Re: FAQ # 8

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Wed Dec 10 2003 - 13:54:46 CST


> This definition has a slight problem. ...
Maybe. But if I didn't know anything about a DRE and I read what you have
on this, I would be even more confused.

When you are talking about the world of voting technology, you are talking
about an industry where only a few years ago was mainly about punch cards
and levers. It's a bit like interrupting a class in auto shop and handing
them stacks of manuals on rocket building and saying, "okay, now let's build
some rockets instead." The students would be confused for a while and some
of them would never get it. If the class is going to be successful in
building rockets, they'll probably need some different people involved
altogether -- with different tools, technology, and terminology.

We should not reinforce incorrect or non-standard or idiosyncratic
terminology. Optical scan machines are not DREs. This reminds me of a
story Henry Brady told me when they were cleaning up the data for his
Counting All The Votes paper (something you should read, btw). They called
one registrar somewhere in the hinterlands to confirm that they used paper
ballots as the data showed. The registrar said, "yeah, we use paper
ballots. We mark the paper then run them through an optical scan machine."
[when researchers say "paper ballots" they mean ballots that are hand marked
on paper and hand counted]

Before I say more, I am reminded of a conversation I had with David
Jefferson recently. He expressed concern over the fact that some people
that are in 99.999 percent agreement are clogging the process arguing over
details that don't really need to be hammered out at this point.

The basic ideas you promote, such as the voter-verified paper ballot, open
source software for voting machines, multiple redundant cross checks, etc.
indicate we are 99.999 percent in agreement. But some of your stuff needs
some adjustment. For example, "The only solution is to have the voter
verified ballots be the only legally re-countable source. Possibly laws
could state that the electronic totals would be used as a primary count, and
the paper used in any re-count." This is bad. This puts the paper at risk
for intentional destruction. With the OVC system, when the electronic
record of the vote is transmitted from the precinct, it's only after the
electronic record has been verified against the paper ballots. I would
recommend that in case the paper ballots from a precinct get destroyed
somewhere along the line (malice or accident), the electronic precinct
report could be used in a recount. If we say it *could be used* this
removes some of the temptation to intentionally destroy paper ballots.

You have some good ideas but you have some ways to go before you really
understand the voting system conundrum. Still you have already helped a
great deal and you can make a big difference in the future. In general, you
should pay more attention to what some of the real experts have to say and
don't worry too much about what some of the clerks say. The clerks are like
the auto shop teachers trying to learn rocket science. Yes, rockets have
"motors" too. But those motors are different than the ones in the cars.

Fortunately, the OVC project has on board most of the top voting system
experts. Read Roy Saltman, Henry Brady, Doug Jones, and David Jefferson.
Arnie Urken is another known expert and has testified as an expert witness
in contested elections.

I am a newcomer in the election technology world but my work speaks for
itself. David Dill is also a newcomer whose work speaks for itself. Almost
all the Caltech/MIT people are newcomers, although Ansolabehere studied some
of this before 2000 (Ansolabehere was a student of Henry Brady when Henry
taught at Harvard, btw).

Mercuri and Neumann are in the 99.999 percent agreement category but just
can't get over the .001 percent level of disagreement. In any case, they
lack the technology transfer mechanism of the OVC. Avi Rubin is one of the
top experts too but he may be a little too close to -- a
for-profit promoting some proprietary technology.

--Alan D.
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Received on Wed Dec 31 23:17:08 2003

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