Re: Draft of letter to the EAC

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 13:05:53 CDT

What's our main point? Open source (which is what Alan's original
letter is all about), or our software model and architecture (voter
verifiable paper ballot, BVA, BRP, etc.)? I'm wondering if we want
to make our architecture the main point, and make open source
secondary. Alan's original letter doesn't mention anything about the
features of our system, I think we should change the balance of that
even more than does my edited version.

Best regards,

At 11:49 AM -0600 5/10/04, charlie strauss wrote:
>Good job Alan. just one comment: Commisioner Soaries Went out of
>his way at the hearing to make it clear that whatever they did, it
>would have the utmost sensitivity to the bussiness models of
>vendors. Would it be reasonsable to mention that opensource will
>enable a different bussniess model, one where competitors can
>compete on services rather than machine-based vendor lock in., and
>one where counties could lease rather than own/store/service
>Before we all comment further perhaps you'd like to comment further
>on the purpose of the letter. Obviously you are not trying to argue
>the case for open source. Is it to try to get an invitation to
>testify on open source or on OVC or on something else.
>some grammar changes:
>certify is spelled wrong.
>I've seen the EAC spelled out as "electoral" and "election"
>assistance commission. I don't know which is correct.
>minor tweak:
>perhaps "Engineers cannot freely examine" should be
>"Non-disoclosure agreement prevent the MOST QUALIFIED Engineers
>from". While the point you make there will be obvious to Soaries,
>as a general principle think about how it may become a sound bite
>for the press.
>other related topic that souries coupled to Open Source
>Soaries is I think tuned into the COTS software substitution problem
>but It might not be good to assume he undertands the whole issue. I
>think that the case of the windows OS change that highlighted which
>button it suggested you press is a beautiful counter example to
>people who try to say the "secure" parts of applications are
>isolated from COTS changes. (Was it Doug Jones who mentioned that?
>I forget who. perhaps someone has a reference.)
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Alan Dechert <>
>Sent: May 10, 2004 11:08 AM
>Subject: [voting-project] Draft of letter to the EAC
>This is a draft of an important statement we need to make. This will be a
>letter to the EAC on OVC letterhead with the names of the directors included
>along with, perhaps, a few major contributors in the current discussion
>(like David Mertz, Charlie Strauss, Laird Popkin, and perhaps others). This
>will be followed with a press release.
>Dear Commissoners
>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.
>Last month we showed our demo voting software to the world. This 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 at the County Court
>House in San Jose California, in an April 8 editorial, the San Jose Mercury
>News lauded our system as the Holy Grail of voting systems. They followed
>this with an editorial (Apr 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.
>We have been able to move the project forward with vounteer scientists and
>engineers. However, funding will be needed in order to complete and
>certifiy the high quality 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 effiency, as well as openness.
>We look forward to increasing the dialog between the Election Assistance
>Administration and the Open Voting Consortium.
>Alan Dechert

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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