Feinstein E-Voting Recommendations Letter

Download PDF

 July 24, 2007

Senator Diane Feinstein
Chairwoman
Senate Rules Committee
United States Senate
305 Russell Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Delivered via fax: 202 228-2401


Dear Senator Feinstein,

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) - a leading society for computing

professionals - and its U.S. public policy committee have taken a leadership role in

educating the public and policymakers about issues associated with electronic voting

machines. We thank you for your leadership on voting reform issues and for holding

hearings on this issue.


The concern over unverifiable e-voting machines is widespread throughout the

computing community. In a 2004 poll that ACM conducted of its members, 95 percent of

those responding indicated that they have serious concerns about electronic voting

machines - concerns that should be addressed with specific safeguards. In an effort to

bring the community's concerns to policymakers, ACM adopted a policy statement

(enclosed) in support of voter-verified audit trails.


This statement 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. Many of our members maintain that an

appropriate way of supporting these goals is for voting systems to produce physical (e.g.

paper) records or ballots that can be verified by the voter. Furthermore, these records or

ballots should be easy to audit or recount manually.


When properly implemented, these physical records can also serve as an independent

check on the results produced and stored in voting systems. Such records are vital to

preserve the option of performing a meaningful recount in the cases of possible errors or

suspected fraud. These records should also be audited on a random basis to ensure the

accuracy of electronic counts.


Unfortunately, many electronic voting machines do not provide a voter-verifiable audit

trail. Using such machines is risky. When problems or unusual results leave an election in

doubt, conducting a transparent and credible recount becomes extremely difficult, leaving

election officials with no choice but to conduct a revote or accept the existing results.

Audit trails (if they exist) that are not physical and voter-verified may not accurately

reflect the votes cast when undetected errors or tampering alter the outcomes of elections.

The resulting lack of certainty in the results, especially in close races, not only

undermines the accuracy of the vote, but also may serve to diminish citizen confidence in

the fairness of the process.


A number of the principles that ACM identified in its policy statement are embodied in

legislation you have introduced - The Ballot Integrity Act of 2007 (S. 1487). However,

the details of how legislation implements these reforms are critical. We are still reviewing

this proposal and will provide specific comments and suggestions in a follow-up letter.


ACM's and USACM's mission is to provide non-partisan scientific data, educational

materials, and technical analysis to policymakers. Please feel free to contact ACM's

Office of Public Policy at (202) 659-9711 if we can provide any assistance on this or

related issues.


Sincerely,

Eugene H. Spafford, Ph.D.
Chair, ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM)

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

Enclosures: ACM Voting Statement
            USACM Letter on Software Independence


About ACM and USACM



ACM is a non-profit educational and scientific computing society of more than 84,000

computer scientists, educators, senior managers, and other computer professionals in

government, industry, and academia, committed to the open interchange of information

concerning computing and related disciplines. The Committee on U.S. Public Policy acts

as the focal point for ACM's interaction with the U.S. Congress and government

organizations. It seeks to educate and assist policy-makers on legislative and regulatory

matters of concern to the computing community. (See http://www.acm.org and

http://www.acm.org/usacm.)

Related Articles