Fwd: Jurisdictional focus

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Tue Apr 27 2004 - 23:46:26 CDT

On Apr 27, 2004, at 11:30 PM, Ed Kennedy wrote:
> Are we just focusing on replacing the DRE machines in the State of
> California? Should ballot considerations in Illinois matter now? How
> about
> balloting schemes in England?

The primary focus of OVC is addressing the need for better voting
machines in the USA. However, we do not preclude--and would be
positively delighted--if OVC spec'd machines also prove useful in other
national jurisdictions.

 From a legal perspective, the USA is not a single entity. Unlike in
most nations, many powers--including voting rules--are vested in states
rather than Federally. However, a number of laws and regulatory bodies
(HAVA, the FEC) give some degree of USA-wide Federal authority. OVC
arises firstly out of responses to the USAian legislation, and also to
the growth in use of insecure DRE machines in the USA (partly in
response to such legislation and associated funding).

Nations that have more Federal authority over elections have typically
already decided on a unified style of voting. For example, Brazil and
India both use electronic machines, but the exact specification of them
is specified by their respective Federal laws--so introduction of an
OVC alternative would be primarily a matter of new national
legislation, not of particular counties or states choosing them.
Conversely, Germany or Canada use entirely paper marked ballots, under
similar Federal legislation. To a large extent, OVC has no complaint
about the German or Canadian styles, since they already provide
voter-verifiable ballots automatically (though quite possibly OVC
designs could improve disabled accessibility and provide enhanced
voter-intent accuracy). (for the record, I -like- and trust the Brazil
or India machines a lot better than USAian proprietary vendors, at
least they are treated as public, not private, functions of
governance). As well, nations differ in the number and types of
questions that appear on ballots.

Within the USA, some states or counties use DREs, and others do not.
For example, here in Massachusetts, AFAIK, all our ballots are paper
marked with pencils. As in Germany or Canada, I don't really have a
lot of complaint about the existing system in Massachusetts. MA is a
low priority state for pushing OVC systems. Many other states have
adopted DREs, either state wide, or in certain counties; those are good
places to push OVC in initially.

It's true that OVC has many California members, including its two top
officers. And our CA contacts, such as the recent meeting with the
SoS's office, make adoption of OVC systems in CA comparatively likely.
But we should continue to play all our options. If the Elections Clerk
in Cook County, IL were to show a focussed interest in OVC, we should
pay a lot of attention to that region (one of the OVC board is in IL, I
think in Cook). Ohio, Georgia, Nebraska, and Maryland are also
particularly high-profile, given their state-wide DRE usage. But
wherever we push, we need people with local contacts to work on the OVC

Ultimately, OVC is going to succeed in small steps. Some few counties
or states will use our systems first, and we'll need to keep pushing
them elsewhere. But we cannot pick and choose these first
jurisdictions at our leisure. There are too many other political and
economic interests involved for us to know where our first breaks will

In the meanwhile, don't diss all the many highly committed OVC
supporters who don't happen to live in the fine state of California.
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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:20 2004

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