Hill Tech Happenings, Week of October 22

October 23
The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on pending legislation related to consumer protection, telemarketers and the internet.
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building

The Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on House Administration will hold a hearing on voter registration and maintaining voter registration lists.
2 p.m., 1310 Longworth Building

The Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity and internet infrastructure.
2 p.m., 2154 Rayburn Building

October 24
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the patent system and federally funded university research.
1:30 p.m., 226 Dirksen Building

USACM Comments on Senate E-Voting Legislation

With the House of Representatives e-voting reform legislation stalled, we’ve turned our attention to the Senate. Senator Feinstein (D-CA) is leading the effort to reform e-voting systems. USACM sent the Senator a detailed letter noting that her legislation largely gets the big things correct, but there are some important details that should be addressed. From the letter:

This legislation takes several steps to improve the transparency of the voting process. Two of them are particularly important: (1) voter-verified paper trails coupled with manual audits and (2) controlled review of the technology by independent experts. We are encouraged that the legislation contains these provisions, which are consistent with a policy position on e-voting ACM members overwhelming supported in 2004. However, we are concerned with some provisions of the legislation and make the following recommendations, based on our technical expertise:

  • Require the audits be random, mandatory, and manual or software independent (not reliant on the machine that produced the vote for the audit)
  • Ensure that best practices for auditing elections are followed by state and local officials
  • Expand the scope of the software review provisions to include all elements of the system and clarify reviewers’ responsibilities
  • Add more transparency to the emergency certification provisions
  • Charge the National Science Foundation with e-voting research
  • Provide further voter privacy protections

As with most things, the devil is in the details, and that is where USACM’s comments are focused. There is a lot of nuance and detail in USACM’s letter that is too long for a blog post, so I encourage you to read the supporting comments.

Senator Feinstein’s legislation is largely similar to what Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) proposes in the House, requiring voter-verified paper records that are secret, durable, and accessible. Her legislation also makes the paper record the official record for the election, and it reforms the testing and certification processes. Finally, it requires software review by outside experts, with some differences in the details that are significant. (You can find a side-by-side comparison of the disclosure sections here.)

One of the biggest departures from the House bill is with the deadlines for reform. The Senate legislation bans the purchase of machines that do not produce voter-verified paper records upon enactment of the bill and requires the usage of paper ballots by the 2010 election. Representative Holt, for the most part, stuck with a 2008 deadline. The Senator has indicated some willingness to make that deadline even more flexible.

New STEM Ed. Plan Runs Into Old Obstacles

Policy fights often boil down to a rather fundamental debate — federal vs. local control. Education policy always seems to be on the front lines, particularly when it comes to K-12 education. It isn’t surprising to see familiar battle lines being draw over a new plan for coordinating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education across the country.

The National Science Board (which is the National Science Foundation’s oversight and advisory board) released a report recommending several actions to strengthen STEM education. ACM, through its newly established Education Policy Committee, commented on a early draft of the plan. Our two main points were that NSB should include computing societies in their proposed STEM Education Council and computer science should an integral part of the plan. We are pleased that the NSB responded to our comments and included ACM along with The Computer Science Teachers Association as potential participants in their effort.

Continue reading “New STEM Ed. Plan Runs Into Old Obstacles”

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of October 15

October 17
The Research and Science Education Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on women in academic science and engineering.
2 p.m., 2318 Rayburn Building

October 18
The Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on international piracy of intellectual property.
10 a.m., 2237 Rayburn Building

The Government Management, Organization and Procurement Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the technology behind secure identity documents.
2 p.m., 2247 Rayburn Building

ACM Washington Update, Volume 11.9 (October 3, 2007)


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] House Electronic Voting Legislation Stalls
[3] ACM Briefs Hill on Electronic Employment Verification Systems
[4] PCAST Report Calls for Focus on IT Workers and Curriculum
[5] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at
Continue reading “ACM Washington Update, Volume 11.9 (October 3, 2007)”

Sarasota Update: GAO Investigation Continues

We have tracked the progress of the disputed election in the 13th Congressional District of Florida for months now. In short, the race was decided by fewer than 400 votes, and there were several thousand undervotes (no vote recorded for that race compared to others on the same ballot) in Sarasota County, only one of the counties represented by that District. Tests conducted by the State of Florida found no evidence of machine malfunction, but associated court cases are working through the appeals process.

Yesterday afternoon the Government Accountability Office presented testimony at a hearing of the House Task Force responsible for investigating this election, which was formally contested to the House of Representatives. The title of the testimony hints at the problems involved – “Further Testing Could Provide Increased but Not Absolute Assurance That Voting Systems Did Not Cause Undervotes in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.” The GAO acknowledges that ballot design could play a role in the undervote, but is charged with examining the machines used in this election.
Continue reading “Sarasota Update: GAO Investigation Continues”

Hill Tech Happenings, Week of October 1

Happy New Fiscal Year, everyone.

October 2
The Task Force on the contested House election in Florida’s 13th District of the Committee on House Administration will hold a hearing on the progress of the investigation.
4 p.m., 1310 Longworth Building

October 4
The Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation of the House Science and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on globalization of R&D, focusing on how companies choose where to build R&D facilities.
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building