Re: [OVC-discuss] Integrating two solutions (related to the Calif. billthread)

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Wed Jan 21 2009 - 12:43:09 CST

FYI, the deadline for submitting a bill to leg counsel is Jan 30, but we
will need to float it around to interested parties well before that. In
fact, there are some meetings tomorrow where this could be discussed. So,
let's try to come to some conclusions. I found Arthur's comments pretty
good, but hard to follow (and I don't see the need for whereas clauses ...
this is a bill not a resolution).

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim March" <1.jim.march@gmail.com>
To: "Open Voting Consortium discussion list" <ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 9:30 AM
Subject: [OVC-discuss] Integrating two solutions (related to the Calif.
billthread)

> Folks,
>
> Let's step back a sec and look at the landscape here.
>
> There are four reform solutions on the table right now:
>
> 1) Improve the oversight process (mostly meaning Federal level - EAC,
> ITAs, NIST, etc.). This is doomed, no further discussion needed I
> don't think...it flat out can't work, nowhere near enough eyeballs on
> the code even if the eyeballs are honest.
>
> 2) Hand-count paper ballots. Not "as" doomed, but still difficult and
> with crap like solvent washing or ballot switcheroos, not totally safe
> either.
>
> 3) Open-source vs. closed-source systems (OVC's thing). As is being
> thrashed out now, even with open source there are issues related to
> firmware hacking (a significant threat!), falsified code in the field
> and how you block that, etc. To reiterate: right now OVC's top
> potential customer in LA (Dean Logan) is as far as I'm concerned a
> confirmed crook who at *best* covered up criminal wrongdoing in
> Seattle...and at worst outright stole the WA governor's race. Still
> and all, OVC's proposed solution is way better than the
> Diebold/Sequoia/Hart/ES&S/etc retards.
>
> 4) Post-election public scanning - now and forever likely to be called
> "The Humboldt Solution". In this model paper ballots are used, and
> then publicly scanned on high-speed standard commercial scanners.
> CDs/DVDs/whatever of the ballot images are handed out to observers
> right there AND shipped up to the Internet so that in case an election
> looks wonky, we can gather the necessary eyeballs from across the
> country or even world and do a distributed hand-count after the fact.
> There are some very basic rules that have to be applied: for starters,
> the system that produces the scans must be totally standalone and NOT
> contain any Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software or hardware,
> or any pre-programmed information on ballot layouts/styles/contents.
> This is an example of "artificial stupidity": the scanning station
> can't be rigged to cheat in software or hardware because it doesn't
> know enough about the ballot graphic images to cheat. This worked
> spectacularly well in Humboldt County, where hundreds of dropped votes
> and a new Diebold bug were discovered via this process. Hardware
> costs are surprisingly low: a station about to scan over 100 ballots a
> minute double sided can be set up for around $16k tops...two or three
> of these in a big county would offer enough performance plus some
> failure redundancy.
>
> Both 3 and 4 are really tied into general openness principles, and
> hence could be supported in the same bill as they're not only "not
> mutually exclusive", they're mutually supporting - both work better
> with both present.
>
> What I'm asking is, can we integrate the Humboldt solution with OVC's
> overall gameplan, maybe going so far as to code it into the proposed
> bill? Now, I'm not saying this is a demand, it's a suggestion and
> please take it that way. But I will tell you Black Box Voting is
> going to be pushing "Humboldt scanning" as "part of the complete
> package" of necessary reforms (including more transparency) and very
> likely the most important bit even over and above open source itself.
> Properly run and monitored, with touchscreens totally out of the
> picture, this type of post-processing scan could in theory allow a
> county to continue running crapola gear (even Diebold!) safely -
> without tossing out their investment in existing junk.
>
> In the case of a county like LA that really needs a whole new set of
> kit anyways, the combination of OVC gear as currently proposed *plus*
> separate scanning gear will still blow the doors off of Diebold or the
> like in terms of cost efficiency.
>
> Would we rather see an OVC solution combined with post-processing
> scanning, versus a "Diebold or whatever and scanning" solution? Well
> I know *I* would, and while I haven't asked Bev Harris about that
> particular point I suspect she'd agree.
>
> Humboldt-style scanning is actually part of a bigger issue:
> transparency and open government principles in general. This has to
> be more closely aligned with election processes.
>
> A section of the bill supporting Humboldt-style scanning (adding on to
> what Alan Dechart has already written) might look something like this:
>
> ----
> All systems approved under this legislation must meet the following
> additional requirements:
>
> 1) The official ballot of record must be paper, and of either "legal"
> or "letter" size formats.
>
> 2) Paper ballots will be subjected to a secondary scanning process
> under which graphic "snapshots" of each ballot image will be preserved
> electronically. Copies of the ballot images shall be made available
> immediately on write-once media such as a CD or DVD to members of the
> parties, citizen groups or press who request them, where such
> requestors would otherwise meet the requirements for enhanced election
> observation Election Code 15004. Standard public record pricing for
> electronic media shall apply, with no "preparation charges" allowed.
> Copies of the same ballot image graphics shall be uploaded to the
> Internet as quickly as practical, either via the county's systems or
> by websites operated by the California Secretary of State, at the
> county's option. The systems used to scan ballot images shall be
> subject to pre-election inspection under Election Code 15004, shall
> not be connected to any other system (election specific or otherwise),
> shall not contain any "optical character recognition" ("OCR") software
> or hardware and shall not be pre-programmed with ballot layout or
> definition information of any sort. The sole purpose of the scanning
> system shall be to make a public record of the conduct of the election
> so as to allow a "double check" of these systems. The hardware and
> software for performing this post-processing scan can be standard
> commercially available parts; open source solutions are preferred
> where practical but are not required.
>
> 3) Counties running state-approved open source voting solutions must
> pay particular attention to public records and related transparency
> measures, including Election Code 15004. An open-source solution
> offers improvements in system transparency only so long as such
> transparency is supported by the county government.
> ----
>
> Jim's notes: for those not aware, California Election Code 15004 sets
> up rules to have parties, citizen groups and the press do "system
> inspections" before and during elections. There is also a cap on the
> number of inspectors, with political parties having "first pick".
> This limits the number of noses poking in, and by following that here
> we end up limiting the number of CDs/DVDs the elections staffers have
> to burn on election night.
>
> Jim
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Received on Thu Jan 7 00:09:48 2010

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