Ben Adida’s MIT Ph.D. thesis on voting technology, “Advances in Cryptographic Voting Systems”, has been published and is now available for interested readers. Ben’s Ph.D. supervisor was Ron Rivest, long-time member of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project.
Here’s the abstract from Ben’s thesis:
Democracy depends on the proper administration of popular elections. Voters should receive assurance that their intent was correctly captured and that all eligible votes were correctly tallied. The election system as a whole should ensure that voter coercion is unlikely, even when voters are willing to be influenced. These conflicting requirements present a significant challenge: how can voters receive enough assurance to trust the election result, but not so much that they can prove to a potential coercer how they voted?
This dissertation explores cryptographic techniques for implementing verifiable, secret ballot elections. We present the power of cryptographic voting, in particular its ability to successfully achieve both verifiability and ballot secrecy, a combination that cannot be achieved by other means. We review a large portion of the literature on cryptographic voting.
We propose three novel technical ideas:
1. a simple and inexpensive paper-base cryptographic voting system with some interesting advantages over existing techniques,
2. a theoretical model of incoercibility for human voters with their inherent limited computational ability, and a new ballot casting system that fits the new definition, and
3. a new theoretical construct for shuffling encrypted votes in full view of public observers.
As Ben’s thesis involves cryptography and lots of math, it gets pretty tough going when he gets into the heart of some of his new ideas for voting systems. But I strongly recommend his introductory chapter, where he goes through the existing literature on crypto and voting, as well as his chapter on the “scratch and vote” scheme (Chapter 4).
Ben’s one of the brightest young minds working in the area of voting technology from this perspective, and it is exciting to see such great work being done by the next generation of scholars.