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End-to-end auditable voting systems

End-to-end auditable or end-to-end voter verifiable (E2E) systems are voting systems with stringent integrity properties and strong tamper-resistance. E2E systems often employ cryptographic methods to craft receipts that allow voters to verify that their votes were not modified, without revealing which candidates were voted for. As such, these systems are sometimes referred to as receipt-based systems.


The technical process of vote tallying can be broken into two general steps: (1) voted ballots are gathered into a collection of voted ballots, and (2) the collection of voted ballots are counted to produce the final tally. Measures such as voter verified paper audit trails and manual recounts protect the integrity of the second step but do not ensure the correctness of the first step. Ballots could be removed, replaced, or could have marks added to them (i.e.,to fill in undervoted contests with votes for a desired candidate or to overvote and spoil votes for undesired candidates). The end-to-end nature, referenced by the name E2E, protects the integrity of the ballot from step 1 through to step 2.

In general, E2E provides two assertions of integrity and one assertion of privacy:

  • Any voter can verify that his or her ballot is included unmodified in a collection of ballots;
  • Any voter (and typically any independent party additionally) can verify, with high probability, that the collection of ballots produces the correct final tally;
  • No voter can demonstrate how he or she voted to any third party.

Some researchers argue that the latter privacy assertion is not inherent in the definition of E2E. However the Election Assistance Commission lists ballot secrecy as a property of E2E systems in the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. This definition is also predominant in the academic literature.

Note that assertions regarding ballot stuffing are not inherently addressed by the definition of E2E, although they can be externally verified by comparing the number of votes cast with the number of registered voters who voted.

E2E Systems

E2E systems can use electronic cryptography, as does the VoteHere VHTi system. This system involves the voter choosing a number with which the system does some verifiable shuffling.

In 2004, David Chaum proposed a solution that allows a voter to verify that the vote is cast appropriately and that the vote is accurately counted using visual cryptography. After the voter selects their candidates, a DRE machine prints out a specially formatted version of the ballot on two transparencies. When the layers are stacked, they show the human-readable vote. However, each transparency is encrypted with a form of visual cryptography so that it alone does not reveal any information unless it is decrypted. The voter selects one layer to destroy at the poll. The DRE retains an electronic copy of the other layer and gives the physical copy as a receipt to ensure the ballot is not later changed. The system guards against changes to the voter's ballot and uses a mix-net decryption procedure to ensure that each vote is accurately counted. Sastry, Karloff and Wagner pointed out that there are issues with both of the Chaum and VoteHere cryptographic solutions.

Chaum has since developed Punchscan, which has stronger security properties and uses simpler paper ballots. The paper ballots are voted on and then a privacy-preserving portion of the ballot is scanned by an optical scanner.

The Prêt à Voter system, invented by Peter Ryan, uses a shuffled candidate order and a traditional mix network. As in Punchscan, the votes are made on paper ballots and a portion of the ballot is scanned.

The Scratch and Vote system, invented by Ben Adida, uses a scratch-off surface to hide cryptographic information that can be used to verify the correct printing of the ballot.

The ThreeBallot voting protocol, invented by Ron Rivest, was designed to provide some of the benefits of a cryptographic voting system without using cryptography. It can in principle be implemented on paper although the presented version requires an electronic verifier.

The Scantegrity and Scantegrity II systems provide E2E properties, however instead of being a replacement of the entire voting system, as is the case in all the proceeding examples, it works as an add-on for existing optical scan voting systems. Scantegrity II employs invisible ink and was developed by a team that included Chaum, Rivest, and Ryan.



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