Re: Draft of letter to the EAC

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 12:50:40 CDT

Make sure to spell check the letter. I've edited the letter. Use
DIFF to find changes.

Best regards,

At 10:08 AM -0700 5/10/04, Alan Dechert wrote:
Dear Commissioners

We are delighted to learn of your interest in open source software. It
makes sense that a public process like voting be best served with public
software. The Open Voting Consortium is the organization most actively
promoting this mode of election administration, and we would be happy to
participate in the next EAC hearing.

At the beginning of April 2004, we showed a demonstration of our
prototype voting software to the world. Our demonstration was
announced in the New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, San Jose
Mercury News, and many other papers coast-to-coast on April 1st. People
like this sensible idea. After seeing our April 1 demo of a
prototype PC-based open source voting machine with a voter-verifiable
paper ballot at the County Government Building
in San Jose California, in an April 8 editorial, the San Jose Mercury
News lauded our system as the "Touch Screen Holy Grail" of voting
systems. A key feature of our system is that visually and reading
impaired voters can use a separate independent station so that they
can hear and validate their ballot, giving them the same full rights
to a voter-verified paper ballot as sighted voters. The San Jose
Mercury News followed
up with an editorial (April 23) urging our Secretary of State to "replace
your proprietary code with open-source software that voters can trust." At
a minimum, we think that open source public software should be offered as
soon as possible to jurisdictions as an alternative to closed source black
box voting systems.

<<<Include references in the text to citations (URLs) at the bottom
of the letter.>>>

We have been able to move the project forward with volunteer scientists and
engineers. However, funding will be needed in order to complete and
certify the high-quality, production-grade comprehensive software
that the United States
voting system deserves. The Open Voting Consortium is working with states
and their public universities to get this project launched. The Open Voting
Consortium is designed as a durable organization that will provide an
on-going structure for maintenance and delivery of the Open Voting system
for many years after the research and development has been completed.

As you sort through what this all means, it is important to keep in mind the
various meanings of "open source." Simply publishing the code used in
proprietary systems is not enough. Engineers cannot freely examine and test
proprietary code without risk of being sued. A form of public licensing is
needed so that examiners are free to use the code under a controlled set of

Public licensing of published source code has served the computing world
very well. Most of the software used to bring us the Internet is open
source with public licenses. Apache (web server software) and Linux
(computer operating system) are outstanding examples of such software.
Studies have shown that these software programs are higher quality--better
performance and fewer bugs--than competing closed source proprietary
software. It is no wonder that most of the web servers on the Internet are
running robust applications like Apache along with an open source operating
system like Linux.

Another advantage of our approach is that interoperability will be improved.
As it is, each vendor of proprietary systems also has proprietary file
formats for ballot definition files. Aggregating the vote count is
complicated by the fact that the results are presented in the various
formats vendors have chosen to use. How can we talk about standards in this
regard when the details are trade secrets? The advent of Open Voting will
bring interoperability, simplicity and efficiency, as well as openness.

Sunshine is a disinfectant. A crucial step in restoring faith in our
troubled election system is to require that all software, interfaces,
and specifications at least immediately be published, and preferably
open source. The Open Voting Consortium is creating the open source

We look forward to establishing a dialog between the Election Assistance
Administration and the Open Voting Consortium.

Alan Dechert
President, OVC
other directors and titles

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 23:17:30 2004

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