Fwd: [BVM] Report on the first of several important VSP meetings

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Tue Jul 13 2004 - 17:05:44 CDT

--- begin forwarded text

X-Sender: dpaull@pop.svpal.org
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2004 13:46:27 -0700
From: Dennis Paull <dpaull_at_svpal_dot_org>
Subject: [BVM] Report on the first of several important VSP meetings

To Kevin Shelley and members of the VSP

Hi all,

Here is my report on the first of several almost weekly meetings of the
SoS's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel, held at the SoS's auditorium
in Sacramento.

There were very few members of the public in attendance, perhaps only half
a dozen or thereabouts. I attribute this to a vague agenda and uncertain
timing and the fact that many might think that Mr Shelley's statements
on April 30 have solved all our voting problems.

The professionals in attendance, from the State and County staffs, are being
paid to be there. The public pays its own way and this is a particular
problem for those coming from areas far from Sacramento. This problem
occurs throughout the State government, especially with the Legislature.

The solution is to publish agendas well in advance and publish supporting
materials at least a week in advance of when they will be discussed. Then
stick to the schedules. Limit last minutes changes to hardship cases only.
I understand that this imposes constraints on staff.

The VSP now states that it will conclude the application from Diebold for
the TS on July 19. The July 26 meeting has been deleted. The other
vendors' applications will be considered in August, dates to be determined
later. The meeting on July 12 was adjourned a little after noon.

How many people would travel three hours or more each way to attend a two
hour meeting? Not many. I had assumed that the Panel would continue
all day and was quite dismayed to have it ended so soon with only one
vendor out of six actually dealt with.

Comments on the VSP meeting on July 12th, 2004

1. The published agenda stated that there might be three such meetings
on July 12, 19 and 26, to determine the re-certification of DREs that
had been de-certified by Shelley on April 30 of this year. However the
agenda was vague on which vendors would have their equipment actually
considered on which day. In addition, AccuPoll and Avante were to
present their products for certification.

Then, the VSP published an amended agenda on Saturday which extended
the number of days on which the re-certifications might be presented
from 3 to 7, extending all the way through August. Further, the new
agenda indicated that many vendors had postponed their applications
for unstated reasons and that only the Diebold TS was to be considered
on July 12. The TS is used only in Alameda Co., Plumas Co. and for
early voting in LA County.

It was noted by my myself and several other speakers that none of the
documents to be considered by the Panel had been published prior to
the meeting, even though the public had been promised by the VSP Chair,
Mark Kyle, to make such documents available a week before the
meetings. As a result, one of the documents, the staff report titled
"Diebold Election Systems GEMS Version 1.18.19, AccuVote-TS Version 4.3.15D,
Key Card Tool Version 1.0.1 and Spyrus Voter Card Encoder 1.3.2" was hastily
printed up and made available to those in attendance well after the
public comment period had expired. The documents submitted by Diebold, the
counties using the TS and the SoS's consultant were not included.

It was also noted privately that only 3 or 4 submissions of comments
from the public had been received prior to this meeting. These were
distributed to the Panel members but were not made public. It was noted
that other public bodies, such as the FPC, posted all received documents
on their web site and that the VSP could and ought to do likewise.

I noted that although I had submitted a lengthy written commentary to
the VSP I was given only 3 minutes to make verbal comments. I then
explained that I had proposed to the VSP that I felt that the security
issues surrounding the election management software that was being
considered at this time, as well as similar products from other vendors,
could be greatly mitigated by having the counties make the raw election
results public on election night or very soon thereafter, on a precinct by
precinct basis. Thus the public could see how the canvass was progressing
and the likelihood of votes being lost greatly reduced. My written
comments went into much more detail.

2. On the matter of the Diebold TS, the panel voted to postpone the vote
on certification until next week so that the staff report could be
made public. It was fairly clear that the VSP had been prepared to
accept the staff report and approve the re-certification with only a
few additional conditions.

I made the observation that the TS design using voter cards was subject
to a serious security flaw. The voting machines are programmed for the
particular precincts where they would be used, prior to moving them to
the polling places. They are then subject to the Logic and Accuracy
(L&A) testing. However, it is possible to insert additional code into
these machines by inserting the voter cards on election day that could
change the way the machines performed, making the L&A test meaningless.
VSP member David Jefferson stated that he agreed that this was a
significant problem, yet there was no indication that Diebold, or any
other vendor, would be required to redesign their equipment to overcome
this serious security weakness.

I want to make particular note that County Registrars make a big deal
of the fact that the L&A tests would find all the errors should there
be any. If they allow voter cards to be used, they are in error unless
they know for a fact that no extraneous information is transferred
to the voting machines via the 'smart cards'. These cards appear to have
much more internal memory than required for their intended purpose. It
would be necessary to inspect the actual computer code used in the voter
card programmers as well as the computer code in the voting machines to
assure proper security and all this code is proprietary. I just don't
believe that anyone but the vendors knows what is actually going on.
It only takes a single bit of data to be transferred to subvert all
the L&A testing. By the way, this same security breach may not be
discovered by parallel testing.

Secretary Shelley and the VSP are going to have to decide how the public
is to interact with them. The whole security issue, the VVPAT issue and
the need to greatly tighten up our voting systems procedures has been driven
by groups outside of State Government. The major players have been Kim
Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, Dave Dill, now of Verified
Voting, and David Jefferson, recently appointed to the VSP. These three
were a minority on the SOS's Touch Screen Task Force and have been pushing
security issues for several years or longer. Without these public spirited
citizens, the SoS would still be way behind the curve. I also want to
recognize Bev Harris, Jim March and Jody Holder for being frequent critics
of the status quo. There are many others from many different groups that
have offered important input. As a result, Mr Shelley and California are
now leaders in calling for the necessary changes in voting equipment and

If Mr Shelley wants to continue to benefit from what the public has to
offer, he needs to institutionalize the ways that public input gets
integrated into the internal procedures of his office. There is much more
that needs to be done. California needs to tell the vendors what acceptable
voting systems must do, in great detail. The vendors, for whatever reasons
they may have, seem reluctant to design and build equipment that is open
to public scrutiny, fully tested, accessible, understandable to their
customers and usable without vendor support.

Californians should accept nothing less.

Dennis Paull
Commonweal Institute

BetterVoting mailing list

--- end forwarded text

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Sat Jul 31 23:17:04 2004

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