Re: Shamos Rebuttal, Draft 3

From: Ron Crane <voting_at_lastland_dot_net>
Date: Tue May 10 2005 - 18:06:23 CDT

On May 10, 2005, at 3:14 PM, Edward Cherlin wrote:

> On Tuesday 10 May 2005 13:23, Ron Crane wrote:
>> On May 10, 2005, at 11:59 AM, Edward Cherlin wrote:
>>> On Sunday 08 May 2005 18:13, Ron Crane wrote:
>>>> On May 8, 2005, at 2:11 PM, Edward Cherlin wrote:
>>>>> It is proverbial in the computer business (unlike
>>>>> politics) that incompetence is to be suspected before
>>>>> malice...
>>>>>
>>>>> So we should not focus only on the malicious vendor. The
>>>>> known incompetent vendors together with the known
>>>>> malicious/corrupt politicians with the money to hire
>>>>> corrupt programmers and other technical people are here.
>>
>> Incompetence has been a huge problem. However, I think you're
>> treating some events as evidence of incompetence when they
>> could just as well have been evidence of fraud.
>
> "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times is
> enemy action."--Gen. George Patton
>
> No, I don't make such a judgment. It would not surprise me in the
> least to see it proved that a vendor committed election fraud,
> and I would be delighted for the evidence to come out, if so.
> The point at issue is whether we should emphasize fraud alone,
> or point out that Shamos is guilty of overlooking incompetence,
> and hit the vendors hard on it. Even though he mentions errors,
> he does not follow up on the point, and this is the greatest
> failing of his paper.

I disagree. His biggest failing is trusting vendors, and his second
biggest failing is trusting himself to be capable of identifying all
the ways in which vendors might cheat.

>> Looking
>> through
>> http://www.votersunite.org/info/messupsbyvendor.asp shows many
>> instances of lost votes, switched votes, inability to cast
>> votes for certain candidates, etc. Your "Occam's Election
>> Razor" would attribute all of these to incompetence.
>
> I made no such statement. I said incompetence before malice, not
> to the exclusion of malice. You have had trouble reading other
> statements of mine accurately. Please be careful.

Thanks for the dragon-fire. I don't smoke, though.

Again I disagree. I think "incompetence before malice" is an
inappropriate guide to understanding the issues. It basically adopts
Shamos's approach of requiring critics to prove that e-voting systems
are insecure, rather than the appropriate heuristic of requiring their
advocates to prove that they are.

I do not oppose mentioning error. In fact, I mention a variety of cases
that might be error -- or might be fraud -- in s.3.2.1,
next-to-the-last paragraph. But I disagree that error should be the
paper's focus. Error largely could be remedied by better in-vendor
review processes and better testing, making an open system like OVC's
unnecessary. It's potential fraud (and issues of transparency that are,
at base, largely worries about fraud) that motivate open systems, not
so much error.

>> I don't
>> think that's a valid assumption, since it shortchanges the
>> strong motivation to engage in fraud. I basically disagree
>> that the Razor is, itself, justified. And its use makes it
>> more difficult to address vendor fraud.
>
> No. The law requires consideration of intent in criminal cases.
> The question must always be addressed.

"Criminal cases"? I don't see what this has to do with the paper.

...
>> Making it a general overview
>> of voting system security would make the paper much longer
>> (and thus less likely to be read) and require significantly
>> more effort.
>
> I am not calling for much more than we have already written. We
> can refer to the specific studies of vendor error published
> elsewhere. We must call attention to them, and use them to
> discredit Shamos further by pointing out that he is misleading
> the public more by leaving that topic out than by any of his
> overt errors. We don't have to incorporate the other material
> wholesale.

Write something, then. And please include references. I have
incorporated some of your other material, but do not have time to
research stuff where you say "[ref]". Please also answer my emails in
which I asked for a specific reference.

>> We probably should write such a paper,
>
> OK.
>
>> but I
>> disagree that this paper should be it. Certainly Alan's
>> request was not for a general overview, but for a (hopefully
>> readable and relatively brief) rebuttal. Further, someone
>> already wants to send this paper to a legislator. I would
>> prefer to release it soon enough to make this possible.
>
> Fine with me.

Good. I'm glad finally to be writing the paper that Alan asked me to
write.

> [snip]
> Please edit your posts to avoid unnecessary verbiage.

You too.

-R

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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:32 2005

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