Re: Disturbing web site.

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Mon Dec 06 2004 - 09:12:12 CST

> Now it's my term to seem a little dense. If private parties could
come up with a machine/system that is built roughly to our
specifications, why not? Are we so > > much better at this than
everyone else? Yes, I'd like to think so, but I'm willing to admit that
it could be otherwise. Please see my questions sprinkled below.
 
> No Board of Elections has the technical staff that would be needed to
securely manage computer systems.
     
> Never, ever?

As a matter of reality, this is my observation, In my professional work,
I have been in a number of secure computer centers. In this political
work, I've spoken to many elections people. Two different worlds.
Elections haven't been a computerized world. At best these people are
end users who can send email and created Word documents and maybe work
with a spreadsheet. Doug Jones is a unique exception. Diebold's promo
material used to say, you can run a secure election with the skills you
learned with your office or home computer. In other words, if you can
point-and-click on an icon or drop-down menu, you have the skill and
knowlege required to handle an election.

In a large BoE like we have here in NYC or our NY state BoE, there are
tiny IT staffs who manage the computers used for administration, but
they are not policy makers or involved in the conduct of elections. I
did meet one guy upstate NY who was a tech who was an expert in
programming their optical scanner.

If a salesman comes in and says "Here's a computer that will handle all
your problems" and the buyer doesn't ask "how do we audit it (or prove
out the numbers, or whatever terminology you wish)" then we are dealing
with a very ignorant buyer. If the buyer asks and is told "don't worry
we have lots of internal checks and balances and you don't have to do a
thing" and the buyer thinks that is sufficient, we are dealing with an
ignorant buyer. The universal reliance on vendor technicians is another
tip-off that the BoE's don't have inside staff to handle the jobs.
Ordinarily when companies buy software, they get training and have a
team that knows the software. But in most jurisdictions elections aren't
held frequently enough to justify paying a full time permanent employee
who is a computer tech.

     
> Democracy requires voting technology that ordinary non-technical
citizen observers can effectively observe.
>
> Um, are you advocating a return to paper and pencil? OVC is
about a technical approach. While I'm suppose to be a smart kind of
fellow, I doubt if I could easily follow Python (the Linux oriented
computer language in which the demo is written).
>

Yes, and proper role for computers, if used, is to help voters with
disabilities to mark their ballot, or to act as a ballot marker or
ballot printer for all voters.

Democracy is not a "trust me" form of government, and elections
historically have been corrupt or easily corruptible unless people can
observe the mechanism. If the only people capable of observing
effectively are computer techs, you force "the people" into a "trust me"
role (trust the computer tech) and prevent the average citizen from
participating in integrity activities (observing the processes of ballot
handling, counting, and recounting). If John Doe wants to be an
observer, does he have to go back to school and study computers first?

The OVC design uses a computer to print a paper ballot (or ballot
summary) and has a reconciliation process. My concern is that the
reconciliation process is electronic and not observable by nontechnical
observers.

Here is the question I ask myself, since I have met election people of
whom I had the personal impression that they were not trustworthy. If
the person or people running an election with this equipment is/are
corrupt, how does this system facilitate falsification of ballots and
tallies, and what evidence of that falsification would there be? Would
an ordinary citizen, given the opportunity to be present and watch
carefully what's going on STILL be shut out of being able to observe or
discover the problem or preventing it?

There is a problem now in our country, which is that so many BoEs have
effectively barred citizen observers from watching the ballots and other
records from the time they are created until the outcomes are
certified. This really prevents election integrity and forces every
citizen to accept a "trust me" situation.

My concern with paper ballots marked by hand or ballot-marking or
ballot-printing devices for the disabled, is that not enough citizens
are currently engaged in working and observing our elections. If many
people were involved, then I think paper and pencil is the technology to
use since most citizens could easily observe and understand the
processes. If a person is watching a box of 12000 ballots and someone
comes in and picks it up and walks off with it, that is observable and
the observer can grab their cell phone and call for help. If 12000
ballots disappear inside a computer, who would notice until later? Maybe
many days later when people are comparing numbers of voters to numbers
of ballots.

> No matter what the good qualities of the computer system, if an
outside vendor tech has to tell the BoE folks and observers what is
going on, then the tech can tell them anything that sounds plausible.
What non-tech observer would be able to independently know what software
is running in the computer? None.
>
> Why couldn't the BoE or registrar's office hire experts of their
own to challenge the vendor's representative?

Practical reason 1 -- why would they, since they trust the vendor.

Practical reason 2 -- The major vendors sell their software with trade
secret provisions in the contract, so only the vendor knows the
software. Where would a BoE find an expert in that software? How would
someone become an expert?

