profession to carry out a rigorous study
to identify ways to restore confidence in
the integrity of U.S. elections.
Some of the vulnerabilities we described in our paper, including politically motivated actions by state election
officials and circulation of false information on social media, are not susceptible to easy solution. However, without
jeopardizing the principle of local control, some problems in the U.S. election infrastructure can be eliminated
or mitigated through sensible national
standards and practices that represent
the settled judgment of computing researchers and public-policy experts.
In the view of political scientist
John Kingdon, 4 an issue can get on
the political agenda only when three
streams coincide: the problem; the solution; and the political will. It is clear
that, in the U.S., we have a problem.
The emerging consensus about standards for voting machines, computer
databases of registered voters, electronic poll books, and risk-limiting
audits constitutes a solution to several aspects of the problem. Kingdon
underscores the critical role of policy
entrepreneurs in building acceptance
for solutions and creating couplings
among the three critical streams. In
today’s polarized state of national
discourse, the ACM U.S. Public Policy
Council2 is uniquely positioned to lend
its trusted voice to the task of repairing
civic confidence in this foundation of
1. ACM. Statewide Databases of Registered Voters;
2. ACM U.S. Public Policy Council; https://www.acm.org/
3. ETHICOMP conference. Sopot, Poland, Sept. 24–26,
4. Kingdon, J. W. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public
Policies, Second Edition. Longman Publishing Group,
London, U.K., 2010.
William M. Fleischman and
Kathleen V. Antaki, Villanova, PA, USA
IN THE SPIRIT of Moshe Y. Vardi’s call, in his “Vardi’s Insights” column “Computer Profes- sionals for Social Responsi- bility” (Jan. 2018), for ACM to
“ … be more active in addressing social
responsibility issues raised by computing technology,” we urge the ACM
U.S. Public Policy Council to undertake a study of the technological infrastructure for U.S. elections. In a paper to be published in the Proceedings
of ETHICOMP 2018, 3 we surveyed the
widespread weaknesses in this infrastructure. We found, for historical and
constitutional reasons, local control of
elections, including equipment, processes, and procedures, is a prerogative jealously guarded. Practices and
procedures even in neighboring counties can differ significantly, a factor in
the presidential vote in Florida in 2000.
The bitterly contested aftermath of
the related Florida recount led to federal legislation—the Help America Vote
Act (HAVA) of 2002—concerning voting
machines and registration procedures.
Although intended to bring a measure
of order and uniformity to the existing
patchwork of state election systems,
the legislation was hastily drafted and
carelessly implemented, giving rise to
problems that have plagued U.S. elections ever since.
Chronic problems with HAVA implementation have led to studies by the
U.S. National Research Council and
the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the
ACM published in 20061 that had some
effect in moving state and local officials
toward adopting more reliable voting
equipment and more secure processes
for maintaining accurate voter-registration lists. Nevertheless, electronic
voting machines and voter-registration
lists remain vulnerable to attackers
intent on interfering in U.S. elections.
The profound shock administered by
foreign actors trying to affect the result
of the 2016 election is a call to action.
ACM should once again mobilize the
prestige and expertise of the computing
Encourage ACM to Address
U.S. Election Integrity
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