Category: voting

  • Voting @ Google

    Just before Christmas, I was invited by my friend and colleague Steve Weis to give a talk about voting with cryptography at Google. I’ve done about 10-15 talks of this kind, but this was a fun challenge: a very talented audience with an introductory understanding of cryptography (Steve had given 3 prior lectures on cryptography). […]

  • Bullet-Proofing the Front Door and Leaving the Back Door Open

    Vote By Mail in California While we’re struggling to secure voting machines, a number of States are deploying “Vote By Mail Permanently!” Here’s a picture on a bus in the San Francisco Bay Area. What a nightmare. I suspect that, for some election officials, the appeal of vote-by-mail is a bit like a magnified version […]

  • Of Park Benches, Cardboard Boxes, Armored Cars and Voting

    The Swiss have implemented quantum cryptography to transfer votes to a central tallying authority. This is pretty cool, and I applaud the Swiss for trying new technologies to improve election security. However, marketing this as “unbreakable encryption” is troubling. I can’t help but see this as a version of Gene Spafford’s warning writ large: SSL […]

  • Security Theater and Transparency

    [With apologies to my grandmothers, some of the most insightful people I’ve known.] When you want to build a publicly accountable secure system, must you build to the lowest common denominator? The key example is, of course, voting. It’s clear that you have to build the user interface to the lowest common denominator: given minimal […]

  • Are you Kidding Me?

    Republicans in California are trying to split the electoral votes proportionally in time for the 2008 elections. They say it’s “more fair.” Are you kidding me? Seriously? Is this the level of lying that we’re dealing with now? Obviously, it’s only fair if all states do this. If only “blue states” do this, or if […]

  • Electronic Voting Technology, 2007

    I’m at EVT 2007, the USENIX/ACCURATE workshop on voting technology. I had to miss the first session because I flew in on the red-eye, so I missed three talks that described attacks on Nedap, Diebold, and Hart. I hear they were quite interesting. Design I The second session (the first I attended), started with Rice […]

  • Way to Go, Secretary Bowen.

    In 2004, I appeared on a panel at Harvard alongside Debra Bowen, who was then a California State Senator. I found her to be extremely sharp, and particularly insightful about voting issues at a time when most of the public debate was thoroughly confused (it’s gotten a little bit better since). Ms. Bowen has since […]

  • What Happens Before You Mail It?

    The No-Vote-By-Mail blog cites me again, and in so doing points me to a a note by King County in Washington about how they are ensuring that vote-by-mail preserves ballot secrecy. Okay, let’s say I believe everything they say. The ballot is double-enveloped, there are no traces of who the voter is on the ballot, […]

  • Voting: Things are Not Always What They Seem

    It’s interesting how Voting often comes up in so many discussions, and how often folks believe that Voting is a well established, stable process that is usually fair, except for those pesky touchscreen voting machines that are corrupting a process that has long been well managed. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like unverified touchscreen […]

  • Voting à la Française

    Nicolas Sarkozy just won the French Presidential Elections by a sizeable margin. In case my fellow US liberals are worried about a “Conservative” victory in Europe, it’s important to note that the US Republican Party and the French UMP are by no means the same. Sarkozy used his first speaking opportunity to declare France “a […]

  • Why Boston ran out of Ballots in the Last Election

    Last Friday, Professor David King presented the results of his review of the Boston Election Department at a meeting of the MIT Voting Technology Project. His work has been mentioned in the press, but this is the first time that David has been able to publicly comment on his recommendations. There are number of interesting […]

  • The Coercion Issues of Vote By Mail

    There isn’t much hard data on the coercion issues of vote by mail, though with states adopting new absentee voting policies, that may change, and we may start to see some interesting things. In the meantime, there’s a very interesting collection of vote-by-mail fraud incidents reported regularly on the No Vote By Mail blog. I […]

  • Responding to Ronald

    In response to my recent post regarding open-audit voting, Ronald Crane expresses a number of doubts regarding cryptographic auditing of elections, concluding “I don’t see that crypto voting solves much.” I am responding in detail here because Ronald is deeply misinformed. There are certainly points regarding open-audit techniques that merit in-depth discussion, but the points […]

  • I Stand with Avi (regarding American Idol)

    First, I need to express solidarity with Avi, who went out on a limb and professed his love of American Idol. I, too, am a closet American Idol fan, and I completely agree: if only the voting were verifiable! I personally think Jared should have qualified for the final 12. But on to the immediate […]

  • On Fully Informed Decisions and the Role of Academics

    Professors Avi Rubin and Ed Felten are renowned computer security experts. Their work has made the press numerous times, and they’ve testified to various Congressional Committees on many issues, including voting. But when it comes to voting, their statements tend to leave out an entire category of voting systems for no clear reason. It’s as […]