Scenario -- Someone quits their job with the vendor, turns around and
gets a job with the BoE, and fights their former employer. Not likely,
see practical reason 1. We have had a few former employees try to expose
their former company, such as in Georgia 2002 and Indiana about a year
ago. Generally the BoE's ignore that. Which is why I think there is
corruption, because if any company I ever worked for had that happen,
everyone would pay close attention.

> Then what are the legal standards for when the voter-verified paper
ballots have to be counted?
>
> Huh?

If the computer gives a final tally, and everyone accepts it, and no one
counts the paper ballots, then the paper ballots have not contributed to
election integrity. The OVC has the only ballot reconciliation process
that I know of that is part of its routine operation and the design of
the system supposes that the reconciliation will be done all the time.

Looking at the voter-verified paper ballots is being treated as a
recount. Each state and locality seems to have its own standards for
when there is a "recount." In some you just lay out some money. In
others it is not so easy, such as Florida, Ohio. People are going to
court to try to get a recount, and some judges are not letting them.

The concept of a "close election" reflects the difficulties of managing
to corrupt an election run with paper or mechanical technologies. You
need lots of people with lots of time. In contrast with a computer, if a
corrupt tech or insider can just select the percentage of victory margin
they want, and allocate the votes as they wish to the different
precincts, then you won't have the "close election" trigger to force a
recount to be done.

Ed Kennedy wrote:

> Hello Teresa,
>
> Now it's my term to seem a little dense. If private parties could
> come up with a machine/system that is built roughly to our
> specifications, why not? Are we so much better at this than everyone
> else? Yes, I'd like to think so, but I'm willing to admit that it
> could be otherwise. Please see my questions sprinkled below.
>
> Thanks, Ed Kennedy
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Teresa Hommel <mailto:tahommel@earthlink.net>
> To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list
> <mailto:ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
> Sent: Sunday, December 05, 2004 7:44 AM
> Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] Disturbing web site.
>
> No Board of Elections has the technical staff that would be needed
> to securely manage computer systems.
>
> Never, ever?
>
> Democracy requires voting technology that ordinary non-technical
> citizen observers can effectively observe.
>
> Um, are you advocating a return to paper and pencil? OVC is about
> a technical approach. While I'm suppose to be a smart kind of
> fellow, I doubt if I could easily follow Python (the Linux
> oriented computer language in which the demo is written).
>
> No matter what the good qualities of the computer system, an
> outside vendor tech has to tell the BoE folks and observers what
> is going on, and can tell them anything that sounds plausible.
> What non-tech observer would be able to independently know what
> software is running in the computer? None.
>
> Why couldn't the BoE or registrar's office hire experts of their
> own to challenge the vendor's representative?
>
> Then what are the legal standards for when the voter-verified
> paper ballots have to be counted?
>
> Huh?
>
> Please check out
> http://www.wheresthepaper.org/CACM_YaleStudy.htm which has a link
> to the original Yale study.
>
> Solely for my reference in working with the wiki
> http://openvotingconsortium.org/wiki did the authors give you
> permission to reproduce their ariticle or are you relying on fair
> use or is that just a link? BTW, my copy of Acrobat chokes on the
> second page of that file, something about a -e token not being
> recognized.
>
> Thanks, Ed Kennedy
>
>
> Teresa Hommel
>
> Edmund R. Kennedy wrote:
>
>> Hello All:
>>
>> On further reflection, if they can deliver the same platform,
>> vvpat, paper is the actual document, open source, stand along
>> machines, linux, ran from disk, etc. I don't think we should
>> obstruct them. However, we should be very suspicious given the
>> central tendencies of theses private sector groups. I am not
>> confident that voting systems should even be handled by the
>> private sector but I am willing to see what happens.
>>
>> Thanks, Ed Kennedy
>>
>> Rick Gideon <rick@openvoting.org> wrote:
>>
>>
>> http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2003_July_15/ai_105442202
>>
>> Looks like the same old players who already have their
>> fingers in this
>> messy pie.
>>
>>
>>
>> On Sat, 4 Dec 2004, Ed Kennedy wrote:
>>
>> > http://www.electiontrust.com/
>> >
>> > In particular, see "Partners, Everyone Counts." Private
>> open source.
>> > --
>> > Thanks, Ed Kennedy
>> >
>> > 10777 Bendigo Cove
>> > San Diego, CA 92126-2510
>> > USA
>> >
>> > "Let us all tend to our gardens." Candide - Voltaire
>> >
>> >
>> _______________________________________________
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>> Send requests to subscribe or unsubscribe to
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>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> 10777 Bendigo Cove
>> San Diego, CA 92126-2510
>>
>> "We must all cultivate our gardens." Candide-Voltaire
>>
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>>
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>
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Received on Fri Dec 31 23:17:05 2004

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