Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Narrated presentation - Questions to ask about Internet Voting
You can also download the PowerPoint slides (from Google Drive). The PowerPoint includes clickable links and slide notes.
To download the slides, click the download link (the downward-pointing arrow) in the upper right of the Google Drive screen.
UPDATE 2016-09-09: Transcript is now available (auto-transcript from YouTube with corrections by me). To see the transcript during the YouTube video, click on CC (Closed Captioning). [Text below in progress]
Slide 1: This presentation is "Questions to ask about Internet voting". It's authored and narrated by me, Richard Akerman and it's actually questions that for the most part you could ask about any kind
of voting system.
Slide 2: Before I get started with the presentation, I want to first acknowledge that this image and some of the approach in the presentation has been inspired by a presentation that Andrew Appel did and I provided a link to his presentation in the annex at the end of these slides. Getting into the presentation, one of the things I wanted to raise is that voting hasn't always taken place the way it does right now. In fact as you can see in this image of an election in the United States in 1846 elections didn't used to be private at all - they used to be quite rowdy public affairs and in fact so much is going on in this picture that you may kind of struggle to see where the voting is taking place. It's actually this gentleman in the red in the upper-right who is casting his vote by speaking it out loud or probably (given the number of people milling around) by shouting it out loud. So no secret ballot at all; everybody can hear him cast his vote. We hope that these gentlemen sitting on the porch are recording his vote correctly, although as you can see no one really seems to be paying much attention to what they're doing. And in addition to the fact that the vote is not private, it's possible even that the candidates are these gentleman in the black top hats right next to the voter. So the voter's vote can be heard, it can be seen, and that means that voters can be rewarded or punished depending how they have voted and you can see in the lower left a voter potentially being rewarded with some drink for how he voted.
Slide 3: The key point there is that voting is a system that has been designed. We had a system where the vote was not private. We saw the consequences and a new system, a paper ballot system was designed to address some of the risks that have been identified and it's key that when you have a designed system you look at risks and you look at the entire system and so
Slide 4: the first item that I'd like to examine is: Does the design limit voter coercion? What coercion means is that you can either force someone to vote a particular way or you can reward someone for voting a particular way. And when we look at
Slide 5: risk, I want to really emphasize the concept that there are levels of risk: Very high-risk, medium-risk, low-risk. We're always aiming in system design to try to have low risk and sometimes there are steps that we can take to mitigate, to reduce the risk from high to low. Sometimes we will see people claiming that the risk is in fact zero. In Internet voting or in technological systems often people claim that because they have encryption or because they have blockchain or because they have some particular security measures, in fact they have perfect security, they have zero risk and while that is possible sometimes in mathematical systems - kind of pure abstract systems - voting systems operate in the real world, the physical world with imperfect computers, imperfect computer code, and imperfect people and so in the real world there is never zero risk so always be very very cautious when people are claiming that for some reason their system has actually mitigated the risk down to zero.
Slide 6: I want to look at this question: Does the design limit voter coercion? and use the approach of risk analysis and look at the Canadian paper voting system. In this system voting takes place in a public area, with observers, but marking the ballot takes place in private, alone and once the ballot is cast it's detached from the identity of the voter - you can't tell how an individual voter voted and in fact an individual voter can't prove that they voted a particular way. When we look at these properties of the system, because the voting takes place in a public area you can see the voter come into the voting place, you can see they receive one vote [one ballot], you can see that the ballot they've received they are taking into the voting place [polling booth] and marking, but you cannot see (because the vote takes place in private) how they have marked it. Because everyone is receiving identical paper ballots, as long as they mark them in a non-unique way (as they're required to) by marking an ex it's difficult - not impossible - but it's very difficult to tell which ballot was cast by which voter and in such a situation the risk of coercion is very low because the ability to prove that an individual voter voted a particular way is very low. And if you think about the outcome that you want when you try to coerce someone's vote: you're either paying them to vote a particular way or you're threatening them with consequences if they don't vote a particular way - in both cases you want some proof that they actually did cast that vote that you have asked for and in this system it's designed that that clear proof of how one individual person voted is not available.
June 2, 2016 Presentation - Questions to ask about Internet Voting