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29.07.07 - 03.08.07, Seminar 07311

Frontiers of Electronic Voting

David Chaum (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE)
Miroslaw Kutylowski (Wroclaw University of Technology, PL)
Ronald L. Rivest (MIT - Cambridge, US)
Peter Ryan (Newcastle University, GB)



Seminar Data

Press Review

Press Release

Summary

Democracy and voting systems have received considerable attention of late, with the validity of many elections around the world being called into question. The US experience demonstrates that simply deploying technological “solutions” does not solve the problem and can easily exacerbate it. Nevertheless, many other countries are either deploying e-voting and e-counting systems or planning to do it.

The aim of the seminar was to present and discuss promising technologies, schemes, and cryptographic protocols to achieve high assurance of accuracy and privacy in the casting and counting of votes. Special attention was given to attacks and dangers that emerge for electronic voting systems.

The challenge is highly socio-technical in nature: requires an excellent understanding of the potentialities and dangers of technological approaches as well as an appreciation of the social, legal and political impact. The seminar thus aimed to bring together researchers and practitioners from academia and industry, whose work relates to electronic voting systems, to evaluate the state of the art, to share practical experiences, and to look for possible enhancements. The overall aim then was to stimulate discourse between the various stakeholders and enhance the understanding of voting technologies and practices.

Dagstuhl Accord on Electronic Voting

Participants of the 2007 Dagstuhl Conference on Frontiers of E-Voting agree that:

Taking advantage of technology to improve large-scale elections has recently captured the interest of researchers coming from a number of disciplines. The basic requirements pose an apparently irreconcilable challenge: while voter confidence hinges on transparently ensuring integrity of the outcome, ballot secrecy must also be ensured. Current systems can only address these essential requirements by relying on trust in those conducting the election or by trust in the machines and software they use. Some promising new systems dramatically reduce the need for such trust. What are called ”end-to-end” voting systems, for example, allow each voter to ensure that his or her vote cast in the booth is recorded correctly. They then allow anyone to verify that all such recorded votes are included in the final tally correctly. Surprisingly, through use of encryption typically, these systems can also provide privacy of votes. They do this without introducing any danger of ”improper influence” of voters, as in vote buying and coercion. Moreover, such systems offer all these properties without relying on trust in particular persons, manual processes, devices, or software.

Care must still be taken to ensure proper implementation and education of voters in order to avoid misuse or incorrect perceptions. Some are also concerned that the level of understandability and observability of hand-counting of paper ballots in polling places will not be matched by electronic systems. The challenge for governments and civil society should be to find ways to foster development and testing of new election paradigms in general and to allow them to be assessed and expeditiously rise to meet their potential to improve elections.

The challenges for the technical research community now forming around election technology includes further exploration and refinement of these new types of systems. Particularly promising and important areas include analysis, formal modeling, and rigorous proofs regarding systems and potential threats. Initial deployments of these systems are starting to provide valuable real-world experience, but effective ways to communicate and expose their workings may also be important. The goal is systems that increase transparency regarding the correctness of the election results and yet maintain secrecy of individual votes. Improved voter confidence may follow.

Voting over electronic networks has various attractions, is starting to be deployed, and is regarded by some as inevitable. No solution, however, has been proposed that provides safeguards adequate against various known threats. Problems include attacks against the security of the computers used as well as attacks that impede communication over the network. Improper influence of remote voters is also a significant problem, although it is tolerated with vote by mail in numerous jurisdictions. Securing network voting is clearly an important research challenge. We cannot, however, prudently recommend any but unavoidable use of online voting systems in elections of significant consequence until effective means are developed to address these vulnerabilities.

Related Seminars

Classification

  • Security / cryptography
  • Interdisciplinary with non-informatics-topic standardization
  • Legal and social problems
  • Political sciences

Keywords

  • Electronic voting
  • Voting machines
  • Encryption
  • Anonymous channel
  • Privacy protection
  • Verifiability
  • Authentication
  • Integrity
  • Digital receipts
  • Coercion resistance
  • Cryptanalysis
  • Thread models
  • Formal security analysis
  • Voting protocols
  • Commercial voting systems
  • Standardization
  • Legal models
  • E-democracy
  • Usability and social effects

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