EECS Joint Colloquium Distinguished Lecture Series

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Hewlett Packard Auditorium, 306 Soda Hall
4:00-5:00 p.m.

Professor David L. Dill

Computer Science Department
Stanford University


The Battle for Accountable Voting Systems




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?

In January 2003, 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 with endorsements from many prominent computer scientists. At that point, I became embroiled in a surprisingly fierce (and time consuming) battle that continues today.

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 principles and issues in electronic voting.


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. His primary research interests relate to the theory and application of formal verification techniques to system designs, including hardware, protocols, and software. From July 1995 to September 1996, he was Chief Scientist at 0-In Design Automation. He was named a Fellow of the IEEE in 2001 for his contributions to verification of circuits and systems.

Prof. Dill is the author of the "Resolution on Electronic Voting", which has been endorsed by many computer technologist as well as political scientists, lawyers, and other individuals. He served on the California Secretary of State's Ad Hoc Committee on Touch Screen Voting, he is on the IEEE P1583 voting standards committee, and is a member of the DRE Citizen's Oversight Committee for Santa Clara County, California. He recently received the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Pioneer Award" in 2004 for his work on electronic voting. He is the founder of and the Verified Voting Foundation, non-profit organizations that champion reliable and publicly verifiable elections in the United States. He is also a member of the National Committee for Voting Integrity (