FC: David Chaum's new project: Voting booths with secure receipts

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 20:49:25 PST

  • Next message: Declan McCullagh: "FC: Boston judge to hear first test of GNU license used in MySQL"

    [David Chaum is a remarkable fellow who pioneered digital cash. He's 
    recently been working on secure voting projects. See www.chaum.com and 
    Steven Levy's _Crypto_ book. --Declan]
    Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 15:36:24 -0800
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    From: David Chaum <davidat_private>
    Subject: Breakthrough allows first receipts from voting booths!
    Breakthrough allows receipts from voting booths:
    First-ever legal receipts are surprisingly powerful
    -- and may be just in time!
    Los Angles, CA - Receipts showing exactly who you voted for, just what 
    people want and expect these days, are generally outlawed to protect 
    against vote selling and other abuses; a scientist has, however, come up 
    with the first receipt that cannot be used for any such abuse and yet can 
    ensure that your vote is actually included in the final tally.
        The new type of receipt, which can be printed by a modified version of 
    familiar receipt printers, contains your vote -- but in a coded form. You 
    can read it clearly in the booth, when it is still printed on two layers. 
    When the layers are separated, either one you choose to take has the vote 
    information you saw coded in it, but it cannot be read (except by computers 
    run by election officials).
        When the votes have to be added up for the final tally, the actual 
    receipts posted on an official public website are the input to the process. 
    The results of the process are then subject to a public audit. A lotto-like 
    draw selects which items must be decrypted, but never enough to compromise 
    privacy. Anyone with a pc can then check all the decryptions published on 
    the website and thereby verify that the final tally must be correct. The 
    audit is so strong that it cannot be fooled by breaking any code or 
    malicious software running on voting machines.
        The cryptographer, Dr. David Chaum, known for inventing eCash and his 
    pioneering company DigiCash, who came up with the receipt system said "The 
    more you look into how elections are actually run, even in this country, 
    the clearer the gap becomes between the way it is done and what we could 
    and really should be doing". Chaum also said "Today's trusted black-box 
    mentality has led to very high costs, meaning computerized voting mainly 
    for rich counties, an utter lack of real control and no way to re-deploy 
    the hardware for schools and libraries."
        At a time when the House has passed the first ever federal subsidy, at 
    $2.65b, and a similar bill is on the Senate floor with a $3.5b price tag, 
    one has to wonder: Will receipts and other new solutions have a chance, or 
    will the subsides backfire and put currently-certified computerized systems 
    in place on such a scale that major change will be a very long way off? 
    There is a complex interlocking of state and federal laws, agencies, and 
    quasi-governmental bodies that has erected a set of design specifications 
    and time-consuming steps that only new systems must navigate, first at the 
    federal level and then for most states separately. "When this was all first 
    set up more than a decade ago" Chaum quipped, "the rationale was to keep 
    unscrupulous vendors out, now it may just keep innovation out."
    Contact: David Chaum, SureVote:
    (818) 512-1024 (cellular/voicemail) davidat_private
    Jim Dolbear, Larkin Associates:
    (310) 621-3580 (cellular/voicemail) jimat_private 
    POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
    You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
    Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
    To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
    This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 26 2002 - 22:14:50 PST