Computer Science

CS Distinguished Lecturer: Prof. Ronald L. Rivest from MIT

Title: Auditability and Verification of Elections

Video – Slides

Host: Phil Rogaway

When: Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where: 1131 Kemper Hall

Democracy requires that elections have credible results—otherwise the winner lacks a political mandate and the supporters of losing candidates react with anything from protests to revolution.

Yet (U.S.) elections have become larger and increasingly complex, and politics seems more polarized. Software-based voting systems inspire little trust. Voting systems purchased with funds allocated after the 2000 U.S. presidential election fiasco are rapidly becoming obsolete.

How can good definitions, statistics, and cryptography help?

We present the notion of software independence, describe several methods for effective auditing of paper ballots, and give an overview of “end-to-end” cryptographic voting systems that allow voters to confirm that their votes were counted exactly as intended, without violating voter privacy or enabling vote-selling. We close with a (pessimistic) assessment of the prospects for “voting over the


Professor Rivest is an Institute Professor at MIT, a member of its Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), a member of that lab’s Theory of Computation Group and a leader of its Cryptography and Information Security Group.

He received a B.A. in Mathematics from Yale University in 1969, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1974.

Rivest is a co-inventor of the RSA public-key cryptosystem, has extensive experience in cryptographic design and cryptanalysis. He is also a founder of RSA Data Security and of Verisign. Together with Adi Shamir and Len Adleman, he has received the 2002 ACM Turing Award.

He is also well-known as a co-author of the text, “Introduction to Algorithms” (with Cormen, Leiseron, and Stein).

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the International Association for Cryptographic Research, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is on the Advisory Board for the Electronic Privacy Information Center and on the board of Verified Voting.

His research interests include cryptography, computer and network security, algorithms, and voting system security. His recent research emphasizes election integrity—methods involving statistical audits and methods based on the “end-to-end verifiable voting” paradigm.

1131 Kemper Hall

Loading Map....