Re: Electronic Voting Cost Considerations: Calling Geroge Soros!!!

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Tue Nov 25 2003 - 12:53:09 CST

> Thanks for your cautionary advice, Dennis. The reality is that by
> creating an alternative voting system (e.g., one with open-source
> code that runs on PCs), Dechert et al are creating a product that
> will compete with those already in the market, and will threaten
> the income of current machine manufacturers. It's fine to do
> design work, but one should recognize that in order to get
> widespread market uptake, it will be necessary to deal with the
> business realities.
Right Kate. And if the developer of Linux was worried about that, he would
not have written a single line of code. Most of the servers on the Internet
run Linux, but the way. And, yes, Linux is free open source software that
competes with commercial vendors -- vendors that are far more entrenched in
the PC market (e.g., Microsoft, IBM, HP, etc etc) and far more powerful than
the pip squeak companies that pass as election vendors. Diebold is one of
the larger vendors but its elections equipment division is a minor part of
their operations. I doubt seriously they've made dime one from voting
machine sales.

I suggest that you and your readers get some clues about the open source
movement. Our demo development project, EVM2003, is one of 71,000 projects
hosted on There are 740,000 developers registered there.
The open source developers are producing high quality software that will
eventually do everything that all the proprietary systems do.

The Open Voting Consortium ( ) is being constructed
from the ground up as an international consortium of interested parties. We
will deal with the "business realities." Besides the computer scientists
and engineers, we have political scientists, economists, and academic
lawyers on board. U of IL law professor Peter Maggs
( ) contributed to the National Science
Foundation proposal we submitted Oct 8. Besides being an outstanding
lawyer, Maggs is also happens to be a pioneer in computer interfaces for the
disabled. Professor Robert Hunt of the McGeorge School of law is overseeing
the process of incorporation for the OVC.

We now have several corporations interested (they will do well as election
vendors delivering systems that utilize our FREE software) and a small army
of consultants that are also interested in providing services (training,
technical support, etc) in connection with the delivery of the open voting

With NO money and NO institutional support, I have put together a team of 41
... make that 42 scientists and engineers from around the world. These
include some of the top experts in this field including Professor Doug Jones
of the Univ of Iowa.

All I have asked for is a little help from organizations. Last Friday we
got a link on -- no pitch at all, just a link -- and we got
4,000 visitors and 8 new very high quality volunteers, including a Princeton
Univ Computer science professor and other recognized software experts. Bev
Harris now has a link to on her web site. I'm still waiting
to see a link to at

> Re: George Soros. Last week, Leonard Salle and I met
> with Dr. Morton Halperin, who heads the DC office of
> Soros' Open Society Institute, to explore possible interest
> in the electronic voting machine issue. (Soros had been
> publicly quoted as saying that the 2004 election is of
> critical importance to him.) We had been told that Halperin
> acts as a major conduit to Soros. Halperin was completely
> dismissive--said he had heard about voting machines back
> in 2000, decided there was nothing there worth paying
> attention to, nothing that interests OSI. Len & I then called
> the NY office of OSI and were told that the granting
> programs of OSI also would not be interested--it's not one
> of their specified areas of interest. So if anyone else knows
> how to reach Soros, we wish you luck; we'd be glad to
> do what we can to help.
If I could gain an interview with Soros, I'm sure he would like our project.
But the fact is I am already entering into some dialog with some very heavy
hitters -- names you would recognize but I can't give you right now; you'll
hear about that part before long.

> Leonard and I also met with Sarah Wartell, the COO of
> John Podesta's new DC think tank, Center for American
> Progress, about the issue. She similarly indicated that
> electronic voting machines are not of interest to them.
> They are most focused on developing new policy concepts
> from a progressive perspective and getting wide coverage
> in the major media for these. Essentially, another door
> shut at this time.
I have been knocking on doors for three years. Some people get it some
don't. I just don't worry about the ones that don't: I don't waste any time
with them. I am forming a "coalition of the willing" (bad pun, apologies in
advance). There is plenty of horsepower to be tapped with the willing -- I
just need to find more. There was a time when I found maybe one person a
month. These days, I'm finding more every day.

> We talked with Will Marshall, who heads the Progressive
> Policy Institute, the think tank associated with the Democratic
> Leadership Council (DLC), the moderate bloc within the
> Democratic party that's the home base for Clinton, Gore,
> & Lieberman. Marshall was not familiar with the significance
> of the electronic voting machines for election security. We
> barely scratched the surface in talking with him.

