In this digital age, it makes sense that technology has factored its way into every aspect of mans existence, including politics! Electronic voting makes traditional ballot boxes an unnecessary waste of space, which can prove to be a benefit in ways more than one. Firstly, it increases the accuracy of poll results and reduces the overall administrative cost of the election process (in terms of tallying of votes, setting up polling centers etc). It is needless to say that voting at home with the mere click of a mouse is so much more hassle-free! But like everything in life, this has its own set of quirks and twists. And cryptography has been able to provide a solution for at least some of them. Protocols need to be set up to ban unauthorized voters/voting centers and at the same time maintain confidentiality of the transactions (even at times of heavy network traffic!).
These electronic voting machines look very similar to ATMs and are based on touch screen technology, but the difference is that ATMs obtain personal information from the user whereas doing that is lawfully wrong in case of voting machines as it violates the anonymity of the voting process. And like everything, this has its own sets of side effects: vote-selling, vote solicitation, coercion from the side of the political parties on the individuals outside of the polling centers to vote for them, and lack of security in online registration. Since this voting is essentially receipt free, there is a difficulty in detecting whether or not a particular person has cast his vote. And there are complexities in developing these receipt-free protocols as they require physically secure communication channels, as mentioned earlier. Some of the cryptographic techniques that could be used for electronic voting are mentioned below.
One and two agency protocol: An electronic validator distributes identification tags to the voters before the election. The voter then sends his/her identification and an encrypted file containing the identification tag as well as the ballot to a tallier during the election process. The tallier can formally identify the validity of the voter, but can just publish the encrypted files with the votes without deciphering them. After this, the voter sends the decryption key, which is used to decrypt the vote. Since the tallier has published the set of encrypted files, in the event of a miscount, the voter can point it out and the tallier cannot deny have received the encrypted vote.
Blind signatures: Here the voter signs the encrypted file with the ballot and sends it over to the validator. The validator checks if the signature belongs to a legal voter who hasn't caste his/her vote yet, signs the ballot and returns it to the voter. The voter then unblinds the ballots and sends it to the tallier, who publishes the list of encrypted files. Once the voter confirms that his ballot has been received, he sends the decryption key by which the tallier tallies the votes. When the election process draws to a close, the tallier publishes the encrypted files along with the decryption key and the voters can verify the results themselves. This increases the transparency of the whole process.
Many other such schemes have been proposed to make electronic voting more than just a possibility.
- How e-voting technology challenges traditional concepts of citizenship: an analysis of French voting rituals.
- The cryptography of... Voting machines.
- Image: Media With Conscience (MWC) News
- Electronic Voting - Computerized polls may save money, protect privacy by Lorrie Faith Cranor