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Expert to speak on e-voting dangers and opportunities



J. Alex Halderman

J. Alex Halderman, a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton and the co-leader of California’s widely publicized, top-to-bottom review of e-voting systems, comes to Lehigh on Tuesday, Nov. 27, to speak on the dangers and opportunities presented by electronic voting.

His talk, which is free and open to the public, will be at 4 p.m. in Room 466 of Packard Lab. It is being sponsored by department of computer science and engineering.

“Alex and the team at Princeton have done groundbreaking work in exposing the flaws in current e-voting systems—work that is already having a national impact since the state of California has largely thrown out the machines they were using,” says Dan Lopresti, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Lehigh and e-voting expert.

“Alex and his colleagues are also doing forward-looking work, proposing a new scheme for auditing elections that promises to reduce the costs of recounts substantially while maintaining the same level of assurance as a more traditional approach to auditing election results,” Lopresti adds.

National interest in electronic voting began in the wake of the controversial 2000 presidential election in Florida, when many states turned to computer voting ostensibly to streamline vote counting and improve election security and accuracy.

“Though computer scientists have long been skeptical of such machines, only recently have researchers had access to them for study,” says Halderman, who is currently investigating new techniques for efficient post-election auditing.

“In this talk, I will describe how my colleagues and I examined several widely used electronic voting systems. We discovered that they were susceptible to attacks that could alter election results and compromise the secrecy of the ballot. In spite of these problems, computers have the potential to make elections more secure. I will discuss new computer-assisted auditing techniques that can significantly reduce the costs of election security.”

Lopresti’s interest in electronic voting has led to student-assisted research projects at Lehigh, as well as several media appearances to discuss the perils and promise of the controversial voting machines. Most recently, he was awarded an NSF CyberTrust grant to study issues surrounding the reliable processing of voting records, including paper ballots.

Investigators on that project also include Ziad Munson, assistant professor of sociology at Lehigh; along with George Nagy, professor of electrical, computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Elisa H. Barney Smith, associate professor and associate chair of electrical and computer engineering at Boise State and Chris Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College and head of the college’s Institute of Public Opinion.

In 2006, Lopresti, Munson and Borick collaborated on the first statewide survey to study public perceptions on e-voting.

--Linda Harbrecht


Posted on Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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