Ben Adida MIT PhD thesis on ballot crypto

Ben Adida, a graduate student in Ron Rivest’s group at MIT, is defending his PhD thesis today at MIT. Ben’s thesis is titled “Verifying Secret-Ballot Elections with Cryptograph”, and here is the announcement. The abstract for Ben’s talk is here:

In the US, the secret ballot is 115 years old: the first 23 Presidents were elected using public polling. Introduced to stem
voter coercion, the secret ballot carries, to this day, a significant audit-ability and transparency cost: how can voters be given direct assurance of their vote without enabling coercion? Cryptography often solves problems with conflicting requirements: in this case, cryptography can fully reconcile ballot secrecy and election auditability.

This talk presents an overview of cryptographic voting techniques developed over the last 20 years and introduces two new ideas:
(1) Scratch & Vote, a practical, paper-based, cryptographic voting system that is particularly useful in illustrating the capabilities of cryptographic voting, and

(2) Public Mixing, a new theoretical definition and construction that achieves anonymization (of votes, for example) through public computation.

This work asks “if crypto voting is so good, why aren’t we using it yet?” and offers some tentative answers.

Ben’s thesis defense will eventually be available on the web, as will his thesis. Of course, when these links are available, I’ll post them here and then provide additional details regarding his great work.

I’ve heard Ben give talks based on his thesis research, and have read some of his research. It’s important work, and it is also highly significant to see that there are now graduate students who are doing serious research on voting technology issues, something that we really need more of! So far graduate students associated with the VTP have produced a range of research papers, and prior to Ben’s PhD, there have been four excellent MA theses on voting technology at MIT.