> We did develop a couple of other possible leads, but these
> are definitely "birds in the bushes" rather than in the hand.
> We may have some potential interest from People for the
> American Way (PFAW), and will be continuing our
> conversations with them.
Keep it up. You will find some people that want to get involved. But
rather than just bringing attention to the problem, they may also be
interested in hearing about the solution. The Open Voting Consortium is the
solution. As much as I appreciate the work of David Dill and, a voter verified paper ballot is not a solution -- it's
part of the solution, but it's not THE solution. THE solution is much more
complex. Our team has a thorough grasp of these complexities.

> From what we heard in DC from a number of parties, it
> will be necessary to present convincing evidence that
> problems ACTUALLY exist with electronic voting machines,
> that these have ALREADY affected elections, and that if
> the problems are not addressed NOW, there will be no
> reason to trust the outcome of the 2004 election. They all
> want to see a "smoking gun."
I don't see this as very productive at this point. There are articles in
the paper almost everyday now about this issue. There was a very long
article in the NYT Nov 9 "Machine Politics in the Digital Age" where Doug
Jones is quoted in some depth. In other words, people are already doing
what you're trying to do -- and doing so very effectively.

> Our perspective at Commonweal Institute, we believe that
> a top priority for funding is to be able to bring the major
> players together for serious strategic work and setting up
> a coordinated plan to impact the voting machines issue
> across the country.
There is no need for this. The Open Voting Consortium is taking care of

> Yes, this issue will have to play out state-by-state, but
> what will be most helpful to get all the states moving in
> the right direction fast enough to protect our democracy
> in November 2004? ...
I like Bev Harris too, but democracy will not die in 2004. The OVC may or
may not play a major role in the short term (actually, given the clout of
some of the people we're talking to right now, I wouldn't rule out the short
term impact we might have). In any case, we have to grok the whole elephant
and not worry too much about specific short term deadlines.

> It's our belief that it will require significant media coverage
> of a different type than we've seen to date, and the active
> involvement of a number of major players at the national
> level, including in DC, to halt this train and turn it around
> in time. That's what we want to see happen.
Your vision does not inspire me. Eventually (sooner than later I think) the
media will want to hear about an actual solution -- not just some people
wailing about the problem.

The OVC is offering an actual solution to the problem. There are thousands
of individuals and organizations that own a piece of the current system.
For the most part, these owners are not interested in a solution -- they are
just trying to keep (or maybe expand) on the piece they own. We have to
build a juggernaut that will have the momentum to break the stranglehold
they have on the system. We will do it. The sooner the better.



Alan Dechert 916-791-0456
see the remarks I made at the UC Santa Cruz forum on Electronic voting:

----- Original Message -----
From: Judy Bertelsen
Cc: Ellen Malcolm ; Katherine Forrest ; Alan Dechert
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2003 12:50 AM
Subject: Electronic Voting Cost Considerations: Calling Geroge Soros!!!

What is the address of George Soros????

Seriously. Let's find funding!!


Dennis wrote:

Hi Judy et al,

At 08:27 AM 11/24/2003 -0800, you wrote:

I'm trying to find out who are the people working on open source code.
 Does anyone know how close they are to having a product to offer? Is
it really going to be "free," as in free of cost?

If so, it would be great to get the word out. It would knock the
soapbox out from under the people who are carrying on about how much the
paper trail will cost.


Don't get your hopes up too soon. The present effort is on a "proof of
concept" demo. It's NOT a finished product and won't be any time soon.
Dechert and group are trying to show that:

   Open source can get the job done.

   A secure, reliable and accessible voting machine can be built by
   folks with no previous voting machine experience.

They need funding to produce a 'real' product good enough to replace
what the current vendors have already. If public funding is forthcoming,
the end product will be publicly available. If only private funding
is found, then ......

Voting machine systems are complicated. Without help from an existing
vendor with some product experience, it may take some time to produce
a design that actually meets election official's expectations and passes
certification procedures.

The current vendors have a lot of cash to throw around, including funds
intended to 'influence' the buyers, specifiers and certifiers. A publicly
funded group probably wouldn't have (and wouldn't want) that kind of
money. This will put them at some disadvantage with respect to the current

What they WILL have is an inexpensive product that meets our and Shelley's
expectations. What they won't have right away is a support organization
able to run elections under contract from the many small counties that
might need help holding elections and the larger counties that will at
least need to have their staff's trained.

So my conclusion is to keep your fingers crossed that funding will
become available and that the product will become available in '05.
I sure wouldn't go around promising anything to the gullable public,
or worse, the media.

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Received on Sun Nov 30 23:17:08 2003

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