Re: Draft 2 -- letter to EAC commissioners

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 20:54:04 CDT

At 5:09 PM -0700 5/10/04, Alan Dechert wrote:
>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
>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.

A few more changes. Looking better.

>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

best be

>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

open source

>applications like Apache along

on top of

>with an


> open source operating
>system like

(delete like)

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

compatible and interoperable components.

> As it is, each vendor of proprietary systems also uses
>proprietary file formats. Aggregating the vote count

Canvassing the votes

> 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
>Last month

At the beginning of April 2004,

> we gave a demonstration of our prototype voting software to a
>receptive public audience. This

demonstration (don't use non-referential this's)

>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

Office Building

> 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.

Our voting machine has an computerized interface that makes it easy
for voters to cast their ballots, but with an important distinction:
our voting machine prints out the paper ballot for voter
verification. Our voting machines also maintain a record of each
vote for later reconciliation against the paper ballots, ensuring
quick and reliable canvassing.

>Reading or vision impaired voters can vote privately and unassisted, as with
>other electronic voting machines. But they

Again there's a key difference: these voters

>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
>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.

Thus far, 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.

We believe that the development of an open-source voting system is a
worthy use of HAVA research funding that will pay off both in
decreased costs and increased reliability and voter trust.

>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.

Best regards,

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 23:17:32 2004

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