Re: OVC and political advocacy

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Tue Aug 10 2004 - 14:51:46 CDT

David,

I have no problem with what you say here.

I think part of the problem is that when I post something to the list,
because I am OVC president, readers may think an official postion of the OVC
is being expressed. While people trying to understand what the OVC is about
should probably take into consideration my writings on the subject, I have
not decided my position on every subject--much less established the OVC
position on all things.

For example, recently I posited a description of "the best possible voting
system."
http://gnosis.python-hosting.com/voting-project/August.2004/0043.html

Doug Jones came back and said, "This is wrong."
http://gnosis.python-hosting.com/voting-project/August.2004/0045.html

I started the thread not to advance a position as THE OVC POSITION. I did
that because it's my personal believe that it's important to think about
such things--especially when the OVC is recognized as an important voice
speaking about voting system reform. When Doug said, "This is wrong," and
proceded to give his opinion on that, he did not establish THE OVC POSITION
on that topic either.

If people don't think something I post is important, probably they should
just ignore it. It serves no purpose to say we should not talk about such
things.

Lots of interesting information came out of the ND discussion. People
representing the OVC before the media (like me) need to know as much as
possible about all aspects of election administration. Lots of arcane bits
come up in media interviews. OVC representatives should be able to field
all sorts of questions with answers better than, "I never thought of that."

I know a lot about the voting system primarily due to extensive discussions
over the last 3.8 years about all aspects of it. I continue to learn, and I
know there is a lot more I want to learn about it.

Alan Dechert

> 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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