Re: MORE Questions from election officials

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Tue May 04 2004 - 12:45:19 CDT

First, as Charlie points out, bugs are an important issue. Second,
since the software is updated essentially for every election, it is
possible to affect the vote totals for presidential elections or
senators or close congressional races because there are few enough of
them. Making the software publicly available will help, but not if
the companies use uncertified (could be unpublished) software, as
Diebold did.

It is also possible to rig the canvassing software.

Some have told me that the problem of voter roll purges is more
serious than the electronic voting machine problem. My answer is
that it's not either-or, it's both-and. Fix both problems. I'll
work on fixing the problems for which I have knowledge and ability,
and they work on fixing the problems they have knowledge and ability.

I have my own Airplane analogy. I heard that when Boeing built the
first computerized airplane autolander, they did so many simulations
it worked perfectly the first time -- the plane landed exactly in the
right spot. The second plane landed exactly in the right spot. The
tenth plane landed exactly in the right spot. It worked so perfectly
according to specification that the tarmac where the planes were
landing began to crack. The solution was to pick a random spot 5
miles out and land precisely on the "wrong" spot. I like this
example because it shows that that even meeting specification is not
enough if those specifications turn out to be faulty and not take
into account some real-world situation.

Best regards,

At 7:43 AM -0700 5/4/04, charlie strauss wrote:
>if we want to give an organized response to this the place to start
>is not with the easy-to-scoff at parts of Shamos's review. The
>place to start is by simply saying which parts of it seemed to have
>a grain of sense in them or resonated with you. Then we can discuss
>For example, The whole airplane analogy bit is analogy so extended
>it becomes preposterous. Dont need to spend much brain power there.
>But I'll mention two things that it takes more serious brainpower to
>mash down.
>example #1: Shamos says serious parallel testing would defeat any
>time-activated logic bomb. It might miss the case where the logic
>bomb is activated my a shill but that would require one shill per
>machine or precint.
>Example #2: Shamos says any bug or deliberate attempt to shift
>votes from one party to another would have to be the same on all
>machines of the same type and therefore would be caught by the
>pronounced demographic shift on those machines.
>Example #3: Shamos says hacking being impossible at a non-local
>level because machine makers dont know the ballots/contestants ahead
>of time is an argument that an amazing number of "important" people
>have recited to me, even carries weight with ones you would think
>sympathetic (e.g. ACLU). Shamos goes one better and suggests the
>simple expedient of making the contest descriptors graphics would be
>sufficient to thwart any lurking expression like"if m/republican/i "
>since to insert a graphic reader would such a huge change it would
>surely be noted.
> In my own presentations I generally dont emphasize hacking (I think
>bugs are quite suffieint an issue) but somehow everyone always
>wants to bring up fraud so its an unavoidable topic.
>I suspect there is a more global argument to this but I'll note that
>I think I could design an simple if-statement to spot the word
>republican or democrat or green in a graphic. the problem with
>elborating an argument like this is that it risks spinning off into
>towering stack of situational specifics as absurd as Shamos's
>Airplane analogy. I dotn want to argue it on that playing field.
>So which places seemed the most sensible to you and what is your response?

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:10 2004

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