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

From: Richard C. Johnson <dick_at_iwwco_dot_com>
Date: Fri Nov 02 2007 - 12:45:52 CDT

Stuart,

Here is some example Open Source code from the OpenScan system. See how difficult you think it would be to figure out. My own thought is that most people could correctly understand what is being coded and could also see that no subroutine doing nasty things was hidden in the code:

<EML Id="230" SchemaVersion="5.0">
  <TransactionId>OK-2007-09-1</TransactionId>
  <CandidateList>
  <Election>
  <ElectionIdentifier Id=“Oklahoma 2007" />
  <Contest>
  <ContestIdentifier Id="State Governor" />
     <Candidate>Brad Henry</Candidate>
    <Candidate>John Wayne</Candidate>
    <Candidate>Bill Okapi</Candidate>
    <Candidate>Jane Smith</Candidate>
</Contest>
</Election>
</CandidateList>
</EML>

***************************

I do believe that there are enough people who could read such code to make such Open Source a reasonable approach to increased transparency of elections. How many people can read the above and understand it? Quite a few, I would think. I admit, Open Source drivers for a scanner are more difficult, but I can read them even if it would be hard for me to write them myself.

-- Dick

stuart mawler <smawler@gmail.com> wrote: here is an honest question... why do we (writ large, not *this*
group) assume that the "average person" is unqualified to read code,
while simultaneously believing that these same people are qualified to
read legal tomes? our form of government is based on what amounts to
"open source legislation". it flows from the assumption that everyone
can read and understand the legal twists and turns in any bill. but
how many stories have you heard recently about sub-prime mortgages and
how the people receiving these were unable to understand the fine
print? and yet these are citizens who are expected to read and
understand bills in congress.

when it comes to voting software, people seem to believe that such
things are on a new level of complexity. do i really expect that the
average person will read open source voting software? nope, but no
more than i would expect then to read a bill passing through congress.
 the expertise needed to each discipline is significant, but that does
not mean that either form of "source" should be closed or allowed only
to "experts".

just curious about what appears to be a disparity. why not require
that legislation can only be reviewed by "experts"?

(resume lurk mode)

