VoteBox: a verifiable, tamper-evident electronic voting system

Daniel Sandler, Rice University

Current electronic voting systems have experienced many high-profile software, hardware, and usability failures in real elections. Such failures cast doubt on the accuracy of the tally and threaten to undermine public trust in the electoral system. Recent research has revealed systemic flaws in commercial voting systems that can cause malfunctions, lose votes, and possibly even allow outsiders to influence the outcome of a national election. While some consequently argue for total abandonment of electronic voting, VoteBox shows how careful application of security, distributed systems, and cryptographic principles can yield voting systems that exceed current systems as well as their analog forebears in both trustworthiness and usability.

VoteBox machines keep secure logs of essential election events, allowing credible audits during or after the election; they are connected using the Auditorium, a peer-to-peer network that replicates and intertwines secure logs to survive failure, attack, and poll worker error.

While the election is ongoing, any voter may choose to challenge a VoteBox to immediately produce cryptographic proof that it will correctly and faithfully cast ballots.

The work demonstrates how these and other approaches from the e-voting research community can be composed in a single system to increase assurance. VoteBox is a model for new implementations, but its techniques can be practically applied to current commercial electronic voting system designs as well.

Speaker Biography

Daniel Sandler is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science at Rice University, currently completing his dissertation on VoteBox. His research concerns the design and implementation of resilient secure systems, including electronic voting, peer-to-peer and distributed systems, and Web applications. He received his M.S. (2007) and B.S. (1999) in computer science from Rice University; from 1999-2004 he worked in industry, including work on systems and application software for Be, Inc. and Palm, Inc.