Re: code validation?

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Sun Feb 27 2005 - 23:29:44 CST

Look up the "Hatch Act". You'd be surprised what it prohibits in the
way of political activity by federal employees. It's been around a long
time and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1973.
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?
navby=case&court=us&vol=413&page=548 . I suspect they'd buy a similar
rationale with respect to secretaries of state. But it'd probably be,
as you say, a mere fig leaf.

-Ron

On Feb 27, 2005, at 9:03 PM, Ed Kennedy wrote:

> Hello Ron:
>
> An interesting proposal on the Secretary of State not being an
> actively political partisan.I agree that itmight only be a fig
> leaf and could easily be dealt with via a proxy. More importantly, I,
> not even being a lawyer,can state with reasonable confidencethatit
> would very likelybe a violation of that Secretary of State's freedom
> or expression and association. As for your proposal that OVC set up
> its own development shop, don't let me discourage you. I am, I think,
> just restating a previous discussion. As always, try the archives.
>
> Thanks, Ed Kennedy
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Ron Crane
> To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list
> Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2005 7:23 PM
> Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] code validation?
>
> On Feb 26, 2005, at 9:09 PM, Ed Kennedy wrote:
>
>
> As for replacing the defective equipment like the Diebold Acuvote DRE,
> in San Diego County, California, (my home) it depends on how sharp the
> county officials were who negotiated the original deal. If I
> understand it correctly, in San Diego County there was something like
> a performance guarantee written into the purchase contract for the
> equipment. It seemed that the County officials had been tipped of that
> there was something of a 'bad smell' associated with Diebold. When the
> California Secretary of State decertified the Diebold Acuvote, Diebold
> had to eat the costs of a warehouse full of voting equipment and step
> up to the plate with optical ballot scanners at no additional cost.
>
> However, in Riverside County, California, they are probably going to
> have to pay the entire cost of replacing their election system.
> Considering the hubris of the Riverside officials, it might be
> appropriate for something like that to happen but who am I to judge?
> With the awful smog they have there I'll cut them a little slack.
> While I suppose a county could try to sue for product defect,
> misrepresentation or some other grounds to either break the contract
> or even recover funds, I wouldn't expect the plaintiff to have much
> success.
>
> Overall, it seems unlikely that there will be much large-scale
> replacement of recently-purchased voting systems, unless, as you
> illustrate, replacements comes for free. But with the right kind of
> backing, we could make it well, not free, but much cheaper than
> buying and supporting existing systems.
>
>
> As for Secretaries of State and the issue of partisan adminstration of
> elections, this is a knotty problem. A Secretary of State is a
> position that is usually defined into existence in a state constituion
> as an elected (read partisan) official. Please be aware that as I
> consider the phrase, "Non partisan elected official as elected in a
> non partisan election," to be something like the tooth fairy,
> similarly I believe suggestions that the postion should be
> non-partisan to be a non-starter. I have considered the idea of a
> civil service postion of an election commissioner but as I am a civil
> servant I know that ultimately a civil servant has to answer to the
> people through their elected representatives. So, I'm open to
> suggestions.
>
> But we can at least bar secretaries of state and possibly other
> elections officials from high positions in campaigns (e.g. Katherine
> Harris and Ken Blackwell), though the effect might well be more of a
> feel-good pill than a cure. I need to consider this topic more deeply.
>
>
> I confess that I have the pervasive and nagging doubt that many
> elected officials deem elections as either something that they would
> not like to leave to chance or as just an inconvenient formality that
> they have to dance around.
>
> I share your doubts. Far too many officials treat vital parts of the
> process (e.g. provision of sufficient machines, use of the correct
> ballot for each precinct, actually conducting hand recounts when the
> law calls for them, truly random selection of precincts for such
> counts, etc.) as optional inconveniences. But we're not going to
> change that culture. Instead, we have to create a voting platform that
> works securely despite it.
>
>
> In general, for the security/integrity issues, I like the idea of
> harnessing the aminosity and distrust that political parties have for
> each other in verifying the integrity of software and the election
> results.
>
> Agreed! That's part and parcel of our public-comment and open-source
> model.
>
>
> Specifically, Ron I dislike the idea of OVC going into the election
> system business. It leaves us wide open to the charge that we're not
> truely neutral and that we have a vested interest in promoting our own
> system. I'll admit that many of your concerns are valid and could be
> solved by having OVC or an affiliate make and market a system. None
> the less, I'm uncomfortable with the idea.
>
> We'll be charged with that, and with other villainous intentions and
> acts, no matter what we do. The very fact that we're writing software
> implies that we have a vested interest in someone using it. That we
> hold events primarily in the Bay Area will, by some, be used to imply
> that we are not to be trusted. That our project is open-source will be
> misunderstood by many, and vilified by others. All significant
> public-benefit entities routinely are subjected to similar criticisms,
> most of which are unfounded and many of which are even recklessly
> defamatory. It comes with the territory.
>
> But as for become a vendor, we're betting the entire project on
> someone using our software to do so, or upon some existing vendor
> adopting it. I give the second "Fat chance!" odds [1], so it's got to
> be the first. Yet who, when the rubber meets the road, will enter the
> market with our software? The market for elections systems is fixed
> and of limited size. With recent scrutiny, the requirements and red
> tape are much thicker than they once were. Many jurisdictions recently
> have purchased systems, and are unlikely to replace them; many more
> will purchase them before a platform based upon our software makes it
> to market. Basically the profits are limited, which limits the
> financial incentive to enter the market. What other incentives, then,
> are there? Only two come to mind: the incentive to cheat, and the
> incentive to do good. A vendor motivated by the former will be
> recalcitrant about conducting and incorporating comments from public
> review [2], and probably will use the hardware-based cheating
> techniques I've recently described to make such review meaningless
> anyway. A vendor motivated by the latter well, that's us or, at
> least, that's us with good financing.
>
> What are some of the benefits of becoming a vendor? Aside from the
> hardware security benefits I discussed earlier, we would get a
> platform to market more quickly than a vendor (who would lack our
> detailed knowledge). As a public-benefit foundation, we wouldn't need
> to profit shareholders, so we could sell (and support) our platform
> more cheaply than ordinary vendors; if we got particularly good
> financing, we might even be able to give it away. This would give us a
> marketability advantage, which could, in time, help drive the bad and
> doubtful platforms off the market and out of the polls.
>
> Becoming a vendor would be a big commitment. But I think it's a
> necessary one, and a good one.
>
> -Ron
>
>
> [1] Why would an existing vendor adopt our software? Wouldn't it be an
> implicit admission that its existing software is insufficient and
> unfixable? And wouldn't it involve a big writedown of existing
> capital? That'd be trouble with shareholders, even though it might be
> mostly non-cash.
>
> [2] Assuming, of course, that robust legislation is enacted to require
> them to do so. But that's a doubtful assumption. Recently I reviewed
> HR 550, which requires, among other things, complete disclosure of
> voting system software. I talked briefly with one of the bill's
> sponsors, and he said, point blank, that he didn't think the GOP would
> even give it a hearing. Much less, I think, will the politicos
> actually pass a bill mandating David Mertz's recommended procedure
> (see, e.g. the 3/22 messages titled "code validation"). Not for a long
> time, anyway.
>
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Received on Thu Mar 31 23:17:03 2005

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