Re: Representative Holt's OWN WORDS [Re: OVC-discuss Digest, Vol 36, Issue 9]

From: Danny Swarzman <danny_at_stowlake_dot_com>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 19:40:44 CDT

I can't help it there are many things in this that are almost right.

On Oct 30, 2007, at 2:49 PM, Hamilton Richards wrote:

> [snip]

> If the video's unsourced claim that "up to 10% of the
> electronically-generated paper records allowed by HR811 are damaged,
> unreadable, and unusable for audits" is based on anything, it's based
> on early implementations produced by manufacturers who have an
> interest in seeing them rejected. Electronically generated
> voter-verified paper ballots can be far more reliable than
> hand-marked ones, and far less vulnerable to ballot-box stuffing and
> spurious rejection by crooked election officials.

If this has change, we need to see the data verifying it. The
inherent problem with the paper trail is that there is no way to
know. Voters don't check it. It is not easy to inspect. When there is
a difference between the way a voter remembers marking a ballot and
the paper, they just assume it was their mistake.
> Concerning code inspection, it's universally accepted in computing
> science that code cannot be validated by inspection.

David Wagner made this point. Effective disclosure would require that
the inspector be able to do unit testing and follow the code with a
debugger or other tools. That is what people do when they make
software. They specify, code and test. All of this needs to be clear
and transparent.

> The video's contention that "The committee changed the bill when they
> heard from Microsoft ... so ordinary American citizens can never know
> how their votes are being counted" is disingenuous. Microsoft could
> publish its entire inventory of software on the web, and "ordinary
> Americans" would still never know how their votes were being counted.

There is a large portion of the population who are capable of
studying software. It's true that the biggest problem with Windows is
that it is just too big. Also that it is vulnerable to abuse as we
all know.

> One reason in favor of open source is that truly open software would
> be of higher quality initially than proprietary software (there's
> nothing quite like knowing that your work will be viewed critically
> by hundreds of your peers), and it could be expected to continue to
> improve in response to scrutiny and contributions from the
> open-software community.

Yes. This is why Linux should be trusted better than Windows.

> Another reason is that election officials choosing open-source
> software would be free from enslavement to a particular vendor. A
> vendor that charged too much or failed to perform could be replaced
> by another vendor, since all would have access to the same software.
> Some proponents of open source, always looking for more arguments in
> its favor, claim that open source is less insecure than undisclosed
> source. That claim may have some merit, but it's of no practical use
> ("less insecure" is like "less pregnant")--unless the software is
> known to be completely secure, other security measures such as
> voter-verified paper ballots are still essential.

There is no such thing as completely secure. I think every expert on
computer security would reject that notion. You need to look at the
features of the software, do testing and get smart people to try to
break it. Then you have MORE confidence. Not complete security.

> The mythical golden age
> --------------------
> The video makes the claim that "we already have 'verifiable'
> elections. They're called hand counted, paper ballot elections. We
> don't need a federal bill...". The colorful history of election fraud
> in the days before computers is so widely known that this can only be
> another disingenuous claim. Its author's antipathy to the use of
> computers in elections is evident, but since it is unsupported by any
> logical arguments, it's far from persuasive.

If there are fewer steps, fewer things to go wrong, that is a source
of security. How can you dispute that. There can be fraud without
computers. Using computers gives more means of cheating.

> Profits are evil?
> ------------
> The video ends by asserting that no one should make a profit from
> elections. Does that mean that election officials should not be paid?
> That the suppliers of printed paper ballots should provide them at
> cost? How about the printers' suppliers of paper and ink? This smells
> like a religious argument more than a logical one, and the thing
> about religion is that you either get it or you don't. Brandishing
> religious arguments at nonbelievers is famously counterproductive.

The problem with the 'profit' motive in practice is that large
corporations have the power to corrupt the system. History tells us
that they do.

The privatization of government functions opens the door to conflicts
of interest. Not the same as paying a salary to elections officials.


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Received on Wed Oct 31 23:17:03 2007

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