The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) recently released the Research Opportunities in Evidence-Based Elections white paper, written by Josh Benaloh (Microsoft Research), Philip B. Stark (University of California, Berkeley), Vanessa Teague (Australian National University), Melanie Volkamer (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), and Dan Wallach (Rice University).
This white paper highlights the need for evidence-based elections, which can convince people that the results of elections are accurate, and suggests several technologies that could play a role in this, mostly focused on risk-limiting audits and end-to-end verifiability.
“A risk-limiting audit (RLA) is any procedure with a known minimum chance of correcting the reported electoral outcome if the reported electoral outcome is wrong—that is, if the reported winner(s) did not really win—and zero chance of altering a correctly reported outcome…RLAs frame audits as statistical hypothesis tests. The “null” hypothesis is that the reported outcome is incorrect, i.e., that one or more reported winners did not really win. An RLA terminates either by finding strong statistical evidence that the null hypothesis is false—that every reported winner did in fact win—or by conducting a full manual tabulation of the votes, which reveals the true winners if the paper trail is trustworthy.” (p. 5).
“End-to-end (E2E) verifiable voting systems are made up of a set of technologies which together allow voters to check for themselves that their votes have been accurately counted…An election is end-to-end verifiable if two properties are achieved: 1) Voters are able to confirm that their intended selections have been accurately recorded, and 2) Anyone can confirm that all recorded ballots have been accurately tallied.” (p. 11)
Through a combination of RLAs and E2E-verifiable voting systems, elections could offer more evidence of their accuracy, thus instilling more trust and confidence in the election processes and outcomes. The paper highlights a variety of open questions and possible research challenges to implementing these systems on a broad scale. The paper also briefly addresses the limitations of internet technologies in verifiable elections and other open research questions with regards to voting systems.
Read the full white paper here.