OVC and political advocacy

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Tue Aug 10 2004 - 14:19:52 CDT

Let me weigh in a bit on OVC's political role. I think many readers of
the list are unclear on this (maybe even some board members); the
answers so far have maybe added more smoke than fire.

It *is* perfectly appropriate and perfectly legal for a 501(c)(6)
organization like OVC to advocate specific legislation. Lobbying is
one of the major functions of trade organizations. On the other hand,
there needs to be a formal and democratic procedure by which OVC adopts
-official- positions on legislative or political issues. It's not
enough for Alan, as President, to feel a certain way about a voting
issue. And moreover, any OVC position should flow out of its charter
and bylaws--we should not adopt positions extraneous to the central
purpose of OVC.

I think Alan has recently advocated positions that are CLEARLY outside
of scope. Speaking to him on the telephone, he has kinda eschewed per
se advocacy of some of this--but the impression of most list members, I
am certain, does not pick this distinction up.

For example, Alan raised the North Dakota example of primaries that
require no party affiliation. It's important to distinguish where OVC
is and is not involved in this. It certainly *IS* the case that future
OVC-compliant voting systems will need to support ND's primary system
(or any state that follows similar rules). Or similarly for a (so far
hypothetical) state where voting was authorized by drivers licensing
(beyond the Motor Voter enrollment procedure). OVC's goal is not
solely creating the voting stations narrowly, but also (eventually) the
registration check-in and related databases; and certainly the
canvassing software.

But it IS NOT proper for OVC systems to mandate the ND-style party
affiliation rules. Alan is perfectly free to believe that the ND rules
are more democratic, but it's up to the state legislatures and state
parties to set the rules. I personally do not feel that OVC should
EVER take a political position on these rules--but it is not absurdly
outside the OVC charter to do so. Supposing the board *did* formally
meet, and vote to advocate no-party primaries in each state: even then,
there would be a distinction between the legislative advocacy and the
voting system standards. I.e. we might advocate preferred
party-affiliation rules; but the voting systems themselves (and the OVC
standards around them) would still support non-preferred systems.

A very similar issue has come up before when various list members have
advocated particular vote counting systems (IRC, Condercet, etc).
While these might be good ideas--and the individuals are welcome to
hold them--we cannot jump too quickly into calling them OVC positions
(and probably not at all... but certainly with a formal procedure, if
so).

A bill like ACR242, in California, is genuinely within OVC central
purpose. It calls for efforts to use open source software in voting
systems. Exactly one of the main design principles of OVC. So
legislative advocacy of such a bill is quite appropriate... IN
PRINCIPLE. I think we cannot YET officially advocate this particular
bill, because the internal procedures just don't exist yet. We need
the board to vote on it and/or for the board to approve rules for when
the President or other officers/staff may act within a general mandate.
  For example, I would be quite pleased to have the board authorize
general political support for similar pro-Free-Software legislation;
where the President or other persons could take followup actions as
legislation arises.

Yours, David...
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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:07 2004

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