Professor Wright co-authors new ACM report on voter privacy

Report includes voter registration guidelines to assure privacy and accuracy

Dr. Rebecca Wright, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, is one of the authors of a new report, the Electronic Voter Registration Database Study, commissioned and recently issued by the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) US Public Policy Committee (USACM). Wright collaborated with a team of team of computer science and technology experts that recently issued recommendations to ensure that electronic records of information submitted by citizens registering to vote are accurate, private and secure. In the report, state and local election officials now have nearly 100 high-level guidelines designed to help states comply with Federal laws that require computerized statewide electronic databases to be operational by January 1, 2006.

"These guidelines will enable the more than 20 states that have not yet met these federal deadlines to avoid Election Day problems," said study committee co-chair Barbara Simons, a past president of ACM, who is retired from IBM Research. "They also provide a useful template for those states that have complied with federal deadlines, but may need to revamp their processes and procedures in light of the report's recommendations," she said.

"If these guidelines are not implemented, at a minimum there could be widespread confusion and Election Day disruptions. And in the worst case, voters across the nation could be disenfranchised and election fraud could result," said Paula Hawthorn, co-chair of the Voter Registration Database Study committee. Hawthorn, a former database expert at Hewlett-Packard, and vice president of software development for several start-up companies, identified a series of risks, including hacker attacks, massive Election Day failures, severe privacy violations and further erosion of confidence in the election process.

The report outlines best practices from technology and policy experts recruited for their special knowledge and understanding of the relevant areas. It presents guidelines to make certain that voter databases are consistently reliable and usable by people with diverse backgrounds, purposes and knowledge.

The study was commissioned by USACM to develop objective technical information and expert recommendations to help states and localities comply with provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was passed in the wake of voting problems in the 2000 Presidential Election.

The guidelines will enable state and local officials to address potential risks by:

  1. Adopting transparent policies and open practices for managing technical and logistical aspects of voter registration databases.
  2. Setting clear accountabilities for those responsible for proposing, making, or approving changes to the data, the system or its policies.
  3. Establishing audit trails to track changes made to data, security policy and database design.
  4. Designing privacy policies that are fundamental to the system, and based on long-established and widely accepted Fair Information Practices principles.

The complete Electronic Voter Registration Database Study and a list of report's authors are available online at About the Association for Computing Machinery


The ACM ( is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the 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.

About ACM U.S. Public Policy Committee
The ACM US Public Policy Committee (USACM; serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with US government organizations, the computing community, and the US public in all matters of US. public policy related to information technology. Supported by the ACM's Washington, D.C., Office of Public Policy, USACM responds to requests for information and technical expertise from US government agencies and departments, seeks to influence relevant US government policies on behalf of the computing community and the public, and provides information to ACM on relevant US government activities.

About Stevens Institute of Technology
Established in 1870, Stevens offers baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees in engineering, science, computer science, management and technology management, as well as a baccalaureate in the humanities and liberal arts, and in business and technology. Located directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, the university has enrollments of approximately 1,780 undergraduates and 2,700 graduate students, and a current enrollment of 2,250 online-learning students worldwide. Additional information may be obtained from its web page at

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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