Private Event

Hot Topics-Ron Rivest: Election Integrity


Ron Rivest


Daniela Rus
Ron Rivest is an MIT Institute Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He’s an authority on algorithms and an inventor of the RSA public-key cryptosystem, one of the most widely used algorithms to securely transmit data. Since the 1980s, he’s taught students how to use cryptography to help secure voting systems. Then, in 2000, an historic recount in Florida determined the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, and the Caltech / MIT Voting Technology Project was founded with the mission to secure future elections, pulling in Rivest, who has been involved since, as well as other MIT faculty from the Department of Political Science and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

For five years, Rivest advised the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, where he helped set standards for voting system certification. In that time, he became an advocate for keeping paper ballots and auditing election outcomes based on a statistical analysis of a random sample of ballots, recommended steps to verify the reported outcome. In his research, he’s also developed technologies to use cryptography for voting, helping to secure elections in novel ways.

As election security becomes a top concern in the United States, Rivest continues applying his expertise to help improve voting systems. Here, he discusses the major issues with securing all-electronic voting systems and explains why he prefers the use of paper ballots to allow voters to verify that their preferences have been accurately recorded — and then using statistics and/or cryptography to verify that the election outcome isn’t based on a computer bug.

Light refreshments will be served 15 minutes prior to the talk