Re: Ms. Tobi's overheated rhetoric

From: Barbara Simons <simons_at_acm_dot_org>
Date: Sat Nov 03 2007 - 15:33:37 CDT

I cannot believe that such a destructive, petty, and vindictive
discussion is occurring on this list. Because mine is a lengthy
response, and I realize that sometimes people don't read to the end of a
long email, I am putting a few comments at the beginning.

1. We all know that there are a small number of apologists for voting
machine vendors who have degrees in computer science or who claim to be
computer scientists. (We haven't been able to obtain a CV for Brit
Williams. If someone has the information, I'd love to see it). This list
includes Michael Shamos, Ted Selker, Brit Williams, and Merle King
(Williams' colleague). There may a few others.

Aside from the small group of apologists, who are the computer
scientists who are, according to some on this list, doing evil things?
What precisely are they doing that is so evil? If someone thinks that
doing research into alternative methods for conducting elections is
evil, then I want to hear a rational (no name calling (for example,
"elitist"), nice sounding but empty generalizations, CAPITAL LETTERS,
*bold*, or /italics/ please) argument for why such research is evil.

2. Brent Turner said that Zoe Lofgren made a negative comment about
ACCURATE. Brent, could you please send me the Lofgren quote, together
with a reference as to where it appeared?

3. Rather than attacking people who are making personal and professional
sacrifices because they care deeply about our democracy, I think that
the time is long overdue for some acknowledgments and, if it's not too
much to ask, some well earned thanks.

Now, on to my general comments.

David Jefferson is not simply one of the "better regarded academics."
David Jefferson is a hero, as is David Dill. Anyone who would attack
these people is either working for the vendors or is uninformed,
jealous, a fool, paranoid, or a provocateur.

Both David Jefferson and David Dill have made enormous personal and
professional sacrifices in the struggle for secure, accurate, and
reliable elections. David Dill almost singlehandedly started the
computer scientists' movement with his VVPAT petition. That movement has
drawn in computer scientists in states throughout the country, people
like Jeremy Epstein (Virginia), Jay Lepreau (Utah), and Mike Fischer
(Connecticut) - to mention just a few names. Many computer scientists
initially becoming involved with fighting their states' acquisition of
paperless DREs. Shocked at what they learned, many have continued to
work for more secure, accurate, and auditable elections.

I don't know most of the people on this list, and it's quite possible
that some of the attacks on computer scientists have come from
academics. I expect, however, that almost all academics realize that the
kind of work that David Dill and others have done has, if anything, been
detrimental to their academic careers. I know for a fact that David
Dill's voting machine work took an enormous amount of time and energy
away from his area of research, which most assuredly was not
computerized voting machines. It's possible that David Dill has finally
received a small amount of professional benefit from being part of
ACCURATE, though that is a small grant (there are many people and
institutions on the grant, which extends over several years) and a small
part of his total research.

It has been our good fortune that David Jefferson, who is one of the
most honorable people I have ever been privileged to know, has been able
to work in an advisory capacity to the California government, dealing
with issues of voting machines. Of course David is not going to sign the
petition described by Alan, and, Alan, you should have have known that
before you asked him. If David were to sign such a petition, his ability
to bring badly needed technical expertise to governmental policy
decisions would be severely undermined. The same is true of other
computer scientists, such as David Wagner, who are also working to
educate governmental officials to make what I believe you would all
agree are the right decisions.

Jim Marsh has accused David Jefferson of propping up the the McPherson
administration in California and enabling McPherson's activities. While
it's true that McPherson undid a lot of the good work that had been done
by his predecessor Kevin Shelley, that was hardly David Jefferson's
fault. Furthermore, there were a few good things that happened during
the McPherson administration. I have no inside knowledge, but I would
guess that David Jefferson played a key role in bringing these things
about. The 96 Diebold machine testing was ground-breaking and revealed a
serious vulnerability that presumably had been around for a long time.
In response to the first Hursti attack, there was a follow-up study of
Diebold ordered by McPherson. As I'm sure Jim knows, the study report
(written by computer scientists David Jefferson, David Wagner, and Matt
Bishop) revealed some serious vulnerabilities with the Diebold code and
architecture. The authors of the report expected that California would
demand that Diebold repair the vulnerabilities they uncovered. The fact
that this did not happen is not the fault of the authors.

David Jefferson is not the only computer scientist who became involved
with state government. Doug Jones worked for 10 years on the Iowa Board
of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems. His
work, while time consuming, was pro bono and I'm sure received very
little recognition from his university. It was because of what he
learned about the shoddy nature of the voting machines while on the
Board that Doug started speaking out against these machines. The
residents of Iowa owe a great deal to Doug, who worked very hard at
trying to keep insecure voting machines out of the state.

Many different computer scientists have led the fight against insecure
secret voting technology. Bev Harris uncovered the Diebold software, but
without the analysis conducted by computer scientists Avi Rubin, Dan
Wallach, Tadayoshi Kohno, and Adam Stubblefield, or others like them,
her discovery would not have much impact. Computer scientist Harri
Hursti also used the software obtained by Harris when he first
demonstrated how to rig Diebold software. Hursti subsesquently
demonstrated the existence of a "back door" in the Diebold software - a
security vulnerability that Michael Shamos said was "the most severe
security flaw ever discovered in a voting system."

