Re: Nancy Tobi's excellent adventure (Analysis of certification timelines)

From: Richard C. Johnson <dick_at_iwwco_dot_com>
Date: Tue Feb 20 2007 - 14:08:40 CST


Just for the record, Open Voting Solutions, Inc., expects to provide Open Source voice voting software at no cost on its standard machines, accessed on off the shelf hardware by means of headsets. Huge expense? No. Years away? No. Subject to certification bottleneck? Of course. Availability of $500,000 to test this and other Open Source voting systems? No. Go figure.

Red buttons may be an expensive problem, but voice voting is not. You are quite right about the certification testing process, but mention should also be made of the secret tests for Red Buttons and the fact that the test results themselves are also secret. Can't have the public knowing whether the Red Buttons work or not, since that would cause loss of confidence in the voting system. Any voting system of whatever nature should be subject to public tests and evaluation, with completely open test results. Anything less open is, of course, a farcical reprise of the voting administrator's new clothes, an interminable play in many acts based entirely on faith.

-- Dick

Nancy Tobi <> wrote: PS: AVI RUBIN SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!!

Just posted at - A brilliant analysis by Nancy
Tobi that uncovers the actual schedules and timelines for the voting machine
product development cycle, revealing it to be a fraud on the American taxpayer.
I've excerpted the introduction here, but STRONGLY encourage those of you who
are in it for the long haul to read the whole article. It provides powerful
ammunition that should be passed along to ELECTIONS OFFICIALS, the MEDIA, and
BUDGET COMMITTEES. A PDF version will be uploaded tomorrow.

Full article:


A Ponzi Scheme, by definition, is an artifice that is insolvent from its
inception, thereby defrauding its funders (in this case, the taxpayers). Ponzi
schemes work on the "rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul" principle, as new investment
(taxpayer) money is needed to fulfill promises made on earlier investments (tax
monies) until the whole scheme collapses.

Our nation has already suffered an incalculable blow from the use of expensive
computerized voting equipment, which, by all accounts, has been an abysmal
failure by every reasonable criterion: product quality, reliability, accuracy,
and security.

Taxpayers are now being required to invest in a certification and voting machine
procurement program built on a cycle of lag, non-implementation and

Products procured before guidelines are established for them;
Guidelines and testing programs, while trying to catch up to features in
already-purchased equipment, add new requirements;
Each new wave of guidelines obsoletes existing equipment;
Successive waves of new investments (by taxpayers) are required to catch up to
previous assurances

When you peel back the veneer of the whole Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
Certification program, with its National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) and its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP)
testing process, what you learn is that the entire system is, in effect,
insolvent. Meanwhile, your tax dollars continue to flow into the system (to the
tune of nearly $3 million in the EAC's 2005 budget plus nearly $5 million in
2006 and a requested $6 million in its 2007 budget).

When the inevitable collapses occur, as we are now seeing with DRE (Direct
Recording Electronic) voting machines, we are told that we need to keep
investing in them because ... well, because we now have so much invested in
them. To that end, we are now hearing talk about turning existing DREs into
"ballot marking devices" that is, voting machines that don't count the vote,
just mark the ballot for you -- basically, turning each DRE into a $5,000
pencil. And when that doesn't fly, we hear that DREs are needed for adding new
features, like text and language converters.

The proposed Holt Bill (HR 811) attempts to require a text converter in every
precinct a demand which originates from groups that, it turns out, are the
same ones that lobbied for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to require the
multibillion-dollar DRE purchase in the first place.

What is a "text converter" and what does it mean? Details on the text converter
and its utterly impossible timelines are provided later in this report, but for
one thing, the new billion-dollar unfunded mandate for "text converters" helps
organizations that lobbied for HAVA's massive DRE purchases save face by
preventing the entire DRE investment from crashing into the ground like the
Hindenburg blimp.

Taxpayers and elections officials certainly did not realize in 2002 when HAVA
was used to mandate the purchase of billions of dollars in new voting equipment
that this was just the initial investment in what would become a continuing
hemorrhage. The proposed Holt Bill furthers the investment in a certification
and procurement system that is permanently in arrears. There is one difference
between the Holt Bill and HAVA: If passed as written, Holt Bill costs will come
out primarily from your local municipal and county coffers.


1. EAC approves guidelines (Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, "VVSG"). To help
you track this process, let's follow an example. Suppose the guideline says
"We've decided the buttons on voting machines must be RED."

2. EAC-certified test labs, in conjunction with the National Standards and
Technology Institute (NIST), write "TEST SCRIPTS" to match the guidelines. For
example, the test script says "Check that the buttons are red."

3. The states and federal government signal the industry that there will be
adequate funds to pay for a new round of voting equipment (the industry will
not begin product development for a specialized product without assurances
there will be a market to buy their product). Upon legislation saying "every
precinct must now feature a voting machine with a red button" industry starts
making red-buttoned voting machines.

4. The industry uses the "TEST SCRIPTS" from Step 2 as specifications and
requirements for building their product. In-house quality control will confirm
"Did you make sure the buttons are red?"

5. The industry submits their new product to the test labs. "Here's my machine
with the red button. Please check that it complies."

6. The test labs verify that the final product passes testing according to the
original test scripts. "Yes, the button is red. This product complies."

7. The products are sold for use in the nation's election systems. ("Elections
officials, here is an invoice for your new voting machines with red buttons.")

This is how it's SUPPOSED to work. Unfortunately, in real life the process
doesn't sync up. It's implemented out of order, turning US elections into a
vast and unreliable confidence game, where one bad investment chases another.

In real life, you get machines with YELLOW buttons, which are sold to elections
officials because the standards stating that the buttons must be RED don't come
out until two years after the machines are purchased. Later, in the process of
dealing with the yellow button issue -- "No no, it must be red!" -- the
guidelines committees also tack on another requirement: "It shall have talking
ballots for people who can't read!"

Then Congress makes a law that says every voting precinct shall have talking
ballots. So industry thinks money will be appropriated to pay for the new law,
and begins to sell machines with red buttons and talking ballots. However the
TEST SCRIPTS for the talking ballot feature are not ready until two years after
the talking-ballot machines have been purchased by elections officials. And
while NIST prepares the talking ballot test scripts, Congress makes a new law:
"Voting machines shall now be prohibited from using components made in China on
the motherboard."

So while vendors upgrade the talking ballot feature to meet the new
requirements, they replace Chinese components with variants made in San Diego,
Tokyo, and Minsk. Except that no test scripts have been written for those


* * * * *

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Nancy Tobi, Chair
Democracy for New Hampshire
DFNH Fair Elections Committee
PO Box 717 | Concord, NH 03301
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Received on Wed Feb 28 23:17:21 2007

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