Re: Follow up on Open Source hearing

From: Joseph Lorenzo Hall <joehall_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Feb 11 2006 - 15:24:51 CST

On 2/9/06, Alan Dechert <> wrote:
> Joe, you need to clean up your act just a bit:

Alan, I don't appreciate your patronizing tone. You need to be more
diplomatic if you're truly interested in getting things done.

What the OVC is doing is important, and should move forward. If you
listened carefully, we offered a number of barriers that groups like
the OVC face and some ideas about how they could be overcome.

> "We also stressed that there are many open
> questions with open source and disclosed source
> in the voting systems area and any sudden
> unilateral moves to mandate disclosed source
> code or open source licenses would be ill-advised."
> You should have said "I" instead of "we." You said that. Deirdre said
> nothing of the sort -- nor did Peter.

Read our testimony. I don't think this is a mischaracterization of
either our or Peter's position (but I don't claim to represent Peter).
 If you read our written testimony, our long-term goal is to have
public scrutiny of all aspects and levels of the voting process (that
is code, certification, etc.). Our system is very far from that now.
What we stressed in our testimony was to make sure that any movements
in these directions were well understood given the implications.

> Bowen immediately and unequivocally (and rightly, imo) rejected your
> position. She said that limited disclosure to experts was a "non-starter"
> for her. You came back sounding like a vendor or vendor shill saying,
> something like "it may be a non-starter for you but it's going to be a
> non-starter for vendors."

(Calling me a shill is insulting. You know very well that I'm working
towards many of the same goals that you are. Because I'm conscious of
the market and that there exist market-preserving and
market-intervening solutions in open and disclosed code does not make
me a shill.)

What Bowen said is that she didn't want to have to trust a panel of
experts. Neither do I and neither do you. But having an independent
panel of experts review code and issue a public report is right now in
the power of the secretary of state and will decidely increase the
level of transparency in our elections systems in California. This is
something we can do now. For sure, the average voter cannot do
anything with source code, but they should be able to either learn
enough to do something and get access or they should be able to have
someone they trust do something.

> In my testimony, I quoted Shamos from SoS McPherson's report: "all voting
> system software should be disclosed to the public."

And that's fine... I disagree right now, I don't think that's a good
idea... especially just turning on disclosed source or open source
mandates. I think we can move to that point if we put some things in
place and recognize that this will affect the nature and level of
competition in the market and how we run elections.

> The point about transparency being more than open source is trivial.

I don't think it's trivial, I think it's essential. For example, the
testing plans, treatments and such of the ITAs are considered
proprietary. So not only are the results proprietary but the tests
too! And that's just one aspect of the larger transparency issue. The
state needs vendors to sell and service elections equipment and it
needs whatever it takes to ensure to the public and itself that this
equipment can be used reliably withing the operating requirements of
the election cycle. To be sure, open or disclosed code would solve a
lot of problems (especially transaction costs and IP claims).

> Bowen
> understands that perfectly well and so do all opinion leaders in this area.
> Kim made the point that some people claim open source is all it takes. That
> may be true but it's irrelevant. OVC doesn't make that claim nor does
> Bowen.

Alan, if you want to alienate the world because their ideas are not
perfectly in-line with yours, that's something you can choose to do.
If you want to work towards increasing transparency in voting systems,
especially by producing an open source voting solution and
understanding what barriers you face to get this to a point where a
jurisdiction could and would procure it, you're going to have to take
measured, strategic steps.


Joseph Lorenzo Hall
PhD Student
UC Berkeley, School of Information (SIMS)
blog: <>
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Received on Tue Feb 28 23:17:05 2006

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