Re: open source voting links...

From: Nathan L. Adams <adamsn79_at_bellsouth_dot_net>
Date: Sun Jul 18 2004 - 17:50:29 CDT

On Sunday 18 July 2004 04:50 pm, Alan Dechert wrote:
> Nathan,
[snip]
> I felt that the ovc-demo-team list had served its purpose and should be
> shut down.

Shutting down the ovc-demo-team is fine _if_ you have the production team
ready to drop in its place at that exact time. Where is the that team? There
are several of us willing and (hopefully) able to revive the evm2003 work and
re-cast it as a production quality software project.

[snip]
> The ovc-demo-team list was continued largely at the urging of David Mertz
> and Fred McLain. All of this raises fundamental issues about the OVC idea.
> The OVC has three lives:
>
> 1) Demo
> 2) R&D
> 3) Industry supported trade association

I would list it as follows:
1) Demo
2) Various R&D projects
3) Certification of a voting machine system
4) Industry supported trade association

[snip & paste]
> Teresa Hommel brought this one to my attention yesterday:
> http://www.uua.org/actions/civil-liberties/04electronic-voting.html
> Here is a resolution (called "Action of Immediate Witness") of the
> Unitarian Universalist Association. Note where it says, "open-source
> software for voting systems is expected to be available by 2005." Where do
> you suppose that came from?

Do you really expect to stop development work now, wait for funding an unknown
period of time, and then miraculously develop a working system on a
compressed schedule by 2005? It takes time to lay out architectures,
milestones, get people organized, etc. Why not take that hit now?

> The Demo phase has been all volunteer. The R&D phase cannot be all
> volunteer. Funding is absolutely required. For example, it will cost on
> the order of $100,000 in fees to the ITA to get the software certified.
> And this is just for ver 1.0 of a voting machine. In fact, I expect that
> over time we will be submitting many pieces of software for certification.
> The plan is to get one specific hardware/software set up certified for use,
> and then get more set ups certified as needed. We could conceivably
> require hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for some years just to
> pay ITA fees.

Those are _certification_ fees, not development fees. I have yet to see any
valid claim as to why funding is absolutely needed for the development work.

> Also, it's clear that to meet deadlines, we need paid staff dedicated to
> getting the job done.

I'm not sure where to begin with that one; it's insulting.

> So, right now, we're at the boundary of phase 1 and phase 2 in the life of
> the OVC. In practice, this boundary is not quite as clear cut. In a
> sense, the early part of the R&D phase may be considered an "enhanced demo"
> phase. However, I think it's clear that phase 2 begins when we get some
> institutional funding support.

Obviously, many OVC members disagree with you. With proper support from the
top (you, the OVC board), funding would not be necessary for _development_.

> At this moment, we have exactly zero
> institutional funding support.

Again, why wait for it to materialize?

> There is good reason to believe this will
> change soon and we may have some announcement about this within the next
> few weeks (okay, I've been saying that for a long time... I think it's true
> though).

I'll be delighted when and if it happens. Funding _can_ make certain things
easier; but it is not necessary.

> Back to the ovc-demo-team list issue... There has been a great deal of
> communication between OVC participants in recent months through list email,
> off-list email, phone conversations, and personal meetings. And,
> especially in the last week, a lot of discussion with the media. Almost
> none of this communication has taken place on the ovc-demo-team list. I
> wouldn't use traffic on the ovc-demo-team list to measure the project in
> any way.

You used that sort of criteria to judge the Open Vote Foundation, so I thought
it was only fair.

> In the R&D phase, we hope to continue drawing on the energy and expertise
> of volunteers. Some OVC project participants will be paid (a few are
> likely to be full time paid staff of the OVC or related university research
> projects). It will be a challenge to manage this large mix of project
> participants. I hope I can do it with the help of my friends and
> associates.
>
> We don't want to stop work and say, "we've done enough for free, it's time
> to give us money." We have to keep going. I think we all agree on that.

Nobody is accusing you or anyone else of pandering for money. We simply want
to get to work developing a production quality system. To say that we
shouldn't start because somewhere down the road it will get hard or expensive
is silly; we have to get to those hurdles before we can surpass them.

> On the other hand, preparing for meetings with budgets, proposals, and such
> take a lot of time and energy for those of us involved in that.
[snip]
> In addition, there is a tremendous amount of other work to be done that is
> neither direct fundraising nor software development--generally described as
> being involved in the public policy debate.

That is important work, and I'm glad you're leading that effort. You have the
politician's knack for turning a debate into an opportunity to both kiss-up
to your allies and brag about your victories (thus side-stepping the debate
at hand quite nicely). ;) For example:

> I am very grateful to have
> people like Joe Hall taking initiative in this area. Richard Dawson wrote
> the resolution (ACR 242) that recently passed the CA Assembly. It is
> likely to pass the CA Senate next month. We could use more people taking
> initiative like Richard Dawson. He just wrote the thing on his own and
> gave it to his Assemblymember. Others picked up on it and it got passed.

For the humor-impared, the above was intended as a friendly ribbing. I think
anyone in a leadership position needs those occasionally. But seriously, if
your time is completely consumed with "budgets, proposals, and such" then
empower the willing to get on with the business of real development work. If
you don't, we'll just go and empower ourselves anyway. ;)

> I agree we should not belittle competing projects. Certainly, I have never
> done that.

If I misread you, then I apologize, but I doubt I was the only person to do
so. As the current OVC President, you should be more careful, especially when
speaking of competing projects that have the same underlying goals as the OVC
(fair/accurate elections).

> I pointed out that the people starting these other open source
> voting software projects face some large challenges. I am very well
> qualified to know what these challenges are. The OVC has met these
> challenges pretty well and we now face the responsibility of living up to
> our claims.
>
> In Dec of 2000, the CalTech/MIT folks claimed they would build the U.S.
> voting machine and bring about a "uniform" voting system. They made such a
> strong impression that it virtually precluded others. I was in several
> high-level meetings in 2001 where we heard, in effect, "Isn't CalTech/MIT
> taking care of this? I don't think your efforts are needed."
>
> We have displaced the CalTech/MIT voting project. Now, the OVC has built
> up this expectation in a similar way that CalTech/MIT did almost 4 years
> ago. We have a tremendous responsibility to follow through. All the
> experts and decision makers know about the OVC project.

So lets stop talking, and let us get to work.

[snip]
> This is important work we are doing. We need to work together to pull this
> off.

I agree absolutely. David Mertz, Liam Helmer, and I have been discussing
reviving the work done by the evm2003 team and continuing the work that Liam
has done. The tentative name for this project is 'evmix'. This will
(hopefully) be (or become) an officially blessed OVC project, but it will be
independent of any institution funding/projects/etc. The goal is to create a
production quality implementation of the OVC work that has been done to date.
Of course the project will change and grow as other OVC R&D kick into effect.

Sincerely,

Nathan
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Received on Sat Jul 31 23:17:06 2004

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