Report on EVM Rating Workshop

From: Arnold Urken <aurken_at_stevens_dot_edu>
Date: Tue Jun 13 2006 - 11:56:20 CDT

Last week, I attended the NSF-sponsored workshop on rating of Electronic
Voting Machines (EVM) at George Washington University. Since Arthur Keller
was sick, I gave a paper that he did with Alan Dechert and Amy Pearl and
gave a paper that I contributed in small part to done with Arthur and David
Mertz.

 

Let me preface my comments upfront by confessing that I have not contributed
much to the OVC list lately, but have been an interested reader. Here are
some points that should be taken into account in OVC work.

 

1. The OVC is in danger of becoming irrelevant in the national
discussion of EVMs because other researchers and groups are going beyond OVC
work practically and theoretically. Although no one can doubt the OVC
leadership role in analyzing EVM problems and lobbying for better
legislation, individuals and research groups are working on models and
theoretical ideas for comparing EVMs. So when I got up to present the
Keller-Dechert-Pearl paper, much of what I had to say was redundant.
2. Work at GW is focusing on comparing machines in terms of criteria
such as integrity and privacy, showing tradeoffs and analyzing the
conditions under which these criteria may be difficult to achieve-singly or
together-due to electoral infrastructure issues.
3. "The hot topic" at the workshop was encryption. Alan Sherman asked
me a question about the OVC position and I pleaded ignorance, but my
impression is that the OVC list has not included any discussion of this
topic. If I am wrong, the OVC needs to take account of the recent work of
David Chaum and Josh Benalosh taking a systems cryptographic approach to
elections that may make concerns about election machines-as we know
them-irrelevant. I realize that some of these ideas are not new, but they
created a buzz at the meeting.
4. I met Lillie Coney, from EPIC, who talked eloquently about the
significance of involving not only election officials, but civil rights
groups in educating the public about the need for better EVMs.
Disenfranchised groups not only are more aware of the significance of
procedural and technical flaws, but are also represented by interest groups
that are more likely to sue election officials due to EVM or electoral
administrative breakdowns. Her talk highlighted the strategic and
developmental benefits of bringing researchers on voting security together
election officials and civil rights groups.
5. A couple of participants expressed concern about the lack of
transparency associated with the use of bar codes on ballots.
6. Doug Jones said that he continues to suggest that the OVC take the
lead in election management, an area being left to vendors. Alan Sherman's
talk about the Maryland evaluation of verified voting solutions indicates
that more vendors are offering open source solutions and that election
officials are thinking more about the possibility of working with vendors
who customize election solutions. Also, Avi Rubin's talk emphasized the
importance of planning for recovery, something that does not get much
attention in normal electoral administration management. A few participants
talked about starting a program in professional election system management
at the national level.
7. I have just finished an NSF project on the implications of formal
programming methods-particularly type-safe code-for voting systems. But I
was impressed with the imaginative work on the development of general
criteria for comparing EVMs and the use of encryption, which is something I
hope to address in my future work.

 

Regards,

Arnie

 

Arnold B. Urken

Professor of Political Science

Department of Social Science

Stevens Institute of Technology

Castle Point on the Hudson

Hoboken, NJ 07030

201-216-5394

Fax 201-216-8245

 

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Received on Fri Jun 30 23:17:05 2006

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