Re: Communications of the ACM

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Fri Oct 01 2004 - 13:41:52 CDT

> I will ask Jason for permission to post his article. Probably, we should
> respond to it.
>
One other remark about this... There will be an article at
http://www.opendemocracy.net/home/index.jsp in the next week or two, which
makes reference to OVC.

In addition, I have been asked to write an article for www.OpenDemocracy
(I'm working on it) that will be published fairly soon. So, a response to
Kitcat's article will help with the one I've started....

My draft, which will run 800 - 1000 words begins,

*****
Every Vote Counted ("EVC") is a myth. No matter how well or badly a voting
system fulfills EVC, it's important that voters believe EVC as much as
possible.

A healthy democracy depends on earnest participation of the electorate. Why
would anyone vote if they think there is a high probability that their vote
will be mangled, deleted, or otherwise miscounted?

Most computer security experts agree that open source voting software would
help make ballots more secure. However, the salability of this notion needs
to be considered against the backdrop of the EVC myth. Computer security
experts understand the fallacy of "security through obscurity," but does the
average voter?

     Do you believe that vote tabulation would be more
     susceptible or less susceptible to error or rigging if
     the computer instructions (computer software source
     code) running the tabulation processes were widely
     available for anyone to see and tryout?

What if this question was put to the general public?

I don't know of any scientific survey that has been done that would make
this clear, however, my informal polling suggests that while independent
computer experts would say "less susceptible" the general public would say
"more susceptible" (computer experts working for companies that make their
money on proprietary software may feel compelled to say "more susceptible"
no matter what they really believe). People with no experience in software
development and testing are likely to come up with all sorts of bad
analogies to reason that the computer code should be secret.

Can we make the case for open source voting software? I think we can and
should do this. We have an opportunity to strengthen democracy and help the
cause of open source software generally. Some education of the public and
their representatives in government is required. We need to be creative and
use all available channels to do this. Recently, the Open Voting Consortium
and friends help to get a resolution (Assembly Concurrent Resolution 242)
introduced and passed in the California State Legislature that asks the
California Secretary of State to consider the use of open source software
for the voting process.

Mainly, the case for open source voting software boils down to the need for
transparency in the voting process.
... to be continued...

Alan D.
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Received on Mon Nov 1 15:28:44 2004

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