Results from ACCURATE research were presented recently at the EVT/WOTE 2010 Workshop, co-located with the 2010 USENIX Security Symposium.
- The paper, “Efficient User-Guided Ballot Image Verification” (PDF) by Arel Cordero, Theron Ji, Alan Tsai, Keaton Mowery, and David Wagner won the best paper award. This research explored novel methods of processing images of ballots to allow simultaneous inspection (to detect stray marks) and verification of ballots. They are able to show an improvement in efficiency of an order of magnitude. Watch the video of their presentation here.
- Andrea Mascher, Paul Cotton, and Douglas Jones presented their work entitled, “Towards Publishable Event Logs That Reveal Touchscreen Faults” (PDF). While many academics complain that “we can’t look over voter’s shoulders in the voting booth”, Mascher et al. developed methods of performing usability/interaction studies on touchscreen interfaces while maintaining the secrecy of the voter’s ballot. Watch the video of their presentation here.
- Gillian Piner and Michael Byrne offered their work on usability assessment of low-fi (non-electronic) accessibility devices to help voters with disabilities vote privately and independently, in a paper “Baseline Usability Data for a Non-Electronic Approach to Accessible Voting” (PDF). You can watch the video from their presentation here.
- Finally, Joseph Lorenzo Hall moderated a panel on vulnerabilities with the Indian EVM voting machine that included P.V. Indiresan (Former Director, IIT-Madras), G.V.L Narasimha Rao (Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency, and Accountability in Elections, VeTA), Alok Shukla (Election Commission of India) and J. Alex Halderman (University of Michigan). The panel was quite lively and attracted a great deal of press attention from India and the U.S. Watch the video of the panel here.
EVT/WOTE is the premier venue for voting technology research and, frankly, a really fun time. ACCURATE is privileged to have founded EVT in 2006 and I think I speak for all of us when we say we’re impressed with the quality of scholarship presented each year at this venue.
As we described earlier this week, the Election Assistance Commission is developing a new voting systems testing and certification regime geared towards pilot voting systems–that is, experimental voting systems intended for limited use in designated pilot program elections, with specific standards, testing and certification. (On Monday, ACCURATE submitted comments on the administrative infrastructure for this new regime.)
Today, ACCURATE submitted comments on the first such pilot program under the new system, geared towards UOCAVA voters. This pilot program is a joint collaboration between FVAP, NIST and EAC, under the MOVE Act, that seeks to provide “kiosk” voting systems for a federal election for UOCAVA voters.
It’s an ambitious undertaking, and the draft standard reflects a great deal of work towards setting requirements to which voting systems can be tested and certified to provide UOCAVA voting capacity. ACCURATE’s comments break down like so:
- The focus on controlled, supervised voting system architectures is appropriate. Many of the fundamental problems with forms of Internet voting are associated with uncontrolled platforms–users PCs, mobile devices, etc.–in unsupervised environments–i.e., at home instead of a dedicated polling place-like environment. The requirements restrict voting systems to dedicated platforms in supervised environments, short-circuiting this concern with broader efforts at Internet voting.
- The requirement for a Voter-Verified Paper Record (VVPR) is warranted. ACCURATE strongly believes that auditability achieved through an independent, indelible audit trail that the voter has an opportunity to correct is an essential part of computerized voting system integrity. The Draft calls for such a record, in the form of a paper record. However, we feel the need to point out that VVPRs are not terribly useful unless audits are conducted using these records to provide regular checks on the correct functioning of the voting system.
- The usability and accessibility requirements need work. ACCURATE noted that there are no accessibility requirements in the Draft and the usability requirements seem hastily assembled from a previous standards effort. In our comments, we discuss how attention to usability and accessibility is key during the development stages of new technology and go on to recommend that some additional usability testing and requirements be added to the draft.
- There have been significant improvements in security specification and testing. The Draft does a good job at improving upon some of the security specifications and testing that we have seen in the past. We are encouraged to see threat modeling and penetration testing adopted in the draft requirements and we recommend a few changes that would make them even stronger.
Voting systems are certified at the national level to a set of standards–the VVSG–by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC recently adopted a second avenue for certifying voting systems for use in pilot programs, called the Voting System Pilot Program Testing and Certification (VSPPTC) program. A critical piece of the VSPPTC program is the adoption of the VSPPTC manual, a manual and set of policies that will govern how, when and what voting system manufacturers can submit for pilot voting system testing and certification.
The EAC made this manual available for a 15-day public comment period that ended today and we submitted comments (In 2006, ACCURATE submitted public comments on the original manual for the larger testing and certification program).
From our comment submitted today:
The Draft Manual does an admirable job of incorporating some of the features of a feedback-rich pilot testing process, but we believe that it can and should go further. Our recommendations fall into four categories. First, the EAC should amend the Draft Manual to provide more details about what separates pilot certification from certification under the current, VVSG-based certification program. Specifically, the EAC should clarify what qualifies as a voting system pilot program, how it will decide whether to allow a manufacturer to pursue pilot certification for a given system, and what conditions are attached to pilot certification. Second, the pilot certification program should accept feedback from, and establish a systematic process for responding to, voters. Third, the EAC should strengthen the Draft Manual’s provisions for engaging with manufacturers at the system design stage and feeding data from pilot elections back to the design stage. Finally, the EAC should address the question of balance between piloting relatively mature systems and permitting pilots to force potentially major changes in pilot system design. This involves questions of the time and expense involved in pilot certification.
Our comment goes into detail about what we think could be improved in the VSPPTC Manual and how the unique nature of pilot voting systems provide opportunities and pose risks different from more mature voting technology.
The Program Chairs of the 2010 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop / Workshop on Trustworthy Elections (EVT/WOTE’10), Doug Jones (University of Iowa), Jean-Jacques Quisquater (Université Catholique de Louvain) and Eric Rescorla (RTFM, Inc.) have released the Call For Papers for this year’s conference.
The due date is April 16, 2010, 11:59 p.m. PDT… send in your best work!