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

From: Nancy Tobi <nancy_dot_tobi_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Tue Oct 30 2007 - 21:00:50 CDT

Yes Fred. Once you understand that HR811 mandates oaths of secrecy around
the mechanism of counting our votes, it becomes a little hard to support it,
doesn't it?

Especially if you are fond of democracy.

On 10/30/07, Fred McLain <mclain@zipcon.net> wrote:
>
> Aha, now I see why there is such strong opposition to HR-811 as
> currently worded. By forcing those that would inspect the code to
> somehow prove that they are qualified to do so and forcing an "oath of
> secrecy" upon them the vast majority of those that would inspect the
> code, the OSS community, to exclude themselves from the inspection
> process. That is completely unacceptable.
>
> I write complex software for a living and have lead open voting
> software development projects. I my experience there is no need for
> closed source, secrecy or anything of the sort.
>
> I would also assert based on my 25+ years of active software
> development and my 4 years in voting software development that there
> is *no need for an operating system* in voting equipment. In fact, it
> would be best to write this without an OS since the inspection becomes
> far simpler and more reliable.
>
> -Fred-
>
> On Oct 30, 2007, at 2:49 PM, Hamilton Richards wrote:
>
> > A few thoughts after watching the YouTube video of Rush Holt, which
> > is actually at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9hLLmBJLZE>.
> >
> > Code inspection is a sideshow
> > -------------------------
> > Rush Holt is quite right--the integrity of elections can be assured
> > not by inspecting source code but by auditing paper records. Auditing
> > amounts to an end run around any possible shenanigans in the software.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > Concerning code inspection, it's universally accepted in computing
> > science that code cannot be validated by inspection. You can inspect
> > a piece of software all you like, and when you finally quit, you
> > cannot know whether there's a flaw--innocent or deliberate--that you
> > missed. Therefore the arguments about "full disclosure" of election
> > software are at best a sideshow. Requiring inspectors of proprietary
> > software to sign NDAs is no more than one would expect from
> > commercial software vendors, who habitually commit the accounting
> > error of booking lines of code under Investment, rather than Expense.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> > Open source is a good thing
> > -----------------------
> > Discounting the importance of software disclosure is not to say that
> > open-source software for elections wouldn't be a great step forward,
> > but the reason is not that it would guarantee election integrity.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> > 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 bottom line
> > -------------
> > Your mileage may differ, but for me HR811, imperfect as it is,
> > represents a worthwhile step forward, and I'm grateful to Rep. Holt
> > for introducing it and for putting up with all the flak.
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > --Ham
> >
> > At 12:00 PM -0700 2007/10/30, ovc-discuss-request@listman.sonic.net
> > wrote:
> >> [...]
> >> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >>
> >> Message: 1
> >> Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2007 10:34:35 -0400
> >> From: "Nancy Tobi" <nancy.tobi@gmail.com>
> >> Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] [FWD: RE: [vote-technology] Booted out of
> >> the Hotel at the 2007 Post-Election Auditing Summit]
> >> To: "Open Voting Consortium discussion list"
> >> <ovc-discuss@listman.sonic.net>
> >>
> >> [...]
> >> But most interesting to you may be Representative Holt's OWN WORDS
> >> on the
> >> subject. You can see those here:
> >>
> >> http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=HANDSONELECTIONS
> >>
> >> Best,
> >>
> >> Nancy Tobi
> >>
> >
> >
> > --
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Hamilton Richards, PhD Department of Computer Sciences
> > Senior Lecturer (retired) The University of Texas at Austin
> > ham@cs.utexas.edu hrichrds@swbell.net
> > http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ham/richards
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------
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Received on Wed Oct 31 23:17:04 2007

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