Re: Infoworld writer says turn the whole thing over to SAP

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Nov 16 2007 - 11:04:48 CST

On Nov 15, 2007 6:50 PM, Douglas W. Jones <jones@cs.uiowa.edu> wrote:
>
> On Nov 15, 2007, at 6:31 PM, Alan Dechert wrote:
>
> > http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/11/15/46OPentinsight-voting-
> > software_1.html
>
> What a hoot. I can't take that kind of suggestion seriously. While
> we're at it,
> let's contract out all election auditing and monitoring activities to
> Arthur
> Anderson -- oops, Accenture.
>
I liked the fact he wrote that, "many people are looking toward open
source voting software," with a link to the OVC site.

For the archives, here's the text from this otherwise goofy article.

Wanted: Some nice German voting software
What do you get when you combine the worst of democracy with the worst
of technology? The modern voting machine!

http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/11/15/46OPentinsight-voting-software_1.html

By David L. Margulius

November 15, 2007

In my hometown of San Francisco, the accusations are flying: Our
optical scanner voting machines have been "compromised," so the
Secretary of State insisted all the ballots be hand counted, and the
city is suing the voting machine company for breach of contract.

What's scariest is listening to the politicians on the radio talking
about the technology. They wouldn't know a hard token if it fell out
of the sky onto their head. They probably think "authentication" means
finding out whether someone has had plastic surgery or Botox.

Here's my oversimplification of the problem. In the old days, voting
machines were based on 1940s punch-card technology, which was
standardized and reliable, and because politicians routinely bought
votes anyway (think: Chicago cemeteries), no one worried much about
how secure the machines or paper ballot boxes were.

Then computers came along, voting machine technology forked, and now
there are multiple vendors hawking a variety of architectures to local
authorities who have no clue how to evaluate them. Worse, the vendors
tend to be small and political (they're selling to the government,
after all), and routinely get dragged into scandals, leave gaping
security holes in their systems, or otherwise lose their credibility.

As a solution, many people are looking toward open source voting
software. The idea here is that nobody will be able to pull any
cybervoting hanky-panky if everybody can scrutinize the code. I'm not
so sure, because the voting machine code is not the only issue here.
There's the entire back end of whatever system is going to aggregate
the votes. There's the authentication issue -- many states legally
can't require even a picture ID to vote (because it constitutes a
"poll tax"), much less two-factor authentication. And also, how do we
expect to get any consistency across the country with an open source
system?

I've got a better idea: Let's outsource this whole mess to SAP, the
most efficient, standardized, and unbreakable (apologies to Larry
Ellison) software vendor in the world. If they can make Corporate
America's core transactional systems run like a well-oiled machine,
surely they could make this problem go away in a jiffy. Moreover,
they're too big to stoop to the petty politics of the current vendors.

Entrust our democracy to a German company? Actually, since World War
II, they've taken the whole concept of civil liberties a lot more
seriously than we do. And most major U.S. government agencies run SAP
anyway, so this cow has left the barn.

Let's nail this voting machine technology issue so that we can focus
on the real voting problem: the fact that only 20 percent of us vote
(and only 20 percent of those wear the "I voted" sticker).
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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:25 2007

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