RE: Draft 2 -- letter to EAC commissioners

From: Popkin, Laird (WMG Corp) <"Popkin,>
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 20:22:20 CDT

I've made some edits below. Primarily this involved deleting details that a
legeslator won't (IMO) care about. It's a stronger message to say that
newspapers endorse us than to get into complexities around licensing terms.
Yes, the licensing terms matter, but to us, not to people we're asking for
funding. (IMO, of course).

I also incorporated the term "open to peer review" which IMO is the
strongest way to sell open source -- people know that the ensure that
something is trustworthy is to go through the scientific process of peer
review, even if it's only a vague memory from high school.

The argument around interoperable standards seems a bit weak. Do we *know*
that there aren't any standard data formats for interoperability between
vendors? I know that I've read about cases where errors were caught by
cities running their ballot punch card data through a neighboring town's
systems from a different vendor...

--------------

U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Chair
Gracia M. Hillman, Vice Chair
Paul D. DeGregorio
Ray Martinez III
1225 New York Avenue, NW - Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Commissioners:

We are delighted to learn of your interest in open source software. It is
proper that *the public process of* 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 *pleased to
be able* to
participate in the next EAC hearing.

As you *explore open source voting*, it is important to *keep in mind* 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
*public contributions
to the source code*, and publish their findings for public discussion.

**

Public licensing of published source code has served the computing world
** well. Most of the software *that powers* the Internet is open
source **. Apache (web server software) and Linux
(computer operating system) are outstanding examples of such software.
Studies have shown that *software that is open to peer review is* higher
quality, better
performing and *has* fewer bugs than *other*
software. *We believe that it is critical that a system responsible for the
public's right to vote
must be open to public inspection in order to ensure that it earns the
public's trust.*

Our approach also *provides flexibility and security to the states by*
allow*ing* election systems
from different vendors to *use compatible data formats*. *Currently*, each
vendor of proprietary systems also uses
proprietary file formats, which leads to a number of concerns.*, *T*he
states are locked into a single vendor for all components in their election
system goinjg forward, which results in purchasing inefficiencies due to
lack of competition. The states are also prevented from mixing systems from
multiple vendors (which would improve security significantly)*. Aggregating
the vote count is complicated by the
fact that the results are presented *by each vendor* in the *incompatible*
formats. It is difficult for states to* talk about
standards *that would increase their flexibility and efficiency* when the
details are trade secrets*.*

** The advent of Open Voting will bring
interoperability, better standards, simplicity and efficiency, as well as
openness.

Last month we gave a demonstration of our prototype voting software to a
receptive public audience. This was announced in the New York Times,
Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, San Jose Mercury News, and many other papers
coast-to-coast **.

People like this sensible idea. After seeing our April 1 demo at the County
Court House in San Jose California, the San Jose Mercury News lauded our
system as the "Touch Screen Holy Grail" (April 8 editorial). ** The San Jose

Mercury News followed their April 8 editorial with another
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.

Open source is a key component of the Open Voting Consortium model, *but*
we've *also* thought
through many other issues related to security, accessibility, and usability.

*A central component in the OVC system is the Voter Verified Paper Ballot, a
simple
mechanism that is easily understood and trusted by voters. This allows the
system to be audited,
and for meaningful recounts to be performed, neither of which are possible
with Direct
Recording Electronic (DRE) systems, a lack that has lead to significant
public concern.*

Reading or vision impaired voters can vote privately and unassisted, as with
*most* other electronic voting machines. But they can also use a separate
independent station that enables them to hear and validate their ballot,
giving them the same full rights to a voter-verified paper ballot as sighted
voters.

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 world's
greatest democracy deserves. The Open Voting Consortium is working with
states and their public universities to advance our open source voting
software development project.

The Open Voting Consortium intends to be a durable organization that will
provide an on-going structure for maintenance and delivery of Open Voting
systems for many years after the Research and Development has been
completed. Our business model is new: it will foster competition among a
greater number of vendors focused on services.

We look forward to increasing the dialog between the Election Assistance
Administration and the Open Voting Consortium. I would appreciate the
opportunity to present our case for open source voting software*, and to
demonstrate
our system,* at one of your public hearings.

Alan Dechert, President
Open Voting Consortium

Board members ... etc.

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-voting-project@afterburner.sonic.net
[mailto:owner-voting-project@afterburner.sonic.net]On Behalf Of Alan
Dechert
Sent: Monday, May 10, 2004 8:09 PM
To: voting-project@lists.sonic.net
Subject: [voting-project] Draft 2 -- letter to EAC commissioners

I took some of your suggestions and changed things around a bit--also added
a bit. Thanks for your input!

It's not done but it's coming along. Maybe one or two more iterations. FYI,
the eac is at www.eac.gov

I think the main subject is open source software for public elections.
However, in response to Arthur, I did add a few plugs for OVC architecture.

I also tried to clarify what we want: We want to be on a panel at the next
EAC hearing.

*********
U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Chair
Gracia M. Hillman, Vice Chair
Paul D. DeGregorio
Ray Martinez III
1225 New York Avenue, NW - Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Commissioners:

We are delighted to learn of your interest in open source software. It is
proper 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.

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 (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
performing and have 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.

Our approach also allows election systems from different vendors to provide
compatible output. As it is, each vendor of proprietary systems also uses
proprietary file formats. 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, better standards, simplicity and efficiency, as well as
openness.

Last month we gave a demonstration of our prototype voting software to a
receptive public audience. 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, the San Jose Mercury News lauded our
system as the "Touch Screen Holy Grail" (April 8 editorial). Open source is
a key component of the Open Voting Consortium model, and we've thought
through many other issues related to security, accessibility, and usability.

Reading or vision impaired voters can vote privately and unassisted, as with
other electronic voting machines. But they can also use a separate
independent station that enables them to 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 their April 8 editorial with another
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 volunteer scientists and
engineers. However, funding will be needed in order to complete and certify
the high-quality production-grade comprehensive software that the world's
greatest democracy deserves. The Open Voting Consortium is working with
states and their public universities to advance our open source voting
software development project.

The Open Voting Consortium intends to be a durable organization that will
provide an on-going structure for maintenance and delivery of Open Voting
systems for many years after the Research and Development has been
completed. Our business model is new: it will foster competition among a
greater number of vendors focused on services.

We look forward to increasing the dialog between the Election Assistance
Administration and the Open Voting Consortium. I would appreciate the
opportunity to present our case for open source voting software at one of
your public hearings.

Alan Dechert, President
Open Voting Consortium

Board members ... etc.

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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:32 2004

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