Re: Vote to rescind touch screen purchase

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Thu Nov 20 2003 - 12:52:26 CST

> Hi all, I hope you dont mind a newsworthy if mildly off-topic post.
Thanks, Charlie, for your message. We are trying to focus on how to get the
demo done, but we always welcome important information on the larger

> Last night I led an effort by citizens in my county to overturn the
> county's plan to purchase Sequoia Touch screen voting machines! vote
> passed 7-0 plus they passed a motion to send a letter to the secretary
> of state to as that the state of New Mexico to reconsider.
Congratulations on your efforts! It's good for people to just say "no," but
we also like to see a message like, "save your money, a better system is in
the works" with a reference to the OVC.

> We're a pip-squeak county but scientific credibility (highest per
> capita PhD in world, he said humbly), so maybe its worth letting you
> know this since it could be a selling point in your own communities.
This is impressive.

> In some ways it is a good thing that the county first voted for
> purchasing the machines based upon the information they had at the
> time, then voted to rescind the order after new information was
> credibly presented to them. This makes a good argument to approach
> other election officials in a way that does not ask them to admit an
> error but just says that information is now coming to light and
> reasonable people would not fault you for reconsidering your previous
> decision.
> Three facts seemed to resonate the most with the council. 1) that the
> HAV act, contrary to widespread belief, does not require compliance by
> jan 2004--the real date is 2006 for any U.S. state that either is not
> receiving federal funds or has applied for a wavier 2) That problems
> are not "a thing of the past" but are on-going ....

> ... 3) that much better machines (voter verifiable, and with
> improved source disclosure and review) will be available
> within a year. The unified message was there is no need
> to rush.
If we had stronger support in 2001, this would be moot. We'd already have
the open source inexpensive system with voter-verified paper ballot ready
for delivery. Let's make sure we're not saying the same thing a year from
now. With some decent institutional support, we can get this done (not sure
about "a year," but with enough support it could be done).

> However, I must say something that will upset a few people. This
> county is not out of the woods yet; we still have to convince the
> county election clerk's office not to deploy the free systems she
> already has been given--the council is a different elected body and
> while they can deny funds they cannot prevent deployment of free
> systems. And this is going to be a hard sell because she and her
> colleagues read the Black Box voting web site and came away with the
> idea that all of these problems are just some fiction made up by a
> bunch of wild-eyed, republican-hating, conspiracy theorists. And
> frankly I dont blame her. While Bev harris has done wonders at
> collecting data, drawing connections, and motivating a huge ground
> swell of people against this, she has simultaneously galvanized and
> polarized the largely conservative, elected officials against
> listening further. This a serious issue that this movement needs to
> address. We need more Bevs --she's almost singlehandley got this on
> the map-- but we also need a parallel effort that is deliberately
> disassociated with to increase the sobriety of the
> case against voting.
Your analysis is good. Bev has been somewhat of a polarizing factor but I
would not immediately want to say that's bad or good. Publicity is good.
Exposure is good. People need to hear about these things before they can
decide what to do.

To a certain extent, polarization on this issue is inevitable. It's hard
for Republicans to accept the fact that the voting system really is broken.
Two basic reasons:

1) It would de-legitimize their current favorable postion (including the
election of GWB)
2) Privatization -- this is a basic tenet of the conservatives. There is no
problem the market won't fix... no need for social activism. The profit
motive is always sufficient to bring about the right solution.

The OVC takes the approach that we are offering a solution to a problem. We
are not battling right-wingers that want to take over the voting system. I
don't think you will find anything on our website or presentations that says
otherwise. We have a link to Bev's web sites on our web site but links
don't mean that we endorse everthing on the linked site. Maybe we should
explicitly state that on our links page.

We'll be successful because we will produce a better system that will cost
much less. We need to understand the politics involved: frankly, it's not a
conservative/liberal issue. Our biggest obstacle in California has not been
Republicans. I got the State Senate behind our proposal in 2001. The ones
that gave us the middle finger salute were Democrats in the Assembly and in
the Governor's office. Specifically, the ones in the Assembly giving us the
finger included Hertzberg (then Speaker), Kevin Shelley (majority leader now
Secretary of State), Longville (Chair of the Assembly Elections Committee),
Longville's Chief of Staff, Lloyd Levine (now Assembly member Levine).
These were the main backers of the plan to put a touchscreen paperless
voting machine in every voting booth. In the Jan 17 2001 Assembly hearing I
went to, Lloyd Levine introduce a salesman for Sequoia Systems who then
proceeded to give the audience a sales presentation. Republican Dennis
Mountjoy said that the paperless systems were exactly what all the
scientists were saying not to buy.

The Davis administration was absolutely worthless on the issue of voting
modernization. Professor Brady and I had two meetings with senior staff in
the governor's office in 2001. So, after the multiple meetings and phone
calls, the general attitude was, "okay, you spoke with our staff on the
[insert date/time] and on [insert date/time] and on [insert date/time]
(etc.). We never said we were interested in helping you. Now, haven't you
wasted enough of our valuable time? Go away."

I don't expect Schwartzenegger to be any better on this issue. It doesn't
mean I won't try though. After the demo, we'll go back to work on the state
gov here in CA. If we put on a good demo in the Bay Area, I may even be
able to get the demo set up in a good spot here in Sacramento. I've already
heard some people mutter something about "we should have listened to you"
(e.g., John Mott-Smith, Chief of Elections in SOS office). So, we might be
more effective this time around. And we're not putting all our eggs in one
basket (state gov) like we were in 2001. We are working on multiple fronts.


Alan D.
= The content of this message, with the exception of any external
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain
Received on Sun Nov 30 23:17:04 2003

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun Nov 30 2003 - 23:17:13 CST