We know that viruses can be spread on the Diebold TS because computer
scientists Ed Felten, Joseph Calandrino, and J. Alex Halderman actually
demonstrated how to plant a virus on the machines.

We know of other vulnerabilities in the Diebold TSx because of work done
by computer scientists A. Kiayias, L, Michel, A. Russell, and A. A.
Shvartsman at the University of Connecticut. That work, incidentally,
was done for the state of Connecticut.

The best usability analysis of DREs has been written by Noel Runyan, a
blind computer scientist.

David Jefferson, Avi Rubin, David Wagner, and I co-authored the paper
that caused the DoD to cancel its plans to allow voting over the
internet in the 2004 presidential race. We are all computer scientists.

Large numbers of computer scientists were involved with California
Secretary of State Bowen's Top-to-Bottom review of voting systems.
Members of the red team were computer scientists Matt Bishop, Robert
Abbott, Elliot Proebstel, Sujeet Shenoi, Davide Balzarotti, Greg Banks,
Marco Cova, Mark Davis, Viktoria Felmetsger, Richard Kemmerer, William
Robertson, Jacob Stauffer, Fredrik Valeur, and Giovanni Vigna. The
source code review team consisted of computer scientists David Wagner,
Matt Blaze, Joseph Calandrino, Arel Cordero, Sophie Engle, Ariel
Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, Srinivas Inguva, Chris Karlof, Eric,
Rescoria, Naveen Sastry, Hovav Shacham, Micah Sherr, Till Stegers, Dan
Wallach, Ka-Ping Yee, Harian Yu, and William Zeller. The accessibility
team consisted of computer scientist Noel Runyan and accessibility
technology expert James Tobias. The document review team, led by David
Wagner, included a mix of people with technical, legal, and policy

I think it's fair to say that I played a key role in forcing the League
of Women Voters to move from a policy of support for paperless DREs to
one of support for paper ballots or records, as well as audits. It took
three years of my life, working about half time without compensation for
that entire period, to bring about the change. Of course I couldn't have
done it alone, and there were many wonderful people with whom I worked.
But our movement needed the technical arguments that I was able to
bring. (There were others who also understand computers, but I was the
one who wrote the lengthy response to the LWV and who initiated the
effort to get the policy changed).

I can't talk about contributions of computer scientists to the election
integrity movement without mentioning the work of computer scientists
Peter Neumann and Rebecca Mercuri. Peter and Rebecca were warning of the
dangers of computerized voting machines long before most of us,
including I suspect almost all of the people on this list, were paying
any attention.

I'm sure that I have omitted names of many computer scientists who have
played key roles in the struggle against insecure, inaccurate voting
machines. If I have omitted the name of someone on this list, I
apologize. I have composed this email somewhat hurriedly, and I do not
intend it to be a definitive list of every computer scientist who has
worked for election integrity. Rather, my intent is to illustrate some
of the major fundamental contributions made by the computer science

It is time to stop trashing the very people who are providing the
documentation and proof that is needed to show how insecure most of the
voting machine technology is, independent of whether or not these people
are working with or outside of state government.


Brent Turner wrote:
> Great words- Robert Zimmerman plainly stated “ You don’t need a
> weatherman to know which way the wind blows” –
> In this case, actions speak louder than words. I applaud all the
> heroes choosing to engage in this information exchange- and I would
> contend the participants here have varying degrees of expertise, as
> expertise in this arena is not perfectly achieved by virtue of a
> computer degree/certificate.
> My understanding is Mr. Jefferson is one of the better regarded
> academics. – This certainly highlights the benefit of Mr. Jefferson
> corralling the lesser informed ( and possibly corrupted ) scientists
> and having the “ivory tower” community tender their support for open
> source systems. This action would greatly benefit our quest for
> transparency.
> When a person holds themselves out as “ an expert” ( credentialed or
> not ) and starts affecting this battle for democracy, they obtain a
> special duty unique to our time in history- This has been my problem
> with all the swirling “ expertise” - One day I hope to wake up and the
> secret software systems will be gone, Until then, I know we are all
> failures at protecting our democracy, That simple. The HAVA boys ran
> this scam through and now we all have to attempt to remove it. Until
> that happens, there is no room for ego as we have all been duped and
> have not appropriately responded. This is shameful. One hopeful point-
> I know the folks on this list will keep trying in this last ditch
> struggle to reclaim our democracy.
> Zoe Lofgren said there was two enemies to the open voting movement-
> Microsoft and Accurate— She suggested we acknowledge and address them
> both. I can understand Microsoft’s agenda …
> But what’s up with David Dill ? Is there any chance he might give that
> grant money back ? That might get him off the hook….
> Brent Turner
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From:* Nancy Tobi []
> *Sent:* Saturday, November 03, 2007 6:16 AM
> *To:* Open Voting Consortium discussion list
> *Subject:* Re: [OVC-discuss] Ms. Tobi's overheated rhetoric
> 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
> 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
> * provide legitimate and objective conclusions: SYSTEM A DOES/DOES
> I hope this clarifies my position and what you have been calling
> "rhetoric".
> Best,
> Nancy
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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:08 2007

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