Category Archives: vocomp

Rasing the E2E Profile in the Public Eye

Aleks Essex of Punchscan, prodded by one of my comments, posted his thoughts about raising the profile of end-to-end verifiable systems in the public eye:

The allaboutvoting suggestion was to establish an outreach to the broader public about E2E. Of course this is a good idea, and something that’s overdue. But that’s going to be tough. As for Punchscan, our approach to raising its profile has always been by “doing.” First we designed and built it. Then we debuted it in a binding election. Then we won an international competition. I think that these milestones were all necessary; people need things they can “touch.” Pictures and movie of real voters using Punchscan I think helped “make it real” to people, because it was real. Winning the ten thousand dollars sure got people interested. So I’d say it’s these “press” moments that will see E2E find its way into “normal” conversation, if only for a moment.

My prodding comment was:

Unfortunately much of the talk about E2E is pretty off.
I’ve seen:
* “there is no problem”
* “your solution is something only geeks can understand”
* “your solution is to just ‘trust us’”
* hijacking of E2E potential as a call to inaction with respect to the use voting machines without any verification
* lots of heavily technical bureaucratic jargon that I don’t quite follow yet

Does the E2EV movement have any umbrella outreach and discussion place? My perception of it right now is that it is gaining momentum academically but that there is little advocacy intended for a general audience. What little there is seems to be partitioned into individual E2E projects (like punchscan) rather than movement wide.

An active yahoo group might be a helpful start.

I’m thinking of just starting an E2EV yahoo group myself but I’m not yet sufficiently committed to research and invite all the people needed to jump start a community.


The punchscan voting system

Punchscan was the winning system in the 2006 2007 VoComp competition.

In their own words:

Punchscan is a voting system invented by David Chaum that allows voters to take a piece of the ballot home with them as a receipt. This receipt does not allow voters to prove how they voted to others, but it does permit them to:

  • Verify that they have properly indicated their votes to election officials (cast-as-intended).
  • Verify with extremely high assurance that all votes were counted properly (counted-as-cast).

It uses simple cryptographic techniques to ensure election integrity. The demos on their ‘learn more’ page shows how a voter casts and verifies their vote as well as showing how election integrity can be audited.

After you go through the demos you should also review the excellent FAQ.

The system that is demonstrated can only handle ballots for which there are two candidates for each race. I believe that they have extensions to the system to handle multiple candidates and well as handling

  • alternate voting systems
  • improved support for disabled voters
  • write-in candidates

So it ready for prime-time use?
I don’t know. It has only been used for a few elections and is a very new system so I suspect that it is not ready for wide deployment.

If you are interested in following the development and deployment of punchscan you can join their mailing list.

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.

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.