Re: HR 811 -- undisclosed software prohibited

From: Jim March <1_dot_jim_dot_march_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Tue Feb 06 2007 - 23:18:57 CST

On 2/6/07, Alan Dechert <> wrote:
> 2 SOFTWARE IN VOTING SYSTEMS.-No voting system
> 3 used in an election for Federal office shall at any
> 4 time contain or use any software not certified by the
> 5 State for use in the election or any software undis-
> 6 closed to the State in the certification process. The
> 7 appropriate election official shall disclose, in elec-
> 8 tronic form, the source code, object code, and exe-
> 9 cutable representation of the voting system software
> 10 and firmware to the Commission, including ballot
> 11 programming files, and the Commission shall make
> 12 that source code, object code, executable representa-
> 13 tion, and ballot programming files available for in-
> 14 spection promptly upon request to any person.
> This paragraph is breathtaking. This reminds me of one of those cartoon
> drawings where you are supposed to find the 10 things that are wrong in
> the
> picture.
> Is there a hidden agenda here?
> It appears to me that, if passed as written, we'd have to have a separate
> voting system for federal elections. This must have been written by
> someone
> hell-bent on having only hand marked hand counted paper ballots for
> federal
> offices.
> So, how do you meet accessibility requirements with this? You don't.
> There is no exemption for COTS components! This means that a vendor can't
> use these components unless, somehow, the maker of the COTS component
> agrees
> to disclose their code.
> There is no way to there from here.


Now hang on a sec here, Alan.

First point: the entire Federal oversight process (NASED/EAC/ITAs/etc) has a
poor history of not being able to tell when a "COTS" component is modified.
We know this happened several times, the most noteable involving WinCE on
the Diebold touchscreens. So we have reason to look at the whole "COTS"
concept with a hairy eyeball.

Second: yes, a lot of the existing voting system apps are written on a
Windows base. "Oh dear, they'll have to re-write everything."

Today is a funny time to be having that conversation. Just yesterday I was
at a used bookstore and they were blowing out old used PC games on CD.
"Heretic 2" for $3, hey, who could resist, right? :) System requirements:
Win95 or higher.

Took it home, got it running just fine.

Which is damned peculiar because six months ago I kicked MS-Windows off my
system for good. I'm running Fedora Core 6 Linux, which didn't exist in '98
when that CD was burned. Neither did WINE, the open-source Windows emulator
for Linux that I used to get H2 to run. I also use it to run genuine MS
Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7, Irfanview and some other goodies. I
grabbed two other games at that price at the same time to practice tweaking
WINE - "Deer Avenger 2" ran immediately, and I'm following some instructions
to get "Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic" up :). Needed a better ATI
Radeon driver for that.

Heretic 2 might be an older game, but it is a DAMNED sight more
resource-intensive than anything written by Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, etc.
I've got it running full speed at 1024x768, full effects, good sound, etc.
And I did *nothing* to that code to get it to run. 20 minutes after
starting the install and downloading an update (by the original vendor, also
meant for Windows) I was happily blowing up zombies to eerie music.

So...if you tell me it's absolutely necessary to run voting system apps on
closed-source operating systems...well color me skeptical, OK? Because
there IS a way "there" from "here"...

Jim March

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Received on Wed Feb 28 23:17:08 2007

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