Re: Bev Harris Trashed OVC at the Houston ElectionHearing

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Jul 01 2005 - 20:41:16 CDT


> a nutshell, what really scares her is the idea that current vendors
> such as ES&S and Diebold will be able to "cloak themselves in OVCness" and
> "look good" while still doing nefarious stuff somehow.
If a vendor joins OVC, they have to adopt principles of Open Voting --
including the ballot printer architecture. It is understood that they can't
change the way they do everything overnight. As long as they are moving in
the right direction ... public source, commodity components, ballot printer,
etc., and they work with our committees to develop open specs, we will be
pleased. This doesn't mean we'll blindly accept anything they do. Trust
but verify is what you old buddy said (or what his writer gave him to read).

> I think if we dig deeper, we'll find that Bev/Kathleen have two very valid
> complaints about the "rolls": first, because of the small format and the
> need for paper-roll handling at the scanner, ....
Okay, but please don't associate this design with OVC. OVC has designed and
demonstrated the ballot printer architecture. We've never said reel-to-reel
paper was a good idea. In fact, I have been a pretty strong critic of this

Kevin Shelley allowed this scheme under the guidelines he issued a year ago
for DREs. The first time I called the SoS office (Mike Wagaman) and voiced
my opposition to these guidelines was about 15 minutes after they were
issued. The reel-to-reel thing was one of about a half-dozen things in the
guidelines to which I objected. I phoned David Jefferson about it and he
said he had not seen the last several revisions of the document.

> ... building an OVC central tabulator with an industry standard scanner
> that would read those rolls would be a serious bitch. There MAY be
> off-the-shelf scanner solutions to read the "rolls" but I'm not aware of
> any and I've been unable to google for one. And that means that an
> automated recount via open-source processes may be impossible without
> custom hardware. (Or we cut the roll sections up with scissors and run
> 'em though a flatbed scanner one by one? That's just insane...)
One thing for sure. We have to work with what's there. OVC wants to move
the system toward open voting. We can't wave our hands and get rid of

Incidentally, Lou Montulli did get a project going at Univ of Nevada Reno to
build a scanner for the rolls. I even attended a meeting last year with
Prof Sergiu Dascalu, CS Chair Yakov Carroll (SP?) and Lou on the UNR campus.
We were going to take a proposal to the NV SoS to see about getting some
HAVA funding for it.

I don't know the status.

> But let's say we get a "roll scanner" of some sort. Arright. Now you
> have to have the software find the "spoiled alert" on the paper and go
> back and trash the last one. Remember, not all "votes" on the roll are
> valid! It CAN be done with software but B'Gawd what a pain and God help
> you if you miss a "spoil alert".
I fully agree the paper roll idea sucks. That's why we promote the ballot
printer architecture.

> Folks, once we establish that rock-solid, to the point where people end up
> in jail (and we're closing in on that!) then yes, the idea of allowing
> these vendors to infiltrate OVC is horrifying. .......
Infiltrate OVC? We want to become a consortium of companies that deliver
services to election boards. The OVC itself is a non-stock nonprofit
corporation. It's not for sale and couldn't be sold even if we wanted to do

> Even to me. And once fraud is proven, then...guess what? Bev's "paper
> only" stance doesn't look anywhere near as radical as Kathy is making out.
Two problems:

1) Fraud has been demonstrated in U.S. elections many times over the past
couple hundred years. The response has been to try to introduce methods
less susceptible to fraud. Change has been incremental. Open Voting may be
the next big change. Whatever will be, it is unlikely to be done in one
fell swoop.

2) We don't know what Bev's "paper only" proposal looks like. Some of the
ideas for hand-counting the ballots don't sound very secure to me. Pointing
to homogenous less populous areas in the U.S. where it's employed, or
pointing to other countries where it works -- voting for member of
parliament and nothing else -- may not be relevant. Show me how you're
going to do it in LA where you have imperatives for large ballots (say 44
contests, 95 candidates .. check out discussion of that from a year ago ). Now
factor in the imperative to present the ballots in 9 different languages in
LA... and then meet accessibility requirements.

For urban areas especially, the notion of using only hand-marked
hand-counted paper ballots is likely to go over like a uranium-filled lead
balloon. Then let's try a red-team attack on the hand-marked hand-counted
ballots. Do you have any idea how many ways you could screw with such a

> I am NOT saying OVC's goals aren't achievable. I strongly suspect they
> are, although I want to be able to do red-team attacks (or watch Hari
> Hursti do one!) on a final or near-final product.
Fine. If we get some real funding, we'll have world class testing beating
on the system.

> But even THEN, if such tests pass, the idea of an ES&S or Diebold or
> Sequoia supplied "OVC system" scares the bejeezus out of me and I really,
> REALLY don't think I'm alone in that.
Open Voting means all aspects of election administration get presented to
the public in routine, systematic, regularized, thorough ways. Public
monitoring will replace "trust us" and "security through obsecurity."
Vendors will compete on the basis of service -- not on technology.

Paranoia is good, in some ways.

Alan D.

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Received on Sun Jul 31 23:17:11 2005

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