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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

ACM Statement on Voting Systems


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Seeking to bolster the security, accessibility, and public confidence in the voting process, ACM's elected leadership has approved a public statement on the deployment and use computer-based electronic voting (e-voting) systems for public elections. ACM's statement recognizes that while computer-based e-voting systems have the potential to improve the electoral process, such systems must embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and rigorous testing in both their design and operation.

Experts from the computing community (see the special section in this issue) have identified a variety of risks and vulnerabilities in many e-voting systems stemming from poor design, inferior software engineering processes, mediocre protective measures, and insufficient comprehensive testing. As a result of these risks, ACM has recommended that e-voting systems enable each voter to inspect a physical (for example, paper) record to verify that his or her vote has been accurately cast and to serve as an independent check on the result produced and stored by the system. Those records should be made permanent, not based solely in computer memory, to provide a means to conduct an accurate recount.

The ACM statement on e-voting reflects the values in its long-held Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility (www.acm.org/constitution/code.html). The Code states that computing professionals have a responsibility to share technical knowledge and expertise with the public by encouraging understanding of computing, including the impacts of computer systems and their limitations. USACMACM's public policy committee on U.S. IT issueshas actively engaged in dialogue with policymakers, election officials, and voting rights advocates to promote improved accuracy, integrity, security, and usability of e-voting systems. While the ACM statement is primarily based on recommendations from USACM and focused on current events in the U.S., it is of global importance, particularly in Europe where the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers is formulating recommendations to member states on legal, operational, and technical standards for e-voting.

Prior to approving the statement, ACM engaged its membership by bringing the issue to their attention and soliciting their feedback. Members were encouraged to participate in an online poll to gauge their support for the statement. Of the nearly 4,600 members from around the world who expressed their opinions, 95% indicated their agreement with the statement. ACM plans to engage its membership more frequently as it continues to strengthen its position, visibility, and participation in government policy formulation by educating and informing policymakers on key issues in computing and IT.

For more information, contact the ACM Office of Public Policy in Washington, D.C.; usacm_dc@acm.org or +1-202-659-9711.

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Author

Jeff Grove (jeff_grove@acm.org) is director of the ACM Office of Public Policy, Washington, D.C.

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©2004 ACM  0001-0782/04/1000  $5.00

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