Re: OVC on HR 811

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Jul 13 2007 - 11:44:44 CDT

>
> I'd like to make it clear that OVC as an organization neither opposes
> nor supports Rep. Rush Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased
> Accessibility Act. Hence these recommendations by list members are
> simply expressions of their own personal opinions.
>
David is correct on this point. I have voiced my displeasure with the bill,
but OVC has not taken a position. More than one OVC supporter has voiced
support for HR 811.

When Brent and I visited Zoe Lofgren in April, we were there to promote open
source for election software, and the general concept of open voting.
Astonishingly, Congresswoman Lofgren (chair of House Admin sub-committee on
elections) said they were not contemplating putting money in the bill for
open source R&D because the federal government was doing that already with
ACCURATE (this is false). The ACCURATE proposal may appear to support open
source software development because it says they intend to work with OVC.
So far, this has not happened. There is nothing in the ACCURATE proposal
that says they will work on developing public software for public elections.

The other astonishing thing Lofgren said was that the disclosure language
was being amended to suit Microsoft since they would kill the bill
otherwise.

Without going into detail (this has been beaten to death in other forums ...
I am happy to get into the details on OVC-discuss if people want to do that
... not sure how valuable that would be at this point), here are my two
areas of concern.

1) The bill would bring about a significant shift in authority from states
to the federal government with respect to election administration. The US
Consititution gives the states the primary responsibility for running
federal elections -- which I think is wise. I don't think it is wise to give
so much authority to a commission with its four commissioners appointed by
the president of the United States. I counted something like 40 instances
of "the commission" in the bill. When you add this up to see what "the
commission" (the EAC) will be doing, it looks to me that they will be
running things and they will at least have the potential to achieve near
dictatorial power over the voting system.

2) The disclosure language is bad. This concern is minor compared to the
concern mentioned above. The disclosure language was bad before it was
amended, and now it is worse. It appears to legitimize secret processes in
the voting system. It's not just that I favor open source for elections: I
believe it is illegitimate to allow any part of this public process to
remain secret. PFAW says 811 would end "secret software" in elections.
This is a blatant lie. We already have disclosure to "qualified" individuals
and groups. HR 811 would expand the universe of reviewers somewhat, but it
is unclear what the new unpaid reviewers could contribute after signing the
nondisclosure agreements. Having said this, if HR 811 should pass, this bad
disclosure language would not necessarily be bad for the open voting cause.
It would put the focus more clearly on state and local governments to make
open voting a reality. In a sense, it would give us something to play
against.

We have a voting system cartel that is problematic for us. HR 811 would put
more reins on the cartel, but would do nothing to break it. I want to break
the cartel, not formalize its existence. I want to decouple the technology
maker from the service provider. I want a decentralized PUBLIC voting
system. The open voting movement will have to adjust depending on what laws
get passed at the federal level. HR 811 has very little in it that I would
support (no wireless is good... but paper trail language is very
problematic), but it could indirectly provide fuel for the open voting
movement. So, I am against the bill but not that worried about it either.

Alan D.

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Received on Tue Jul 31 23:17:04 2007

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