Re: Dick Johnson to lead OVC team on report for GAO

From: Edward Cherlin <cherlin_at_pacbell_dot_net>
Date: Fri May 13 2005 - 15:43:04 CDT

On Friday 13 May 2005 09:58, Alan Dechert wrote:
> Dick Johnson has accepted my invitation to lead a team to
> produce a report for the GAO. Jonathan Stanton of George
> Washington University (CS Prof) has agreed to help.
> Jonathan's proximity to GAO offices should help facilitate
> communication with them.
> Basically, I'd like the report to talk about such things as
> public auditability and chain-of-custody issues from the
> perspective of open voting. In other words, I want to
> approach these topics with the OVC concept as a
> frame-of-reference or backdrop.

On the topic of auditability, I would like us to suggest in this
report the need for an independent National Voting Safety Board
modeled on the National Transportation Safety Board and on
various software security hazard groups in government, industry,
and non-profits. The NVSB should have authority and unshirkable
responsibility to investigate all reported incidents of election
irregularities, national, state, or local, to report regularly
on the state of voting systems, and to force action against any
system that shows preventable error, cheating, or official
malfeasance, including forbidding the use of hazardous systems
in upcoming elections. (Optical mark sense should be the minimum
standard and the default fallback.)

The Board should have access to *all* proprietary voting machine
source code for itself and its hired experts. Normally it can
observe NDAs, but it should have authority and duty to publish
the code for errors it discovers, so that it can explain the
hazard clearly to the public (and also to provide extra
motivation to proprietary vendors to clean things up).

It should also be able to levy fines and recommend criminal
prosecution for illegal vendor actions, such as providing
untested updates to their software shortly before elections, or
claiming that their software was tested when it wasn't. (Diebold
is notorious for these practices.) Prosecution and removal from
office should briefly become routine for officials illegally
removing voters from the rolls or otherwise making fair
elections impossible. I say "briefly" on the theory that they
would mostly stop doing it if there were enforced penalties.

We also need an anonymized incident reporting system, like the
Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), independent of the

And the voting machine software testing system should be upgraded
to at least the level of avionics software certification,
standard DO-178B. (I worked for a company that did
avionics-grade real-time Linux.) Here, for further
consideration, is a page listing a remarkable number of aviation
safety organizations.

We can quote Shamos on the comparison between voting code and
avionics code in support of creating the same protections. ;->
In fact it was in working on the Shamos rebuttal paper that this
need occurred to me. 'Tis an ill wind indeed that blows none

Edward Cherlin
Generalist & activist--Linux, languages, literacy and more
"A knot! Oh, do let me help to undo it!"
--Alice in Wonderland
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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:35 2005

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