Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Letters to the editor

Encourage ACM to Address U.S. Election Integrity

Letters to the Editor, illustration

Credit: Getty Images

In the spirit of Moshe Y. Vardi's call, in his "Vardi's Insights" column "Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility" (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 infra-structure. 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.


Rudolf Olah

"ACM could, as Toxen suggested, remain narrowly focused on technology, leaving moral and ethical discussion to the political arena or engage in ways that might force it to take sides in the political arena. In his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Holocaust witness Elie Wiesel said, "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." In light of recent political and social events and advances in technology, particularly AI and, potentially, autonomous systems, today might be the right time to build a community, perhaps even a special interest group, dedicated to issues of ethics and public policy."

^ that has to be one of the most powerful letters to the editor that I've ever read.

Meera Sidhardhan

Very rightly said ! As professionals we do have the responsibility to respond to issues of ethics and public policies that affect a large majority of the population. We cannot just remain neutral !

Displaying all 2 comments

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account