[OVC-discuss] Open Voting Hero Gone But Not Forgotten

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Apr 04 2009 - 17:42:45 CDT

I just sent this to our announcements list ...
Dear Friends of Open Voting:

It is with much sadness that I announce the passing of my great friend and
colleague, Richard "Dick" Johnson. He died yesterday due to a kidney-liver
infection. He was a very young-minded 67 years old. Dick was one of the
leaders of the open voting movement. He will be sorely missed.

Dick called me five years ago -- after he read about the OVC system demo we
did April 1st, 2004. He was still with Oracle, where he had been a software
architect for many years. He became an active participant in our discussion
list and a valued collaborator.

In 2005, the US GAO asked for OVC input, as part of their research for the
report they produced that year. I asked Dick to lead a task force that
would put together a report that would address the issues the GAO asked
about. Our first conference call with the GAO had 15 participants,
including Dick's task force and 4 key people at the GAO. As a result of
Dick's excellent work and that of his team, our data and views were well
represented in the report -- including a very prominent citation (pg 51).
People in the federal government started to take the open voting idea

After that, he said that he was planning to start a for-profit company --
along with David Webber, one of his task force members -- that would deliver
open voting systems to jurisdictions. I encouraged him to do so and suggest
the name: Open Voting Solutions (OVS). They made excellent progress on an
open source precinct based optical scan system and an election management
system based on the OASIS Election Markup Language. Since all their
software is also open source and compatible with OVC's work, today, OVC is
getting close to being able to offer a complete open source voting system --
including the most advanced and best election management system ever created
(of course, certification is still a large hurdle, but the technology is
mainly done).

In June of 2007, I encouraged Dick to write a letter to his designated
contact at NY State Board of Elections to ask for a fee waiver for open
source systems. It would be illegal for a vendor to lobby the Board, but I
was able to discuss it with them because OVC is not a vendor.

Dick discussed the idea in other venues and was quoted in the Village Voice,
in November of 2007.

Our proposal was adopted by the NY State Board of Elections in Feb of 2008.
This was a great accomplishment we worked on together. It makes a certified
open source voting system much more feasible and likely.

Since Dick lived in New York, I did not have a chance to see him often in
person, but we talked by phone frequently. I did get to have lunch with him
when he was in California a couple of years ago. That day remains as one of
the most memorable in my 8 years working on the open voting project. In
person, I found him even more inspirational and enlightening. He had great
insight with vast experience working with governments and computers. A
former university professor (U of WA), he was full of ideas. I learned a
lot from Professor Johnson, and his passing leaves a large void for me.

David Webber set up a memorial page for him.

Alan Dechert
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Received on Thu Apr 30 23:17:02 2009

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