        - stuart

stuart mawler
IT consultant
graduate researcher
smawler@gmail.com

On 11/2/07, Nancy Tobi wrote:
> Mr. Johnson wins the "D'oh" award in this great debate over our democracy. I
> bow in humility before the greatness of his simple, succinct, and immensely
> powerful observation:
>
> The ability to define experts is the ability to exclude the truly qualified
> members of the public who may not yet have knuckled under to the powers that
> be.
>
> Exactly. The only experts in our form of democracy are We The People. We,
> who have by no means knuckled under to the powers that be, and who are ever
> hopeful we can fulfill the promise of our Declaration of Independence to
> "alter or abolish" our government through the peaceful and eminently
> democratic VOTE rather than revolution, which is a much messier process.
>
> 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.
>
> Nope. D'oh.....
>
> ~Nancy Tobi
>
>
>
>
>
> On 11/2/07, Richard C. Johnson wrote:
> >
> > Barbara,
> >
> > I understand the hopelessness that one experiences looking at the vast
> power and resources of Microsoft. However, capitulation and assimilation
> are not truly required as yet. The ability to define experts is the ability
> to exclude the truly qualified members of the public who may not yet have
> knuckled under to the powers that be. The NDA is perfectly capable of being
> used as a bludgeon against those who deviate from the Microsoft party line,
> whether or not there is an actual provable offense. How can an ordinary
> citizen without means sign such a document and then defend against an
> unjustified lawsuit?
> >
> > Personally, I would never sign such an NDA, simply because it renders
> dissent unsafe. Even winning a lawsuit brought by Microsoft could easily
> beggar any ordinary person. Sign that NDA and you are their expert, their
> pawn, theirs to intimidate into silence. Is telling the truth really worth
> losing the house you live in?
> >
> > We as citizens are still able to rear back on our own two feet and say
> "NO." We can vote, more or less. And we do not need to accept the
> perversion of the Holt Bill. Compromise is good in general, but giving away
> the baby to get bathwater is not a good deal.
> >
> > The EAC has requested public comment on its draft of voluntary guidelines,
> such as the Glossary item redefining a ballot as a summary of votes
> (pandering to the paper trail crowd who fear to fly their own flag). I urge
> you and other citizens to go to
> http://www.elections.state.ny.us/portal/page?_pageid=35,1,35_26319:35_26327&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL#HAVAPC
> > and comment on the document. Start with the Glossary (1984 definitions
> our specialty, ballots are not ballots, etc) and put your comments on the
> record. Stand up for what we believe and speak truth to power. Exercise
> what remains of your civil rights, because there are those who would take
> these rights from you. Absent the right to vote in a rational and competent
> set of procedures, what is left to our democracy?
> >
> > -- Dick
> >
> >
> >
> > Barbara Simons wrote:
> >
> > An "oath of secrecy" is not the description I would use. I urge people
> > to read the bill. However, I have transcribed the relevant portion
> > below for those of you who don't have the time to scroll through the
> > legislation.
> >
> > Holt had always called for no secret software. The change in the
> > legislation was forced by Microsoft. I believe that no federal
> > legislation could pass that prohibited secret software, at least not
> > while MS has the power and influence that it currently has.
> >
> > That said, I believe that the pro-HR811 negotiators did a remarkable
> > job, given the pressure they were under. The bill requires that all
> > "election-dedicated voting system technology" be certified and escrowed
> > with an accredited laboratory. The disclosure restrictions apply only
> > to the accredited laboratories. The labs are required to disclose
> > "technology and information regarding the technology" to a "qualified"
> > person who has signed an NDA OR (not AND) "is required to disclose the
> > technology to the person under State law."
> >
> > A "qualified" person is (quoting from the text of the legislation):
> >
> > 1. a government entity with responsibility for the administration of
> > voting an election-related matters for purposes of reviewing, analyzing,
> > or reporting on the technology;
> > 2. A party to pre- or post-election litigation challenging the results
> > of an election or the administration or use of the technology used in an
> > election, including but not limited to election contests or challenges
> > to the certification of the technology, or an expert for a party to such
> > litigation, for purposes of reviewing or analyzing the technology to
> > support or oppose the litigation, and all parties to the litigation
> > shall have access to the technology for such purposes;
> > 3. A person not described in the above clauses who reviews, analyzes,
> > or reports on the technology solely for an academic, scientific,
> > technological, or other investigation or inquiry concerning the accuracy
> > or integrity of the technology.
> >
> > Perhaps even more important, there are crucial limitations on what the
> > NDA can require. In particular, the NDA MUST allow:
> > 1. "disclosure of evidence of crime, including in response to a
> > subpoena or warrant;"
> > 2. "the signatory to perform analyses on the technology (including by
> > executing the technology), disclose reports and analyses that describe
> > operational issues pertaining to the technology (including
> > vulnerabilities to tampering, errors, risks associated with use,
> > failures as a result of use, and other problems), and describe or
> > explain why or how a voting system failed or otherwise did not perform
> > as intended."
> >
> > Had the Holt bill been law during the Sarasota court case, it seems to
> > me that Florida would have been required to provide Jennings' expert
> > witness with the code. That is a huge improvement over the status quo,
> > even if it's not as much as many of us would like.
> >
> > Regards,
> > Barbara
> >
> > Fred McLain wrote:
> > > Aha, now I see why there is such strong opposition to HR-811 as
> > > currently worded. By forcing those that would inspect the code to
> > > somehow prove that they are qualified to do so and forcing an "oath of
> > > secrecy" upon them the vast majority of those that would inspect the
> > > code, the OSS community, to exclude themselves from the inspection
> > > process. That is completely unacceptable.
> > >
> > > I write complex software for a living and have lead open voting
> > > software development projects. I my experience there is no need for
> > > closed source, secrecy or anything of the sort.
> > >
> > > I would also assert based on my 25+ years of active software
> > > development and my 4 years in voting software development that there
> > > is *no need for an operating system* in voting equipment. In fact, it
