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CACM Reports: Should the US Ban Paperless Electronic Voting Machines?

David Dill and Daniel Castro Debate How to Improve E-Voting Systems

acm
The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold
212-626-0505
vgold@acm.org

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NEW YORK, NY, October 24, 2008 –  In the October issue of Communications of the ACM (CACM), Stanford University professor David L. Dill says it will be impossible to determine whether the victorious candidates in many states were elected by the voters because no voter verifiable paper trail exists.  He advocates a Congressional mandate to use voter-verified paper ballots.  Daniel Castro of  the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation contends that no voting system offers voters verifiable proof that their ballot has been counted.  He concludes that narrowly focusing on paper trails ignores the importance of securing all steps in the voting process, and urges long-term solutions to this challenge. 

 

            As the 2008 election approaches, this Point/Counterpoint debate is part of CACM's recently expanded editorial scope with news, viewpoints, and features for computing practitioners, researchers, and educators. The October issue is available online in digital format at http://mags.acm.org/communications/200810.

 

            Dill points to software bugs, a virus in the voting system, or the voting system programmers as additional risk factors that can influence electric ballots used in the electronic voting machines in these states.  He urges an immediate ban on current paperless equipment that relies on electronic ballots, known as direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs), and recommends the adoption of voter verified paper ballots that can be counted by hand or scanned by equipment that checks for overvotes or stray marks.  For his part, Castro says the real challenge for computer scientists and policymakers is not designing the perfect voting machine, but designing the perfect election.  He recommends software testing, physical security, parallel testing, and pre- and post-election auditing to improve election security, and urges long-term technical innovation such as cryptography that offers end-to-end (E2E) verifiability rather than short term patches.  

 

            In the CACM News section, readers can gain additional insights into E2E auditable voting and some options currently under development in a piece entitled "Clean Elections."  One promising approach is Scantegrity II,  a technology that uses a special pen to reveal a unique, hidden three-character code, which is printed in invisible ink. 

           

            The  CACM News section also features "Green Computing" by author Patrick Kurp that highlights strategies to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability in computing.  Visions of some of the pioneers of this growing global effort include personal energy meters, central data centers that use hydroelectric and other renewable power sources, and environmentally friendly computers that use recyclable materials.

 

            Daphne Koller, the young researcher who received the first-ever ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in Computing Sciences in April 2008, is interviewed in a "Last Byte" Q&A on her groundbreaking approach to artificial intelligence.  Koller, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, discusses her breakthrough technology that integrated logic and probability, and her work with biologists to understand the patterns that underlie complex data sets. 

 

            Also in the October CACM:

·   Viewpoints: In "Will the Future of Software be Open Source?," a University of Warwick professor traces the impact of open source software and development techniques. 

·   Practice: In "A Closer Look at GPUs," two Ph.D. candidates at Stanford University take a closer look at graphics processing units (GPUs) and the key ideas behind their success in the growing space of multicore parallel computing architectures

·   Contributed Articles: In "The Topology of Dark Networks," two professors from Bentley College and the University of Arizona examine the structure of criminal and terrorist networks and their potential for providing the technical insight to disrupt their activities.

           

            Communications of the ACM, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), recently launched its new editorial focus and design format, offering readers access to this generation's most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology. 

           

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery www.acm.org, is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.  

 

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