  • On Voting, Banking, and Bad Analogies

    Estonia is running online elections, where anyone with a national ID card and Internet Explorer can vote online. As usual, the article forgets to mention the single biggest issue with remote voting, whether online or by mail: voter coercion. The point of supervised voting—i.e. voting in a controlled location, inside a private voting booth—is to […]

  • My Talk at TCC 2007

    Last week, I was in Amsterdam for the Theory of Cryptography Conference, where I presented my work (joint with Douglas Wikström) on How to Shuffle in Public. The conference was exhausting, intense, and extremely interesting. And, minus a last-minute A/V problem due to a broken pin in the VGA connector, my talk went well. If […]

  • Election Season is Over… It’s time to design the next Voting System

    You can’t design a voting system in the few months that precede an election. That’s why the year in between elections should be the most productive in designing new voting technology: no one from the press is paying attention, no one is rushing to merely patch their existing system, and opportunity abounds! And so, if […]

  • Scheduling Poll Workers

    Thad Hall wonders if Poll Workers could be scheduled like Walmart employees. Thad’s ideas are generally fantastic, and I find his out-of-the-box yet highly-informed viewpoint to be refreshing in this field. In this case, though, I don’t think this suggestion would work. It’s all about training and complexity. Consider what a well-oiled machine Walmart is, […]

  • Felten on Voting

    Ed Felten, who’s done some fantastic work on DRM and steganography, is writing more and more about voting systems. It’s great to see the community growing, but it’s also important to keep the academic debate alive. In that spirit, here goes some (hopefully constructive) criticism of Felten’s posts. In Paper Trail Standard Advances, Felten writes: […]

  • I spoke too quickly?

    As one astute commenter notes in my previous blog post on the TGDC meeting, a second resolution presented again by Ron Rivest today was accepted, thanks to revisions that grandfathered in existing machines. This is not quite as good as yesterday’s resolution, but it’s still quite good. So I must at the very least take […]

  • Presentations Galore!

    I spent a good chunk of November in Northern California, where I gave four talks on voting with different levels of cryptographic depth based on audience interest: SRI, Google, Berkeley, and Stanford. Thanks to my respective hosts at all of these places! I’ve posted all of my slides, as always under a Creative Commons license […]

  • A Real Shame

    Yesterday, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee narrowly rejected Ron Rivest’s proposal that voting systems become software-independent. This is a real shame, and it should lead us to seriously question the qualifications and biases of those who voted against it. The software-independence guideline means that a voting system can’t depend on software for its correctness. In […]

  • UConn voting report: bad timing, good content

    The election is behind us, so let’s talk about the reports that came out just before the election. On October 30th, UConn released a report on weaknesses in the Diebold Accuvote Optical Scan. I have a beef with the timing of the release of UConn’s voting report: one week before the election. This is no […]

  • Bruce Almighty

    Bruce Schneier is generally right on when it comes to security, and his explanations are usually extremely crisp and to the point. Plus, it’s hard to argue with a man whose online reputation precedes him. That said, when it comes to voting, I’m a little worried by some of Bruce’s latest posts. On November 13th, […]

  • Again, the Secret Ballot

    Salon talks about the undervote situation in Sarasota. In their “featured letters,” one reader, self-nicknamed “the voice of reason,” says: If we need to use computers to vote, why can’t there be a double receipt system? One receipt goes into the ballot box, voter gets to keep the other as a record of his vote. […]

  • My Day as an Election Warden in Boston

    This past Tuesday, I was the election warden, aka the Chief, for a Boston precinct. I didn’t announce it ahead of time, because I wanted the realistic experience of an average warden, in an average precinct. I put my knowledge of computer science and crypto aside, went to the mandated 2 hours of new-warden training, read the manual over and over and over again over the weekend, and managed the precinct as best and as cleanly as I could. It was, in a word, a fantastic experience.

  • Scratch & Vote in the Press again!

    Scratch & Vote is in the press thanks to Peter Weiss of Science News, who gives a very good overview of election technology issues. I’ve also posted the slides and latest paper for this work, which is joint with Ronald Rivest.

  • The Punchscan FAQ Revisited

    David Chaum and his team have just released Punchscan v1, the first open-source implementation of a truly verifiable voting system. Like other voting systems in its class (there aren’t that many), it allows for truly open auditing and voter verification. And it’s extremely misunderstood. The Slashdot thread is way off the mark, so I thought […]

  • Go Vote

    Election season is in full force. The TV programs, the newspapers, and a whole bunch of smart folks are telling you that voting machines are broken, that they won’t count your vote, that democracy can be hacked (thanks, HBO.) No doubt there are serious security issues with today’s voting machines. All of them, with or […]