Dagstuhl workshop on verifiable elections

Robert beat me to the punch — we are both at Schloss Dagstuhl, attending our workshop on “Verifiable Elections and the Public.” This is the second Dagstuhl workshop on elections in the past four years, and in some interesting ways the workshop this week builds on the foundation of the one in 2007.

Dagstuhl workshops are unique. The facility is located in rural Germany, and is remote and isolated. The setting is a beautiful estate, complete with a historic manor house (where some of the facilities are located) and a castle ruin. It’s a wonderful place to have a workshop, and for networking and collaborative research.

The Dagstuhl tradition is also unique; participants upload abstracts and other materials in the weeks and days before the workshop, and then early in the workshop the organizers and participants set the agenda. The agenda is a bit dynamic, and evolves along with the discussion during the week.

Yesterday, the first day of the workshop, was spent getting to know the other participants, and to session designed to set the stage for the rest of the week. In addition to having all participants give short introductions, we had a talk from Josh Benaloh (one of my fellow organizers) and a panel discussion (featuring David Beirne, Candice Hoke, Robert Krimmer and Alex Trechsel) on the obstacles to electoral innovation.

Today the morning was spent on talks about a wide variety of electronic voting experiences, as we discussed electronic voting in Brazil, India, Switzerland, Estonia, and two American counties (Cuyahoga and Sarasota). This afternoon the technical talks began, with presentations all afternoon of new voting schemes in various stages of development. These talks documented the extent to which both the observational and theoretical research is becoming quite robust. We know a lot about how electronic voting is being adopted and used throughout the world, and many of the voting systems that in 2007 were primarily conceptual in nature are now being tested, piloted and used.

This Dagstuhl workshop has an amazing array of participants, including many of the leading researchers regarding electronic voting, a number of young researchers and graduate students, and policymakers. Participants come from all over the world, providing a variety of important perspectives during the workshop discussions. From my own point of view, one of the most important aspects of this Dagstuhl is the strong presence of social scientists, indicating the degree to which the emerging science of voting system studies is becoming truly interdisciplinary. After all, Schloss Dagstuhl is a computer science center!