Re: Ms. Tobi's overheated rhetoric

From: Nancy Tobi <nancy_dot_tobi_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Nov 03 2007 - 08:15:50 CDT

Hello everyone. I am - I suppose "honored" to be the subject line in a
thread of this distinctive list serv. A dubious honor, to be sure, but
that's okay. This is a discussion that needs to happen.

First, let me apologize up front for offending those good and honest
"experts" who truly are working for the public good. I count Dr. Jefferson
among these. I have long admired his work, his obvious integrity, and his
contributions to the cause of democracy. The VSTAAB report of last year is
mind blowing and I even allowed myself to assume that the so-called
"mitigations" it suggests are nothing more than straw men for anyone who has
the sense to read the report and understand that those mitigations, no doubt
required by the powers that be, are effectively inconsequential in the face
of the bottom line conclusions of that report: the Diebold architecture is
so bad that the only way to render it usable for elections is a complete
redesign.

Now, to David's specific points:

1) I attended an event last year at Dartmouth College where a speaker from
ACCURATE was describing his/their approach to e-voting. He described his
perfect e-voting technology: it would do everything and leave, as he put it,
nothing to the chance of pollworker human error. Now, first of all, the
arrogance of this techno-elitist is so apparent, in that he was completely
oblivious to the fact that the programming itself was coming from a human,
and therefore subject to the same error (or worse, malevolence) as anything
coming from a pollworker. And second of all, I happen to LIKE my
pollworkers. They are my neighbors and members of my community. I don't feel
the need for a computer, programmed anonymously by someone with no oath of
allegience to NH or my community, to neutralize my pollworkers who are
perfectly capable of doing their jobs. This is the perfect example of the
elitist movement among technologists to yank our elections out of the
populist muck. As many of us are aware, this move to yank our elections out
of the populist muck is becoming quite successful, as polling place after
polling place faces worker shortages because the average citizen who should
be overseeing our elections CAN'T or WON'T do it anymore.

One SoS had told me last year, that they have a law on their books saying
that if no election workers show up on election day, the first citizens have
to run the elections (the show must go on). This is a beautiful thing. But
that state is canceling out that law, because the elections have become so
complex that ordinary citizens can't run them anymore.

I rest my case.

2) The self-appointed experts looking to complexify our elections to the
point where nobody but them understands what is going on: This jolly group
may be found at any meeting of the Technical Guidelines Committee of the
EAC. I understand these people have been appointed to this committee by
someone other than themselves, but in their posture they represent
themselves as the self-appointed arbiters of "what is best for us ordinary
citizen plebes" and what is best in their minds is - apparently -
techno-election complexification.

Have you read the VVSG these folks have put together? More than 600 pages of
highly complex software and hardware specifications.

These guys sit around their NIST office and smugly design voting systems
that are more complex and expensive than a lunar shuttle. All to do the
simple job of counting (and marking) ballots. They see themselves as
do-gooders because they are allegedly designing voting systems bullet proof
to any type of possible human disability or language challenge. This is how
they justify their actions.

But they have never, seemingly, asked the questions about whether or not
their beautiful designs fit the requirements for DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS, which
by nature, must be OPEN, OBSERVABLE, and SIMPLE ENOUGH FOR EVERY PUBLIC
CITIZEN TO OVERSEE.

This is a HUGE problem, this problem of the technologists who have pushed
their way into the halls of power - okay, they've been invited - and are now
positioning themselves as the arbiters of designing our election systems.
Why do you think THEY have been invited but Joe Citizen is repeatedly shut
out? These guys are invited to design our LEGISLATION too! Holt et al freely
borrow language from the VVSG, and we have seen in the case of Microsoft et
al, freely redesign their own legislation to suit the demands of the
technologists.

There is a fundamental question here that must be asked and answered by all
of these technologists: WHAT ABOUT DEMOCRACY???? Does complex technology -
inherently opaque by its very nature - even belong in our elections?

I think this is what is behind Alan's suggestion that all of you
technologists take a public stand on this - or get the hell out of our way
as we try to restore our democracy.

Mr. Jefferson is in a perfect position to raise these fundamental questions
of principle and objectives. If this group of technologists wishes to
continue to be recognized as "scientists" then they ought to start behaving
like scientists:

   - start with the principle you are working with: DEMOCRACY
   - design your "experiments" with defined objectives and parameters:
   DEMOCRATIC STANDARDS FOR ELECTIONS = TRANSPARENCY, OBSERVABILITY,
   ACCESSIBILITY TO ALL CITIZENS REGARDLESS OF THEIR TRAINING, EDUCATION, OR
   BACKGROUND
   - provide legitimate and objective conclusions: SYSTEM A DOES/DOES NOT
   MEET THE STANDARDS OF DEMOCRACY BECAUSE A, B, OR C.
   - test your results: BRING IN ORDINARY CITIZENS AND TRY OUT YOUR IDEAS
   ON THEM. SEE IF THEY WORK.

