Re: Bev Harris Trashed OVC at the Houston ElectionHearing

From: Jim March <jmarch_at_prodigy_dot_net>
Date: Fri Jul 01 2005 - 21:19:23 CDT

Alan Dechert wrote:

> Jim,
>
>> ...in 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).

Yup. Understood.

But...let's take just one example...data ACCESS versus data manipulation.

Let's say ES&S or Sequoia or Diebold has a fully OVC-compliant system in
place in a county, and is providing the same level of "service" they do
now. That typically involves a field agent in the county on election
day, esp. for major elections.

We know that typically, 25% to 33% of the county's vote will be absentee
on average (barring places like Oregon which we'll ignore for the moment).

So by election day, the county has all these absentees in by noon or
earlier. They're going to start counting them.

Fine, except...the actual vote tallies coming in are valuable data.
Even if it isn't tampered with. KNOWING who's winning in what races
could allow a county or state political party campaign manager to assign
scarce resources to the battleground races. It could also allow messing
with stocks, via a form of "insider trading". Stock prices in general
and some industries in particular (defense procurement!) are radically
affected by election outcomes.

Have y'all figured out a way to block access to that data until polls
close? Diebold sure as hell hasn't - the system continuously tabulates
and will report figures thoughout the day. Hell, that might even be
illegal even if just the election officials know?

>> 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 method.

Absolutely - I know full well nobody in OVC wants paper reels and never
meant to suggest otherwise.

> 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.

Sigh.

>> ... 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 everything.

Understood.

> 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.
>
> http://www.cse.unr.edu/~wsmith/cs426/SRS.htm
>
> I don't know the status.

Damned interesting. One problem might be that 4" wide paper tape rolls
are exclusively used for computer output. If it came OUT of a computer
why in hell would you scan it except for this one bizarre application?
That's probably why any roll-scanner would have to be custom...

>> 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.

Yup. Understood.

>> 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 so.

One part of me hears that. And "infiltrate" was probably too strong a
word. But...well dayum, Alan, I don't want those freaks ANYWHERE near
my vote!

>> 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.

Understood.

> 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
> http://gnosis.python-hosting.com/voting-project/May.2004/0799.html ).
> Now factor in the imperative to present the ballots in 9 different
> languages in LA... and then meet accessibility requirements.

Bev is promising to release a paper-only alternative plan soon. I look
forward to seeing it.

> 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 system?

Yup. Like I say...I wanna see what Bev is pondering...

>> 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.

Yup. That's good.

>> 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.

Fine...except...we may not like all that the "service" entails...

> Paranoia is good, in some ways.
>
> Alan D.

Paranoia is at this point...hell, "ingrained"...not without cause.

Jim
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Received on Sun Jul 31 23:17:11 2005

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