can be seen on the GitHub repo page or a user can navigate to .github/workflows to inspect them.

📦 Math Library

gmpy2 is a multiprecision numeric library that was chosen over Python's built-ins int type for its speed necessary for encryption performance. The current version used is 2.0.8 which is the most stable version. This is necessary for cross-platform since the library uses precompiled libraries for Windows due to reliance on gmp. The gmpy2 options are chosen over the native Python equivalents as shown below.

  • Integers: int -> mpz
  • Exponents: pow -> powmod

With the use of mypy for typing and the lack of type presence in Typeshed for gmpy2, the library provides a stub in stubs/gmpy2.pyi to ensure the code compiles without warnings.