Re: More on democracy and transparency

From: Alan Dechert <adechert_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Fri Aug 15 2003 - 15:00:41 CDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Mertz" <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, August 15, 2003 10:12 AM
Subject: More on democracy and transparency

> There is a thing raised by both Alan and Doug that alarms me greatly.
> "Alan Dechert" <> wrote:
> |If the production software is developed under a core grant (or grants)
> |to the University of California, it's likely that the license agreement
> |(where the client is a county government) will be written by UC Lawyers.
> Put simply: I do not trust the University of California enough for this.
> Nor should anyone else. Nor, for example, do I trust Alan, or Doug, or
> Arnie, or myself this much. The importance of democratic voting is far
> too high to let it rest on the "good intentions" of a particular person
> or organization.
> Specifically, in the UC case, it is quite possible (with lots of
> historical precedent) that if UC develops something that starts getting
> used by counties/states, they will decide to "commercialize" the code.
> Concretely, that tends to mean that the UC chancellor enters an
> agreement with a private company to sell EVMs, and the original PI gets
> a bit of a kickback for directing the code development. It also means
> that the code magically becomes proprietary (since it belonged
> exclusively to UC beforehand).
Let's clean up some of the terminology here. Let's say "EVM" applies to the
demo. The demo has no commercialization potential. "UCVS" is the
production software. Let's keep that acronym for the sake of discussion
even though it might eventually end up being called something entirely
different and have nothing to do with the University of California. UCVS
will have commercialization potential.

Also, minor detail, UC has ten chancellors, one for each campus. The UC
system has a president, which, incidentally and interestingly, Chancellor
Dynes of UCSD will become as of this Oct. (several faculty at UCSD have
expressed interest in the project -- Dynes is aware of it. Since we are
talking about faculty at several UC campuses being involved in the larger
study, I tend to think that UC will be involved in ownership issues -- not
just one of the UC campuses. UC includes some National Laboratories and

So there is the EVM and the UCVS, but we also have the Open Voting
Consortium ("OVC"), which is the vehicle by which the system (hardware and
services, at least) would be offered to the counties. Actually, the OVC
could wind up being the appropriate owner of the UCVS (in which case, the UC
of the UCVS may not stand for University of California).

To my way of thinking, EVM, UCVS, and OVC are my invention. This all
amounts to an idea of a voting system that is Intellectual Property
belonging to Alan Dechert.

> I don't want to work on a project just so that a UC professor can make
> some money, and a *different* private company can make money selling
> EVMs than the ones that do now.
Okay. FYI, I have in the neighborhood of $200,000 of my time and expenses
invested in the project so far (beginning in Nov of 2000 with first
published descriptions in Dec of 2000). I've gone through our life savings
and more. I intend to recover these costs. Beyond recovering these costs,
I don't really care. But I have to get that much out of it. I intend to
work out an agreement with UC that transfers this Intellectual Property to
UC in exchange for certain things. For one thing, I want to be paid for
working on the project. It seems to me that I could also stipulate in the
contract some restrictions on what can or can't be done with the software.
For example, I think it's reasonable to charge some minimal maintenance
fees -- say, 50 cents per voting machine per year. Whatever the fee is it
should more than cover administrative and maintenance costs related to the
UCVS software. It's also possible that the contract could stipulate that
the UCVS software ownship would be transferred to the OVC at some specified
later date.

> Rather, I want for elections procedures to become -transparent- to
> voters (the paper ballots aid this goal very importantly, of course).
That not just what you want. That's one of the main ideas behind the
project. This is spelled out in several places including the draft of the
letter from Doug Jones to Professors Paturi and Brady.

> In the case of EVMs, this doesn't mean that all voters WILL understand
> the software and hardware involved. It means that ALL voters will have
> the RIGHT to examine that source code (and to publically object to it...
> INCLUDING forking the project into code they believe is better). Such
> disclosure should include the exact source code used in a specific
> election, any public keys (or disclosed private keys) used in
> verification of transmissions (either of source code, ballot data, or
> results), and documentation of the procedures by which all this is done.
> Close source is an anathema to democracy!
Right. But, again, this has all been discussed at length by project
proponents over the last 2.7 years.

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Received on Sun Aug 31 23:17:09 2003

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