> > > would be best to write this without an OS since the inspection becomes
> > > far simpler and more reliable.
> > >
> > > -Fred-
> > >
> > > On Oct 30, 2007, at 2:49 PM, Hamilton Richards wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > >> A few thoughts after watching the YouTube video of Rush Holt, which
> > >> is actually at .
> >
> > >>
> > >> Code inspection is a sideshow
> > >> -------------------------
> > >> Rush Holt is quite right--the integrity of elections can be assured
> > >> not by inspecting source code but by auditing paper records. Auditing
> > >> amounts to an end run around any possible shenanigans in the software.
> > >>
> > >> If the video's unsourced claim that "up to 10% of the
> > >> electronically-generated paper records allowed by HR811 are damaged,
> > >> unreadable, and unusable for audits" is based on anything, it's based
> > >> on early implementations produced by manufacturers who have an
> > >> interest in seeing them rejected. Electronically generated
> > >> voter-verified paper ballots can be far more reliable than
> > >> hand-marked ones, and far less vulnerable to ballot-box stuffing and
> > >> spurious rejection by crooked election officials.
> > >>
> > >> Concerning code inspection, it's universally accepted in computing
> > >> science that code cannot be validated by inspection. You can inspect
> > >> a piece of software all you like, and when you finally quit, you
> > >> cannot know whether there's a flaw--innocent or deliberate--that you
> > >> missed. Therefore the arguments about "full disclosure" of election
> > >> software are at best a sideshow. Requiring inspectors of proprietary
> > >> software to sign NDAs is no more than one would expect from
> > >> commercial software vendors, who habitually commit the accounting
> > >> error of booking lines of code under Investment, rather than Expense.
> > >>
> > >> The video's contention that "The committee changed the bill when they
> > >> heard from Microsoft ... so ordinary American citizens can never know
> > >> how their votes are being counted" is disingenuous. Microsoft could
> > >> publish its entire inventory of software on the web, and "ordinary
> > >> Americans" would still never know how their votes were being counted.
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> Open source is a good thing
> > >> -----------------------
> > >> Discounting the importance of software disclosure is not to say that
> > >> open-source software for elections wouldn't be a great step forward,
> > >> but the reason is not that it would guarantee election integrity.
> > >>
> > >> One reason in favor of open source is that truly open software would
> > >> be of higher quality initially than proprietary software (there's
> > >> nothing quite like knowing that your work will be viewed critically
> > >> by hundreds of your peers), and it could be expected to continue to
> > >> improve in response to scrutiny and contributions from the
> > >> open-software community.
> > >>
> > >> Another reason is that election officials choosing open-source
> > >> software would be free from enslavement to a particular vendor. A
> > >> vendor that charged too much or failed to perform could be replaced
> > >> by another vendor, since all would have access to the same software.
> > >>
> > >> Some proponents of open source, always looking for more arguments in
> > >> its favor, claim that open source is less insecure than undisclosed
> > >> source. That claim may have some merit, but it's of no practical use
> > >> ("less insecure" is like "less pregnant")--unless the software is
> > >> known to be completely secure, other security measures such as
> > >> voter-verified paper ballots are still essential.
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> The mythical golden age
> > >> --------------------
> > >> The video makes the claim that "we already have 'verifiable'
> > >> elections. They're called hand counted, paper ballot elections. We
> > >> don't need a federal bill...". The colorful history of election fraud
> > >> in the days before computers is so widely known that this can only be
> > >> another disingenuous claim. Its author's antipathy to the use of
> > >> computers in elections is evident, but since it is unsupported by any
> > >> logical arguments, it's far from persuasive.
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> Profits are evil?
> > >> ------------
> > >> The video ends by asserting that no one should make a profit from
> > >> elections. Does that mean that election officials should not be paid?
> > >> That the suppliers of printed paper ballots should provide them at
> > >> cost? How about the printers' suppliers of paper and ink? This smells
> > >> like a religious argument more than a logical one, and the thing
> > >> about religion is that you either get it or you don't. Brandishing
> > >> religious arguments at nonbelievers is famously counterproductive.
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> The bottom line
> > >> -------------
> > >> Your mileage may differ, but for me HR811, imperfect as it is,
> > >> represents a worthwhile step forward, and I'm grateful to Rep. Holt
> > >> for introducing it and for putting up with all the flak.
> > >>
> > >> Cheers,
> > >>
> > >> --Ham
> > >>
> > >> At 12:00 PM -0700 2007/10/30,
> ovc-discuss-request@listman.sonic.net
> > >> wrote:
> > >>
> > >>> [...]
> > >>>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > >>>
> > >>> Message: 1
> > >>> Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2007 10:34:35 -0400
> > >>> From: "Nancy Tobi"
> > >>> Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] [FWD: RE: [vote-technology] Booted out of
> > >>> the Hotel at the 2007 Post-Election Auditing Summit]
> > >>> To: "Open Voting Consortium discussion list"
> > >>>
> > >>>
> >
> > >>> [...]
> > >>> But most interesting to you may be Representative Holt's OWN WORDS
> > >>> on the
> > >>> subject. You can see those here:
> > >>>
> > >>> http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=HANDSONELECTIONS
> > >>>
> > >>> Best,
> > >>>
> > >>> Nancy Tobi
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >> --
> > >>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> > >> Hamilton Richards, PhD Department of Computer Sciences
> > >> Senior Lecturer (retired) The University of Texas at Austin
> > >> ham@cs.utexas.edu hrichrds@swbell.net
> > >> http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ham/richards
> > >>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
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> > >>
> > >>
> > >
> > > Instant Messaging (IM) Addresses:
> > > Jabber: mclain@jabber.org
> > > Yahoo: appworx_fred, schemalogic_fred
> > > MSN: appworx_fred@hotmail.com, schemalogic_fred@hotmail.com
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> > >
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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:05 2007

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