Re: Shamos Rebuttal, Draft 3

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Sat May 07 2005 - 16:30:56 CDT

On May 6, 2005, at 9:55 PM, Edward Cherlin wrote:

> On Friday 06 May 2005 17:25, Ron Crane wrote:
>> On May 6, 2005, at 5:12 PM, Edward Cherlin wrote:
>>> OK, I have started a complete revision today.
> ...
>>>> My
>>>> next draft will include full formal citations for all the
>>>> hyperlinks (talk about drudgery!)
>>> Yes, I'm sorry, but I'm going to add more. I'll help, too.
>> Great. I'll wait for your revision, then we can work on it
>> together. Any idea when you'll be able to share something?
>> -R
> Attached.

Thanks. I like the added emphasis on transparency and citizen auditing.
The phrasing needs some work, which I'll perform in the next draft.

I would like to describe instances of gambling machine cheating, but
not the one about Ron Harris. The reason is that 3.5.1 advocates
requiring intrusive inspection of voting machines along the same lines
as gambling machines, which are thus inspected by the Nevada Gaming
Control Board. But Harris did his cheating while working for the Board,
and using its inspection equipment to insert his cheating code. This
introduces a difficult rhetorical issue that would make us look like
we're talking out of both sides of our mouths. If you know of other
instances of gambling machine cheating that involve vendors, please
bring them up.

Some of the other changes tend to defocus the argument, such as the
comments about the Founders and 'Reflections on Trusting Trust'.

Generally I want to keep the focus on dishonest vendors (as opposed to
politicans and voting officials), since Shamos's main argument is that,
with a few tweaks, vendors can be trusted. They must not be, and their
global reach implies a global reach for potential vendor fraud.

I disagree with some other edits. For example, on average, the
incentive to verify votes is substantially weaker than the incentive
to verify financial transactions. Almost everyone cares about her
money, while many (a majority, in most cases) don't care enough about
voting even to cast a ballot. I don't want explicitly to raise "the
possibility of an alliance between vendors and political parties or
even administrations, as in disputed elections in Central Asia...."; it
will sound too much like "conspiracy theories" to many readers. The
qualification about one-party districts is an oxymoron: the voting
system knows the parties involved in each election, so it's not going
to shift votes between parties if there isn't more than one party
involved (e.g., during a primary election). I strongly disagree with
your deletion of the argument about vendors distributing Trojan Horses
along with regular updates; it is a perfect subterfuge. "Cheating with
triggers" requires vendor-provided malware, so it's already implicitly
covered elsewhere. Also it will read like conspiracy theories to many,
since it requires many individuals to cooperate to produce any
significant effect.

I am deleting the last item in 5. It's a minor point, and I refuse to
cite any improperly-conducted poll (such as the ACM's poll on paper
trails) in any formal paper.

The qualifications you added to the conclusion weaken it substantially,
and introduce terms not elsewhere defined ("auditable dual data paths",
"Best Practices").

Finally, I am a little confused by your edit in 3.3. Earlier you
blasted [1] my comparison between software and bridges, saying that,
"among historians of bridge engineering it fails the laugh test--in
fact the guffaw, hoot, and holler, pounding on the floor with tears in
your eyes test." But your edit leaves the comparison intact, with a
general qualification "normally" (which, BTW, is already implied by the
footnote), and the addition of a description of the Tacoma Narrows
bridge and its mechanism of failure that only confuses the

I'll kick out another draft tomorrow.


[1] I (and probably others) would be happier at OVC if our discussions
contained rather less dragon-fire.

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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:24 2005

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