I hope this clarifies my position and what you have been calling "rhetoric".

Best,

Nancy

On 11/3/07, Arlene Montemarano <mikarl@starpower.net> wrote:
>
> (This will tick some people off.)
>
> Bravo! Well said!-
>
> As a 'little person', I appreciate recognition that all the computer
> jargon remains very much Greek to me, and very very intimidating to many of
> us without the capacity to understand what it is doing with my very precious
> vote. That does not make me a moron. I believe it makes me typical of
> voters.
>
> Nancy does understand it and wants to simplify the process for ALL of us
> down to its necessities. Paper ballot, I mark it myself, I watch people
> count it right there in the room, I can keep track of it all and do not have
> to 'trust' and hope and wonder. Can any of the experts in computer
> technology ever understand how empowering that is?
>
> It would be such a relief if we could all of us then become experts in
> voting and our own voting process.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Jim March wrote:
>
> On Nov 2, 2007 10:44 PM, David Jefferson <d_jefferson@yahoo.com> <d_jefferson@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> David Jefferson wrote,
>
> Whether Ms. Tobi is familiar with what goes on in the behind-the-scenes
> arena or not is irrelevant. There is absolutely no support for her
> outrageous statements even in the public arena. There is no
>
> "elitist movement among technologists to yank our elections out
> of the populist muck",
>
> and there are absolutely no public statements by technologists
> that support that idea. Ms. Tobi, or someone, just made that up.
>
> Likewise, there do not exist any
>
> "self appointed experts ... [who] ... 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".
>
> Who the hell is she talking about?
>
> For God's sake David, exhibit "A" is David Dill.
>
> For exhibit "B"...oh, here's a good one.
>
> I'm right this moment in Pima County AZ (basically Tucson). The Pima
> County Democratic Party is fighting a public records battle to get the
> raw GEMS databases for past elections - the MDB/GBF files. We want to
> take them apart and see if there's been any mid-stream trickery.
>
> Note that this county has already:
>
> * Shut down all phone connections to their TSx systems - in other
> words, pulled MS-RAS off the central tabulator as it's an obvious
> channel straight in.
>
> * Not only have they disconnected their servers from the county
> intranet and real Internet, they've exposed every inch of wire so that
> we can visibly see that they have.
>
> * They finally (based on our demands) agreed to change the passwords
> and incoming optical scan modem number for each election. And as
> usual in a Diebold system, everybody logs into the server as user
> "admin".
>
> So, there's no "private data" left in the data files and no way we can
> get a "hacked database" back into their process - and all because of
> OUR demands for better security. They still don't want to turn the
> raw data files over, allegedly so as to avoid giving "us" (Pima County
> Democrats plus one stray Libertarian in the mix - yours truly) a
> "hacking roadmap" to future elections. Never mind that anybody who
> wants can download and scope out in MS-Access a number of GEMS
> databases available for download since 2003.
>
> ALSO note that this county has a penchant for screwed up elections
> processes...they plug holes as we (outside observers) find them and
> scream bloody murder. The biggest so far is that we've proven these
> turkeys have been printing summary reports (showing who's winning and
> losing) up to 10 days before election day based on the mail-in vote.
> That's tracked in the audit logs. According to sworn testimony by
> lower-level Pima elections staff, these have been passed around the
> office like they were baseball scores, AND made their way into the
> hands of at least one elected official (felony per AZ law). We also
> (per two disgusted underlings) know that the Pima election dept's lead
> "tech" has been taking copies of the MDB/GBF on CD, in his briefcase,
> as "offsite backup". This is the same clown who was spotted with an
> open copy of an MS-Access programmer's manual while sitting at the
> central tabulator on election night, May of 2006, in a special
> election with a $2bil (yeah, billion) bond measure that had failed
> four times previously and won this time against all polling
> predictions.
>
> So overall, we damned well have a number of reasons to want to scope
> things out around here. We're about ready to pound the door down with
> a 20ft cactus (which are rather plentiful) but have instead gone to
> court.
>
> So which computer scientist does the county drag out here to the
> desert to talk about the urgent need for "Security By Obscurity" as an
> "expert witness"?
>
> Merle King, comp. sci. professor from Kenessaw U. in Georgia. This is
> the partner of Brit Williams who helped set up the Georgia Diebold
> system featuring all the worst possible ideas in electronic voting: a
> total conversion in '02 to the Diebold TS paperless DRE.
>
> So Professor Jefferson, don't you dare tell me there aren't
> "academics" who are adamantly opposed to "the little people" (those
> who don't have comp. sci. degrees and NDAs) being able to audit
> elections. Don't. You. Dare. We have ALL run into such critters if
> we've worked this issue long enough and if you had your eyes open or
> your "integrity flag" set to [/ON] you'd see it too.
>
> Nancy Tobi was anything but "hysterical".
>
> Jim March
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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:07 2007

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