Friday, March 6, 2009

Here's My Bid To Automate The 2010 Elections

From PHYSORG comes news of a verifiable web-based election system in which the voters don't need to trust those running the elections!
The verifiable voting system, available as open-source/free software, implements advanced cryptographic techniques to maintain ballot secrecy while providing a mathematical proof that the election tally was correctly computed.

Helios relies upon public key homomorphic encryption, a method where a public key is used to encrypt a message (in this case, a vote); messages can be combined under the covers of encryption (in this case, tallying the votes); and multiple independent private keys are required to decrypt the message (in this case, the election tally).

In an election, Helios works as follows:

• first, each voter receives a tracking number for his/her vote and the vote is encrypted with the election public key before it leaves the voter's browser;
• second, with the tracking number, a voter can then verify that their ballot was correctly captured by the voting system, which publishes a list of all tracking numbers prior to tallying; and
• finally, the voter, or any observer including election watchers from outside the election, can verify that these tracking numbers (the encrypted votes) were tallied appropriately. The election results contain a mathematical proof of the tally that cannot be "faked" even with the use of powerful computers.
"Because the tallying happens under the covers of encryption, the entire verification process is done without revealing the contents of each individual vote," explained Adida "Moreover, by using Helios, voters no longer need to blindly trust those supervising the election, as officials must provide mathematical proofs that everything was done appropriately."
Primer Pangunuran is wondering about fool proof election systems over at Filipino Voices.  There's also a big huha over those masked activists running around naked yesterday posing for cell phones and giggly gaggles of tittering girls.  It's gratuitous nudity being consecrated as the latest brave blow for Freedom of Speech, what with that Terrible Ogre, Nene Pimentel being the lightning rod for the thunderous reverberations of the local Echo Chamber. 


cvj said...

DJB, the technology sounds cool and promising! (In the mlq3 thread i linked to, commenter Mindanaoan was in fact advocating such a scheme. It’s good to hear that there is actually a way to implement it.)

However, in itself, the system as described is still susceptible to systemic attacks, specifically by manufacturing fictitious voters who are assigned fictitious tracking numbers and will never complain (because they don’t exist). If you can link that to a voter registration system to verify that only actual voters are the ones who have cast their ballot, then it would start to meet the minimum technical requirements of a COMELEC-proof election system.

I like the system though because it may eventually make direct (web-based) referendums on legislative bills easier which means we can eventually get rid of our representatives and switch to some form of direct democracy.

cvj said...

The mlq3 discussion thread i was referring to above.