Hawaii E-Voting Letter

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U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery



April 12, 2005


Dear Lawmakers of Hawaii:


The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is the premier scientific and technical society for

computing professionals, worldwide. We have nearly 80,000 members worldwide who are scientists,

engineers, educators, lawyers, students, and practicing professionals, including many who are citizens of

Hawaii. Last year, ACM members overwhelmingly indicated that they harbored serious reservations

about electronic voting machines. ACM then adopted an official policy statement (enclosed) in support

of voter-verified audit trails.


We write to offer you our technical and policy input as electronic voting legislation works its way

through your legislature. As this process continues, we would ask that you consider a number of critical

technical and procedural issues.


As you will see from our enclosed statement, ACM recommends that all voting systems -- particularly

computer-based electronic voting systems -- embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and

rigorous testing in both their design and operation. In addition, voting systems should enable each voter

to inspect a physical (e.g., 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.


Unfortunately, many of the electronic voting machines currently being offered for sale do not provide a

voter-verifiable audit trail. Using such machines is particularly risky, for when problems or unusual

results leave an election in doubt, the only available options will be to accept the results, regardless, or

conduct a revote. Worse, undetected errors or tampering may alter the outcomes of elections.


It is, therefore crucial that any computerized voting system provide a voter-verifiable audit trail that can

be can be checked for accuracy by the voter when the vote is cast. These records are also vital to

preserve the option of doing a recount in the case of possible errors or fraud and on a random basis to

assess the accuracy of electronic counts.


Other equally important provisions that should be part of any new electronic voting system

implementation include best practices or other means to establish regular and random inspections, audits,

and experimental testing of software and hardware by qualified individuals or observers before, during,

and after voting occurs.


The design and management of e-voting systems should be held to the highest possible standards, for

ensuring the reliability, security, and verifiability of public elections is fundamental to a stable

democracy.


Sincerely,


Eugene H. Spafford, Ph.D
USACM Chair

Barbara Simons, Ph.D.
Chair of USACM E-voting Subcommittee

Enclosure: ACM Statement on E-Voting
ACM Office of Public Policy








ACM RECOMMENDS INTEGRITY, SECURITY, USABILITY IN E-VOTING

Cites Risks of Computer-based Systems



New York, September 27, 2004
-- 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 of computer-based electronic voting (e-voting) systems for public

elections.


ACM Statement on E-voting



Virtually all voting systems in use today (punch-cards, lever machines, hand

counted paper ballots, etc.) are subject to fraud and error, including electronic

voting systems, which are not without their own risks and vulnerabilities. In

particular, many electronic voting systems have been evaluated by independent,

generally-recognized experts and have been found to be poorly designed;

developed using inferior software engineering processes; designed without (or

with very limited) external audit capabilities; intended for operation without

obvious protective measures; and deployed without rigorous, scientificallydesigned

testing.


To protect the accuracy and impartiality of the electoral process, ACM

recommends that all voting systems - particularly computer-based electronic

voting systems - embody careful engineering, strong safeguards, and rigorous

testing in both their design and operation. In addition, voting systems should

enable each voter to inspect a physical (e.g., 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. Making those records permanent (i.e.,

not based solely in computer memory) provides a means by which an accurate

recount may be conducted. Ensuring the reliability, security, and verifiability of

public elections is fundamental to a stable democracy. Convenience and speed

of vote counting are no substitute for accuracy of results and trust in the process

by the electorate.

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