Phrase-Verified Voting: Verifiable Low-Tech Remote Boardroom Voting

Enka Blanchard, Ryan Robucci, Ted Selker, Alan Sherman

We present Phrase-Verified Voting, a voter-verifiable remote voting system assembled from commercial off-the-shelf software for small private elections. The system is transparent and enables each voter to verify that the tally includes their ballot selection without requiring any understanding of cryptography. This paper describes the system and its use in fall 2020, to vote remotely in promotion committees in a university. Each voter fills out a form in the cloud with their vote V (YES, NO, ABSTAIN) and a passphrase P-two words entered by the voter. The system generates a verification prompt of the (P,V) pairs and a tally of the votes, organized to help visualize how the votes add up. After the polls close, each voter verifies that this table lists their (P,V) pair and that the tally is computed correctly. The system is especially appropriate for any small group making sensitive decisions. Because the system would not prevent a coercer from demanding that their victim use a specified passphrase, it is not designed for applications where such malfeasance would be likely or go undetected. Results from 43 voters show that the system was well-accepted, performed effectively for its intended purpose, and introduced users to the concept of voter-verified elections. Compared to the commonly-used alternatives of paper ballots or voting by email, voters found the system easier to use, and that it provided greater privacy and outcome integrity.

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