Re: Draft of letter to the EAC

From: Edward Cherlin <edward_dot_cherlin_at_etssg_dot_com>
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 18:51:40 CDT

On Monday 10 May 2004 10:08, Alan Dechert wrote:
> 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
does not plan to be a voting system vendor. Instead it is
organized as a trade association
> is the organization most actively promoting this mode of
s/is the organization most actively promoting this mode of/ to \
create and disseminate/
> election administration, and we would be happy to participate
s/election administration/open source election software, \
including voting, canvassing, and reporting, with a \
voter-verified paper ballot and a variety of other security \
features not present in current systems./
s/participate/demonstrate our prototype system and describe its \
design principles and goals/
> in the next EAC hearing.
> Last month we showed our demo voting software to the world.
s/Last month/On April 1, 2004/
s/showed our demo voting/demonstrated our election/
s/to the world/for the first time in public. Since then we have \
given demonstrations for public officials in Sacramento and \
elsewhere, and we will continue to offer further demonstrations.
> This was announced in the New York Times, Washington Post,
s/This/Our first demonstration/
> Baltimore Sun, San Jose Mercury News, and many other papers
> coast-to-coast on April 1st. People like this sensible idea.

s/People like this sensible idea./People find our design \
sensible and easy to use./

> After seeing our 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
s/At a minimum, we /We/
> think that open source public software should be offered as
s/should/should at a minimum
s/offered as/available/
> soon as possible to jurisdictions as an alternative to closed
s/soon as possible to jurisdictions/to the voters/
s/alternative to/option alongside/
> source black box voting systems.
s/black box/black-box/
> 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.

What about researching the security issues and all that before we
get to the production coding? How about pointing out that we are
offering our results for use by any current or prospective
manufacturer that agrees to the appropriate certification
process and other standards, so that we are not favoring one
over another? I don't suppose we want to bring up rewriting the
standards just yet.

> 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 rules.

As you sort through this, it is important to remember that Open
Source does not simply mean letting people look at the source
code. To achieve the greatest public benefit, engineers must be
able to test the code, make and distribute changes (under the
same open license terms), and publish their findings for public
discussion. Since there are many Free Software/Open Source
software licenses, the specific terms that apply to a particular
program must be clearly stated. At the same time, the versions
of software used in elections must be properly certified, and
all uncertified variants of election-related code must be
labelled as such.

> 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
s/open source with/provided under one or another of the/
> (web server software) and Linux (computer operating system)
s/operating system/operating system and utilities/
> are outstanding examples of such software. Studies have shown
> that these software programs are higher quality--better
s/--/, with /
> performance and fewer bugs--than competing closed source
s/--/ /
> 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.
s/along with/on
s/Linux/Linux, which has demonstrated superior reliability and \
> Another advantage of our approach is that interoperability
> will be improved.

Our approach also allows election systems from different vendors
to provide compatible output.

> As it is, each vendor of proprietary systems
> also has proprietary file formats for ballot definition files.
s/files./files and election results./
> 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.
s/openness/openness, improved security, and greatly increased \
public confidence in the election process./
> We look forward to increasing the dialog between the Election
s/increasing the/a continuing/
> Assistance Administration and the Open Voting Consortium.
s/ and/,/
s/Consortium/Consortium, and the public
> Alan Dechert

Should we mention that we are creating election software for the
whole world, not just the U.S., and so opening up export

Anyway, run it by us again after you go over these and other
proposed changes.

Edward Cherlin, Simputer Evangelist
Encore Technologies (S) Pte. Ltd.
New voices in the global conversation
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:31 2004

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