(I’m continuing my tradition of blogging about conferences I have not attended.)
The 2007 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop was held on Aug 6 in Boston. A lot of interesting people were there.
Joe Hall kicked off the post-lunch session with a discussion of election contracts and how they may prevent proper oversight. This is dry stuff, but it is likely incredibly important. He pointed out specific clauses in vendor contracts that prevent any analysis of the equipment and software. Some contracts even declare “unit pricing” to be trade secret, which, as Joe points out, is in conflict with normal government public budget reviews. Funny thing: the restrictions are so strict that the contracts then specifically carve out “permission for the voter to use the equipment for voting.” And of course, the contracts themselves are often considered confidential.
Amnon Ta-Shma presented an approach to cryptographic voting that does not reveal the plaintext of the vote to the voting machine, yet remains “bare-handed.” He provided some background on Chaum, Neff, and Ryan’s schemes. He then explained the conflict between preparing a ballot in the booth (privacy), and preparing a ballot at home (coercion). Amnon concurs with Josh that privacy cannot be fully guaranteed, only made more likely. His scheme involves the voter bringing an encrypted ballot for each candidate, and having the booth
reencrypt the one he wants. That way, the booth doesn’t know the plaintext (privacy), and the voter doesn’t predict the ciphertext (no coercion). There were numerous questions about whether it’s workable to use cryptography in the first place when voters may not be very
Overall, a fantastic day with lots of high quality talks. EVT is shaping up to be the de-facto conference for voting developments. I remain a little bit disheartened by the continuing gap between the crypto and applied security crowds. The crypto folks (me included)
need to do a better job pitching this stuff, especially now that there’s an opening to improve the technology in places like California.
Here is Warren D Smith’s writeup:
Some interesting and talented people were there. That’s the good news.
The bad news is, there also were a lot of bad talks (I did not like Rivest’s talk about my own work, a fact which particularly grated) and the press did not show up. That’s a pity sonce there were several things that really deserved press.
Also very good talks were those showing how to hack voting machines and demonstrating the absolutely awesome level of incompetence among their manufacturers/designers. (It is so hard to be that bad…)
There are also a few posts about EVT 2007 at the election technology blog.