Re: Nature Magazine Editorial commends CA report

From: Doug Kellner <dkellner_at_elections_dot_state_dot_ny_dot_us>
Date: Thu Aug 30 2007 - 16:58:21 CDT

Excellent letter!

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel@earthlink.net>
Reply-To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list
<ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 16:48:04 -0500
To: charlie strauss <cems@earthlink.net>, <dak@khgflaw.com>, Open Voting
Consortium discussion list <ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] Nature Magazine Editorial commends CA report

Thanks for sending this. Here is the note to the Editor that I sent them.
http://www.nature.com/authors/peer_review/feedback.html

Re: Nature 448, 840 (23 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/448840a
Technology trap
California is right to sound a cautionary note on electronic voting.

To the Editors and Author

This article is based on a misunderstanding of democracy and elections.
"Designing an electronic voting system that is easy to use, efficient and
secure may sound like an easy thing to do. And the pay-off a democracy in
which more people can participate and trust seems desirable." In fact,
democracy requires ordinary citizens to be able to observe and understand
election procedures (especially the recording, casting, storage, handling,
and counting of votes) sufficient to attest to their propriety and honesty.
No computerized voting systems can support democracy, because computers
prevent the observation and understanding that provide the foundation for
election credibility and the legitimacy of elected government.

When governments talk about "trust" instead of "observation" you know that
their elections are in trouble.

The repeated "discovery" of the same security flaws in evoting systems, year
after year, is another trap. These are not "oops, an oversight" mistakes,
these are designed features that facilitate and conceal insider tampering.

It would be wonderful if the technology community openly recognized the
basic requirements of democratic government, and took note of the fact that
concealed procedures are typically corrupt. The electronic voting machines
sold by ES&S, Diebold, and Sequoia were designed to have no mechanism to
determine whether or not they were working. Isn't that enough of a tip-off?

Teresa Hommel
www.wheresthepaper.org <http://www.wheresthepaper.org>

charlie strauss wrote:
>
> It is nice to see such a high scientific profile of the CA voting machine
> report. Notice by Nature's editors speaks loads on the quality of the review
> panel, and hopefully will lead to acceptance of more scholarly articles on
> this subject.
>
>
> Nature 448, 840 (23 August 2007) | doi:10.1038/448840a
>
> Technology trap
>
> California is right to sound a cautionary note on electronic voting.
>
> Designing an electronic voting system that is easy to use, efficient and
> secure may sound like an easy thing to do. And the pay-off a democracy in
> which more people can participate and trust seems desirable. But an academic
> analysis of three widely used systems in California has found monumental
> weaknesses in each of them. As a result, the state is slowing down its
> adoption of such systems until significant improvements are made. Others
> should exercise similar caution.
>
> The study, commissioned by California's secretary of state, Debra Bowen, was
> led by computer scientists at the Berkeley and Davis campuses of the
> University of California. It found that the systems sold by three companies
> Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart InterCivic and Diebold had not been designed
> with security requirements in mind. And one particular deficit alarmed
> representatives of all political parties: the possibility that computer
> viruses could distort vote counts.
>
> On 3 August, Bowen decertified the systems, which were already in use in
> counties where about half of the state's voters live. That means that in the
> primary elections next February, voters will return to paper ballots. Bowen
> has pledged to fully recertify the machines when they comply with a list of
> basic requirements: but the study authors question whether the software and
> hardware are amenable to ready repair. "They have serious security problems
> that will take years to fix," says David Wagner, a study leader at the
> University of California, Berkeley.
>
> This isn't the first time that specialists have warned against electronic
> voting systems. The Voting Technology Project, for example, a joint effort
> between the Massachusetts and California Institutes of Technology, highlighted
> their failings back in 2001 (see Nature 412, 258; 2001).
>
> Yet the march of voting automation continues worldwide, often driven not by
> the public good but by election officials' desire for low staff costs and
> quick counts as well as by the marketing machines of the systems' suppliers.
> Even in the United States, the Californian analysis is unlikely to make much
> of a difference in the many other states where the same electronic systems are
> being introduced. Verifiedvoting.org, a non-partisan lobby group that
> campaigns for reliable voting, says that although some secretaries of state
> are paying attention to the study, others especially in the south and the
> midwest don't seem to be interested.
>
> There remains a body of public officials who seem to favour expediency and
> convenience over the democratic imperative of an accurate count. The firms
> that sell the systems have, meanwhile, argued that in the real world of
> elections, the systems will be overseen by election officials and candidates
> who would protect against the kind of disruptions identified in laboratory
> studies.
>
> After the scandal that unfolded in Florida in the 2000 presidential election,
> when President George W. Bush eked out a narrow victory after prolonged legal
> arguments over disputed ballots in several counties, Congress passed a law
> that, among other things, helps to fund the replacement of existing, outmoded
> voting equipment. Now it is set to revisit the issue, with Senator Dianne
> Feinstein (Democrat, California) pledging to hold hearings that will pick up
> where the review in her own state left off. This may spur broader federal
> action to strengthen voting systems.
>
> The consistent message from studies of electronic voting systems has been that
> the technology is often being implemented before it is ready to achieve the
> levels of security and reliability that voters are entitled to expect. Other
> jurisdictions worldwide should follow California's lead, consult with computer
> scientists, and act where necessary to stop this from happening.
>
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Received on Fri Aug 31 23:17:06 2007

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