"Unbelievers are allowed to depart"

From: Edward Cherlin <cherlin_at_pacbell_dot_net>
Date: Mon May 23 2005 - 04:04:12 CDT

There have been a number of people on this list (and several
others that I have received) who are remarkably resistant to
facts. For example, it does no good to refuse to recognize that
the law is as it is, however much we may wish it to be
different. We can argue that the law *should* be different if we
are also willing to discuss whether we are likely to be able to
convince people to change it. However, insisting that settled
principles of law and human rights are invalid gets us worse
than nowhere.

One of the leading principles of democracy is the secret ballot.
If you don't believe in the secret ballot, you have no
credibility in voting matters. This is not our private opinion
on this list. It is established fact nationwide and beyond. If
you would rather argue for a non-secret ballot than work on
securing the secret ballot, we are not the people you want to
work with.

We can argue for laws permitting, encouraging, and even requiring
Free/Open Source Software and paper ballots with an electronic
audit trail. We cannot argue for publishing ballots in a way
that allows anybody to determine routinely whose ballots they
are. This is a thorny issue, because publication of all ballots
does allow some voters to be identified, while not publishing
them prevents independent analysis and detection of fraud.
Denying either of these plain facts is not helpful.

What we need is more facts. Perhaps someday we can secure
ballots, using open software and a robust audit capability, to
the point where the results are not routinely called into
question, without having to provide for routine outside
analysis. Perhaps this is not that day, and we have to take some
risks with privacy in order to secure accountability. And then,
perhaps, we will have to choose where we come down along that
axis, and explain to others why that is the best choice in the
circumstances. But we certainly cannot just dismiss either
privacy or accountability.

I have faced this issue many times in my work on spam. There are
people who believe that spam should be legal, and should be
fought by technical rather than legal means. They can believe
what they like, but we didn't let them come in and interfere in
the workings of a group devoted to creating laws against spam
and getting them passed.

If any of you think the rest of us at OVC (or any of us in
particular) are blockheads for not seeing the brilliance and
inevitability of your ideas, you have your reward. Please don't
try to foist it on the rest of us.

-- 
Edward Cherlin
Generalist & activist--Linux, languages, literacy and more
"A knot! Oh, do let me help to undo it!"
--Alice in Wonderland
http://cherlin.blogspot.com
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Received on Tue May 31 23:17:45 2005

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