Re: Representative Holt's OWN WORDS [Re: OVC-discuss Digest, Vol 36, Issue 9]

From: David Jefferson <d_jefferson_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Fri Nov 02 2007 - 12:19:02 CDT

Nancy Tobi wrote: > The elitist movement among technologists to yank our elections > out of the populist muck is a big problem that remains for the > most part un-debated. Especially among the elite themselves. > A shame, because many of these elitists are quite intelligent and > could no doubt bring interesting and useful insights to a real > debate and discussion about Democracy. > But these self appointed experts with their singular access to > Capital Hill who are advising and advocating for IT standards in > our elections have completely fallen off the People's boat, and > are drowning in their own self created illusion that a high tech, > complexified, opaque, and expertified election system can meet > the standards for a free and open democracy. As one of those who might be classified among the "elite" technologists who influence election security, I find this kind of writing to be utter nonsense and offensive. I know of no one except vendors, vendor sympathizers, and under-informed politicians who argues that access to details of election technology should be confined to "experts". The "experts" are all -- without exception -- completely aware that it would be antidemocratic and terrible public policy to confine technical information about voting systems to experts. Almost all of us favor complete public disclosure of all voting system code, at least once it is cleaned up enough that its disclosure does not do more security harm than good. (And if it were up to me, there would be a date certain after which all such code must be disclosed or decertified.) The idea that there is an "elitist movement among technologists to yank our elections out of the populist muck" is complete nonsense. I know all of these technologists, and absolutely no one fits that description--even the ones I vociferously disagree with. The idea that this is a "big problem that remains for the most part un-debated. Especially among the elite themselves." is also nonsense. If there is no debate it is only because all of the "elite" technologists agree with you that voting technology cannot be left up to technologists. Your characterization of these "experts" as "self appointed" is also nonsense. To the extent that these experts have the roles they do it is because they were appointed, not by themselves, but by election officials and authorities in California, Florida, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and other places around the country. And for the most part the authorities have chosen technical experts well. The people who did the California TTBR, the Florida studies of ES&S and Diebold, the ongoing Ohio review, and the computer scientists who serve on the TGDC and at NIST are among the best in the world. The fact that so much has already been disclosed about the current state of voting system technology is largely from the efforts of the very technologists you are trying to smear. None of us wants to sign NDAs, and all of us want the technology to be open. You apparently have no idea what actually happens. As a recent example, I can tell you that the currently ongoing Ohio study was delayed for *months* by bitter wrangling over the content of the nondisclosure agreement and the right regarding publication, potential redaction, and prepublication review of the final study. It is the technologists who are fighting those battles that you are clearly totally unaware of. We literally spend as much time fighting over openness as we do in the technology studies themselves. There were similar struggles in Florida and California, and in each case it is the technologists fighting for more extensive public disclosure. I myself have fought some of these
 battles, most prominently over Internet voting in which I refused to sign any NDA when joining a panel to review the DoD's Internet voting system, SERVE, in 2004. Our subsequent damning report, which is public, caused that system to be shut down in early 2004 before it could be used. Ms. Tobi, I really hate to see writing like yours. You have no idea what you are talking about on these points, and should not be writing in such a slapdash sarcastic tone. The long fight for election security and transparency is not helped when people just make stuff up and sling mud at the wrong targets. David Jefferson

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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:04 2007

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