Re: Shamos Rebuttal, Draft 3

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Thu May 05 2005 - 21:32:23 CDT

On May 5, 2005, at 6:18 PM, Teresa Hommel wrote:

> Hi Ron,
>
>
> Please do NOT list me as an author or contributor to this article.
>
>
> I think this project is very important, and this work you have done is
> an excellent beginning. First drafts are the hardest work. But it
> really is only a first draft, and it reads like one, stiff, wordy,
> unfocused, and ready for a second draft. It is ready for another good
> writer, or yourself at a later time, to take this material and focus
> it for a specific audience.
>
> The reason I do not want to be listed as an author or contributor is
> that as written, the article does not express any of my points of view
> or suggestions. Merely including the word "transparency" a few times
> does not make it clear that democracy is govt of by and for the
> people, and if people cannot effectively or meaningfully observe
> election procedures then those procedures and the entire election lack
> legitimacy.

I mostly agree with this viewpoint and would, if I had the Ring of
Power, require nondisabled voters to cast paper ballots, which would be
counted by hand under the continuous supervision of multipartisan
observers. I don't see this happening, so I am working to make OVC's
open source, open hardware system as secure and private as it can be.

> Also, I think the article is excessively detailed and technical. I
> thought someone wanted to circulate it to legislators or officials in
> PA. I cannot believe that anyone except a techie would read this.

I never have received that degree of guidance about its intended
audience. Unfortunately Shamos makes a great many technical errors,
which must be countered in the technical sphere. If they are not, the
idea that existing e-voting systems are "good enough" (or even
"perfectly good") will continue to resound through the ranks of
politicians and elections officials. That we cannot have.

> Below are three suggestions, and attached is the whole thing with
> edits on the first page.
>
> Teresa Hommel
>
> 1. Cut the “amusement” stuff and other emotion-laden or attutude words.

Those words are there not to be snarky, but subtly to counter Shamos's
put-downs and to keep the reader's interest. Nonetheless I'll sleep on
the idea of removing them.

> 2. You have to define what transparency, accountability, and the
> nature of American democracy are. You cannot assume that anyone knows
> what your concept of these abstractions are. I have found that even
> voting rights activists don’t understand the terms well enough to
> evaluate whether a given procedure or law complies or doesn’t.

I have given a very brief background, indicating that skepticism of
government is bedrock. You want much more. I'm not sure it has a place
in this paper, or that many would read it were it written. You find
this stuff interesting, as do I, but for most people it's one big
snore.

> Democracy has to be implemented by people, not by computers.  A lot of
> OVC emailers have a problem with this concept. If elections as
> currently being conducted cannot be conducted without computers, then
> the elections should not be conducted that way. The only way to
> achieve election legitimacy is by having multipartisan observers of
> ballot-handling and vote-counting. 

As noted, that would be my preference. But I don't see it happening,
and am trying to make the apparently-inevitable e-voting systems be as
good as they can be. I think OVC's will, with sufficient attention, be
very secure. However, it will always lack the degree of transparency of
hand-counted paper ballots.

> I suggest that you state that democracy and democratic elections have
> to be of, by, and for the people (demos, people), and that elections
> are not a government service or entitlement that someone or some Board
> of Elections or vendor performs for the people.

I think this is obvious.

> 3. Do not refer to the American govt as a republic. It is supposed to
> be a democracy. A republic can be a dictatorship. Just because Shamos
> uses the term doesn’t mean you have to use it.

It is a democratic republic: we elect representatives ("democratic"),
who are accountable to us, and they directly carry out the business of
government ("republic"). It is not a "democracy", because citizens do
not directly carry out the business of government (with certain
exceptions like the initiative or town hall).

-R

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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:22 2005

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