Re: Report on EVM Rating Workshop

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Tue Jun 13 2006 - 12:34:36 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.
>
Thanks, Arnie. I've always appreciated your participation.

> 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.
>
You mean the design I've been talking about for 5.5 years and OVC started to
build and demostrate 3 years ago is starting to become well known and
accepted? Not all bad, I think.

And we can also emphasize that we are now in serious communications with the
people -- state and county election officials and state and county elected
officials -- that actually make decisions about what will actually get
implemented. In this sense, I'm not sure they're really moving beyond us
"practically and theoretically." Who's talking about castles in the sky?

> 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.
>
> "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.
>
We have talked quite a bit about encryption. We did not include encryption
in our demo prototype. I think it's fair to say that we would include
encryption in a production system. I think we'd say that encryption would
provide a security layer for the OVC system, but would be only one of
several layers. You could remove the encryption layer and the system would
still work although it would be less secure. I believe this is the way
security layers are supposed to work.

> I met Lillie Coney, from EPIC, who talked eloquently ....
>
Great! Did you know that Lillie, as of last month, is an OVC board member?
Remind me to put her bio on our web site. I'll try to get that done today.

> ... 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.
>
She's right, of course. I hope Chito got this on tape.

> A couple of participants expressed concern about the lack of transparency
> associated with the use of bar codes on ballots.
>
Now that's something we've beaten to death on this list.
http://gnosis.python-hosting.com/voting-project/April.2005/0127.html

How are you going to automate vote tabulation? Any automated scanning
process will have transparency issues. OCR scanning is much worse from a
transparency perspective -- complex code with great opportunities to hide
malware.

> Doug Jones said that he continues to suggest that the OVC take the lead in
> election management, an area being left to vendors.
>
Good idea.

> 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.
>
Okay.

> A few participants talked about starting a program in professional
> election system management at the national level.
>
You mean like the Election Center? Maybe we could get a technically
competent replacement for Doug Lewis?

> 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
>
Thanks again, Arnie!

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Received on Fri Jun 30 23:17:05 2006

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