Re: Shamos Rebuttal, Draft 3

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Thu May 05 2005 - 23:09:46 CDT

Teresa Hommel wrote:

>>> 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.

Neither am I. And neither is OVC. The OVC system is exactly a ballot
marker that improves accessibility, a ballot verifier that allows
anyone (even the disabled) to verify her ballot (which can also be
verified by eye), and a scanner/tabulator that reconciles scanned
ballots to electronic audit images created by the marker.

>>> ...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 donít understand the terms well enough
>>> to evaluate whether a given procedure or law complies or doesnít.
>> 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.

Skepticism of government is vital. It is the thing that makes us say,
"Hold on!" when officials contract out voting administration to
vendors, or buy machines that vendors can hack at will, and the thing
that keeps observers in the field over the long haul. Skepticism is one
of the main things that keeps totalitarianism at bay.

> 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.

These are good. I'll add something along those lines.

> 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 problem.

Am I saying it is? My paper aims to rebut Shamos's technical paper, not
to put forward an entire elections framework, nor particularly to
promote OVC's system. Shamos's paper is bad, it's out there, and it
needs a straightforward rebuttal. That is what I was asked to write,
and what I have written.

> 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.

That is not my view. As I noted before, I'd drop *all* the computers
were it in my power. You have some good ideas about auditing, and far
be it from me to discourage your efforts. But writing all this into the
rebuttal would defocus it severely. If you want to write a paper about
a transparent audit system surrounding OVC's system (or even one that
requires that it be implemented somewhat differently), please do. We
*need* a procedures manual, and such a paper could become its
supporting rationale.

But whatever you do, please don't tell me that I'm "undermining
democracy"; I'm trying my best to preserve it.

>>> 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.

I wish there were fewer couch potatoes as well. But my paper is not the
forum in which to opine on the public laziness, inflated sense of
entitlement, lack of participation, or lack of skepticism. It is
basically a technical rebuttal of a very damaging technical paper.


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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:22 2005

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