On Wednesday, October 7, Michael Alvarez, co-director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project and Caltech professor of political and computational science, will launch the 2020–2021 season of the Earnest C. Watson Lectures by asking, "In the midst of a global pandemic, how can we ensure a safe and secure presidential election?"
In this lecture, he will explore common misconceptions about the 2020 presidential election and will explain the data science methods and tools his research team uses to improve the security of important election infrastructure and to provide transparent and rapid monitoring and auditing of the integrity of elections. According to Alvarez, voters in the states and counties that use such methods can be more confident in the integrity of reported election results.
Alvarez will also share the ways in which scientific detection of election problems helps election officials improve their procedures and technologies, giving voters the information they need to bolster their confidence in the integrity of this and future elections.
This event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required as capacity is limited. The lecture will begin at 5 p.m. and runs approximately 40 minutes; it will be followed by a live audience Q&A with Alvarez. Those unable to attend the 5 p.m. event can view the lecture on demand (without the Q&A) at 8 p.m. on Caltech's YouTube channel.
The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project has been working to improve the security and integrity of elections throughout the world since the 2000 presidential election. Alvarez, a professor in Caltech's Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, also leads the Monitoring the Election project at Caltech, which builds tools and methods to help improve the integrity of elections, focusing largely on collaborations with election officials in California and Oregon.
Alvarez has studied voting systems throughout the world, collaborating with public officials in many locations to improve their elections. His current research projects include using machine learning to detect election fraud, developing social media tools to assess election problems in real time, and spearheading statistical auditing of voter registration databases.
Alvarez's research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Haynes Foundation, and the John Irvine Foundation. He has written or edited a number of books, including, most recently, the edited volume Computational Social Science, and scores of academic articles and reports.
Named for the late Caltech professor Earnest C. Watson, who founded the series in 1922, the Watson Lectures present Caltech and JPL researchers sharing their work with the public and are part of Caltech's Signature Lectures, which are produced by Caltech Public Programming. Many past Watson Lectures are available on Caltech's YouTube channel. Through a gift from the estate of Richard C. Biedebach, the lecture series is also able to highlight assistant professors' research each season. Visit the Watson Lectures page to see the rest of this year's lineup.
To learn more about the science and technology behind voting and elections, visit the Caltech Science Exchange, an online resource committed to the public understanding of science that is informed by Alvarez and other experts.