VoComp conference (July 16-18)

VoComp (the university VOting systems COMPetition) is a conference and competition that fosters innovation and student involvement in the technology of democracy. It is actually both a competition and a conference. This year is was in Portland, Oregon from July 16-18.

The conference gives academics who research voting systems a chance to present their research and conclusions. From the VoComp overview page:

Presentations include descriptions of the competing systems, attacks on the competing systems, metrics for evaluating voting systems, and demonstrations of other voting technology. Prizes include best presentation, best attack, and best paper on voting system metrics.

The competion itself allows student teams to design, implement, and demonstrate election systems.

Here is more from their press release:

Four finalist teams of researchers, from the U.S., Canada, Poland, and UK, face off 16–18 July at the Portland Hilton in front of a panel of top experts. … Each of the four finalist submissions is a complete open-source voting system, something that has been called for by many but not realized until now. The competition framework also serves to demonstrate what may be a better way to vet and choose voting systems.

In advance, each team publicly posted rigorous documentation and all source code for its system. At the competition finals, each team will carry out a mock election and critique the other systems in front of the judges. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Three of the competition systems are based on revolutionary “end-to-end (e2e) secure’’ technology, which enables each voter to verify that her vote was correctly recorded and tabulated. This new technology promises to surpasses the lower level of results assurance afforded by popular “paper record’’ technologies such as precinct-count optical scan and VVPAT advocated by Senator Holt and others.

I have never attended a VoComp conference. One of the conference presenters this year wrote about his experience there. Here is some of what Warren Smith had to say about his experience at VoComp 2007:

VoComp was actually a lot better than I expected in terms of the talks.

David Chaum spoke on “scantegrity”, an impressive new framework for secure secret-ballot voting which is in at least some ways superior to Rivest+Smith’s approaches. www.scantegrity.org

Ron Rivest (MIT) spoke on the Rivest-Smith low-tech secure voting protocols.

The whole VoComp thing made it more publicly known that secure voting protocols do exist, and are just light years ahead of what the USA uses now in terms of guaranteed security properties.


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