Encrypt the Vote

secretballotThe news services are full of stories about voter fraud these days. Maybe Russian hackers influenced the vote tallies. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe votes were cast by deceased registered voters. Or maybe not. Maybe someone tampered with electronic voting machines. Or maybe not. Whatever the truth, one relatively simple proposal promises to avoid the problems in the future. It will use encryption to verify every vote and to provide irrefutable proof of who cast each vote.

“Recounts don’t actually happen, because if you can’t bring a shred of evidence to the table that something went wrong, you sound like a lunatic,” said computer scientist Ben Adida. “That’s what 2016 proves. We need to build a voting system that inherently provides that evidence in case something goes wrong.”

At the Enigma security conference next week in Oakland, Adida will make the case for a decade-old voting system that provides that inherent evidence, what Adida and other voting security experts call “end-to-end verification.” Since 2007, thousands of people, including organizations like the Association of Computing Machinery and Greenpeace, have used Adida’s election software, called Helios, to solve that core problem. Helios encrypts every vote, and then publishes an online list of encrypted results by voter in a form that allows anyone from an election-monitoring organization to individual voters themselves to check the results. However, the voter’s selection of candidates remains secret. The secret ballot will always be secret.

“The whole idea that paper ballots are going to save us is well-intentioned but flawed,” says Adida. “I think we can do better. We can provide true end-to-end proof that an election works.”

Details may be found in an article by Andy Greenberg in the Wired web site at: https://goo.gl/2AfW4V.

NOTE: If the Wired web site displays a message complaining about an ad blocker you might have installed in your web browser, simply click on FILE in your web browser and then select OPEN A NEW INCOGNITO WINDOW. (The exact wording may vary a bit from one web browser to another.) Then paste https://goo.gl/2AfW4V into the URL bar of the new web browser’s incognito window.

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