The Battle for Accountability in Election Systems


Date Thursday November 13th 2003
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

Touch-screen voting machines store records of cast votes in internal memory, where the voter cannot check them. Because of our system of secret ballots, once the voter leaves the polls there is no way anyone can determine whether the vote captured was what the voter intended. Why should voters trust these machines?

Last December, I drafted a “Resolution on Electronic Voting” stating that every voting system should have a “voter verifiable audit trail,” which is a permanent record of the vote that can be checked for accuracy by the voter, and which is saved for a recount if it is required. After many rewrites, I posted the page in January with endorsements from many prominent computer scientists. At that point, I became embroiled in a surprisingly fierce (and time consuming) battle that continues today. (See for the resolution and much more information on electronic voting.)

We still don’t have an answer for why we should trust electronic voting machines, but a lot of evidence has emerged for why we should NOT.

In this talk, I will discuss the basic technical issues with electronic voting and describe some of the major events of the last 10 months.


David L. Dill is a Professor of Computer Science and, by courtesy, Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He has been on the faculty at Stanford since 1987, when he received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie-Mellon University. His primary research interests relate to the theory and application of formal verification techniques to system designs, including hardware, protocols, and software. He has also done research in asynchronous circuit verification and synthesis, and in verification methods for hard real-time systems. He was named a Fellow of the IEEE in 2001 for his contributions to verification of circuits and systems.

Dr. Dill served on the Secretary of State of California's Ad Hoc Task Force on Touch Screen Voting in 2003, which recommended that all new election equipement be required to have a voter verifiable audit trail after 2006. He is a member of the IEEE P1583 Voting Equipment Standards Committee, and a member of the DRE Citizen's Oversight Committee of Santa Clara County. Dr. Dill is the founder of, which is dedicated to obtaining a requirement that all election equipment provide a voter verifiable audit trail.

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