Re: Polling Place conditions, reframing the issue. Thumb drives and CD's

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Sun May 16 2004 - 13:54:45 CDT

Arthur,

> Is that perhaps part of the reason that there's been no money raised
> for most of the those 3.5 years? ....
>
Couldn't resist that jab, eh Arthur? Well, you know the standard rap I have
for detractors. In case you haven't heard it lately, here it is.

First, a slight but significant clarification: "no money raised" is not
quite right. I/we have received financial backing from scores of
individuals from the U.S. and around the world. It's more nearly correct to
say we have received no institutional money.... yet.

There are three basic reasons that have made it difficult for this project
to receive institutional funding support:

1) Bottom up approach
2) Large dimensions/implications of the project gives pause
3) My qualifications

Bottom up approach
---------------------
This project started with one person sitting in his living room and thinking
of a better way. The approach was bottom up by necessity. I had no
connections to money and power. I was just a crank with an idea.

>From the day I started presenting the idea to others (Dec 12, 2000), I got
people interested in it. Over time, the idea has percolated up as the base
of support for it has grown around the world. This is evidence (not proof)
that the idea is good--especially when you notice the very high educational
level of people that say the idea is good.

It's much easier to get something going from the top down. People at the
top have access to funding. They don't need a particularly good idea to get
funding for it.

Large dimensions/implications of the project gives pause
---------------------------------------------------------
The voting system is one of the pillars supporting democratic society. Any
proposal to dramatically change the voting system is not likely to receive
instant acceptance. Other characteristics of the proposal have large
implications:

- Challenging the religion of privatization

- May appear to challenge the party in power

- A large victory for open source may mean a defeat for proprietary
systems--not only in the voting system arena.... there may spill-over to
other industries. As we publicly make our case for open source voting, we
are also making the case for open source generally. For example, I included
this chart with the letter to EAC Commissioners
http://www.securityspace.com/s_survey/data/200404/index.html
which shows Apache going up while M$FT going down.

- General power shift. Could be a big victory for grassroots--challenges
the wisdom of the big shots, Dems as well as Repubs. Money going to many
vendors, taking business from a few large ones.

- The system itself has the potential to make democracy more successful by
improving accessibility, transparency, reliability, and affordability of the
foundation of democratic systems.

Decision makers have to ponder what this all means.

My qualifications
-----------------
My qualifications are not bad but not the level that some would expect would
be needed to lead such a project. I am a UC Berkeley graduate: after a
career change in my mid-30s to computers, I developed a pretty good
reputation as an application developer and test engineer. My experience
includes working on 9 different commercial software products at Borland an
Intel. I understand software R&D because been involved in all phases of it
with people that know how to do it. I've also worked on quite a few
departmental applications used in state and county governments.

Nonetheless, this is not something that impresses everyone. I don't have a
track record leading large projects. I don't have a track record building
voting systems. I have never built a really successful corporation. Etc
etc. This makes investment in the project look a little risky. Some people
would rather see the project lead by someone with a better track record.

Like it or not, I have to be the one leading the project for now because I'm
the only one that thoroughly understands the project. My qualifications are
improving as the OVC project grows. I am qualified to lead the project
because I *am* leading the project.

On Dec 14, 2000, Caltech/MIT researchers "announced a collaborative project
to develop an easy-to-use, reliable, affordable and secure United States
voting machine." They never built the U.S. voting machine because they were
never able to agree on an architecture. Furthermore, they never had a
workable plan for transferring the proposed technology.

> .... When you have multiple contributors
> to a project, there is often disagreement. The proposal from UC will
> include a smart card as part of the draft architecture. How long the
> smart card lasts in the architecture is an open question.
>
These are small details of the architecture. I have done a pretty good job
compared to Caltech/MIT when it comes to getting people behind an
architecture. I also came up with a pretty good plan for technology
transfer. Also, I've never said that any of these details were closed
questions. So you're fighting a straw man.

The basic OVC architecture involves,

- Open Source software
- Inexpensive commodity components
- No networked voting machines
- Ballot printed on-the-spot in the voting booth
- Preservation and reconciliation of
     electronic record AND paper record
- Separate machine for ballot verification
   (machine reading of the paper) at the poll site

There are a few other things that are almost "basic OVC architecture." For
example, I did not put "barcodes on the long edge" as basic OVC
architecture. Several credible people have questioned the use of barcodes,
so I am allowing for the possibility that they may not last into the final
product. My guess is that the barcodes will last. The reason for this is
that I don't think we can remove the ballot from the privacy folder until it
goes into the ballot box. The first time a blind person drops their ballot
on the floor fumbling with it trying to feed it into a scanner (if there is
OCR/No barcode), will mean the end of that particular idea.

> >The design for this system is that the voter goes to the voting station
with
> >no such smartcard or PIN. We're adding steps and complexity for voters
and
> >election administrators. It solves a non-existent problem.
>
> When there is a study of risks and the threat analysis, we'll see
> whether it is a "non-existent problem."
>
I've always said study is needed to work out all the details.

[snip]

> >So, be sure to include "dumb card or nothing" to the PIN and smartcard
> >options tbd.
>
> It can go in the UC proposal as an area of study.
>
Oh, thanks, Arthur!

Alan D.
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:46 2004

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