Re: Shamos Rebuttal, Draft 3

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Thu May 05 2005 - 22:28:57 CDT

Ron Crane wrote:

> 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.

Have you evaluated the Automark recently? On May 3 it was demonstrated
in Syracuse NY, and had quite a few accessibility attachments, as well
as a privacy sleeve that shielded the ballot from view of a
person-helper who could insert the ballot into the Automark, remove it
after it was voted on, and insert it into the optical scanner. Why I am
mentioning this, is that an independent and private vote for voters with
disabilities does not require evoting, and can be achieved with ballot
marking devices. No one is doing a favor for voters with disabilities by
giving them a way to cast a purely electronic ballot.

>> 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.

Your sentences are more powerful, and your points are more powerfully
made, without the qualifiers.

>> 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.

Skepticism is not a requirement, and is not the same as participation
and meaningful observation, which can be routine and without any
attitude or expectation. For example, I routinely balance my checkbook
but I don't expect to find errors.

I'm not talking about more than a sentence definition for each term, and
they can be in a footnote if they interrupt the flow of your
presentation. Example:

Ttransparency of an election procedure means that nontechnical ordinary
citizens can meaningfully observe it, thereby eliminating suspicion of
and opportunity for fraud which arise due to unobserved procedures.

> 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.

Last year OVC had a ballot reconciliation procedure that was excellent.
The voter-verified paper ballots would be fed into a reader, creating an
electronic copy. This was to be compared by the computer to the
electronic ballots that were originally recorded when the ballots were
cast. The comparison would guide people to identify and resolve
discrepancies. But that resolution, I presume, would be done before
observers.And the paper ballots could be counted by hand. By creating a
voter-verified paper ballot you are creating something that can be
observed as it is stored and counted. I don't understand why this is a

If you are suggesting that OVC will create a "trustworthy" evoting
system that will be "trustworthy" because it is open-source and of
outstanding quality in design and implementation, then you are reducing
OVC to nothing more than another evote vendor making claims that
nontechnical citizens and election people cannot evaluate, and you are
also undermining democracy by turning it into a nonparticipatory
"trust-me" affair. Of course I would rather trust OVC than one of the
major vendors, but democracy dies when citizens have to trust an
unobserved process, unobserved because ordinary citizens are not
computer-savvy. It is pretty simple. An election system that requires
trust is not acceptable. I guess if OVC is now resolved to create a
"trust" evote system, I'd like to know that.

>> 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.

I wish. If it was, you wouldn't have a nation of couch potatoes
complaining that "they" didn't do it right, "they" were incompetent
(rude, untrained, etc) pollworkers, "they" should have more translators
at the polls, "they" should have provided whatever assistance, etc.

>> 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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