ACLU dinner (Ira Glasser on Touch screens)

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Thu Oct 23 2003 - 14:29:26 CDT

Last night I drove into Boston (a couple hours from me) to go to an ACLU
"Bill of Rights Dinner." The keynote speaker was Ira Glasser, who was
for a long time the executive director of the ACLU.

His talk was quite interesting; roughly the following (after the
excessive baseball jokes, Red Socks, Yankees, etc): He usually
distinguishes Liberty and Democracy in his talks, to make the point that
even within a functioning democracy, liberty can be threatened. But
tonight, he wanted to talk about threats to democracy itself. Drum roll

(1) Safe districts protect incumbency.
(2) Disenfranchisement of ex-felons is politically and racially slanted.
(3) Touch Screen systems (with no paper trail) invite corruption.

>From what I can tell, Glasser is still at the point that Dill or Mercuri
are at--they understand why a voter verifiable paper trail matters. But
none of them quite grasp why proprietary software in the design and
administration is a threat to democracy.

The first two of Glasser's points are ones that also concern me, but
clearly they are outside of the scope of EVM2003 (or UCVS, OVC,
whatever). So this is not the list to debate or discuss those issues.

Still, I was surprised and gratified that voting machine integrity was
one of Glasser's main points. In truth, the audience clearly didn't
entirely "get" point 3; Glasser talked about it the least, probably
adjusting to the reaction. The liberal lawyers don't necessarily yet
understand how technology interacts with democracy. But the fact
Glasser planted this bug in their heads means that the 2nd or 3rd time
they hear it, they'll come to recognize the weight of the issue.

In fact, it was gratifying to me that I happened to sit next to a law
prof from Harvard--hers is a whole different area, criminal defense--and
before the presentation was making small talk about my work with
EVM2003. I could tell what I was saying seemed foreign to her too, but
once the keynote said much the same thing 30 minutes later, she
commented to me on her revelation of the importance (she's at mention 2,
even if the rest of the audience only got to 1).

Yours, David...

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Received on Fri Oct 31 23:17:04 2003

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