[OVC-discuss] The Future of Voting Systems in Los Angeles County

From: David Mertz <mertz@gnosis.cx>
Date: Sat Sep 19 2009 - 02:45:28 CDT

See: http://la.metblogs.com/2009/09/19/future-voting-systems/
The Future of Voting Systems in Los Angeles County By Lulu of the
September 19th, 2009 @ 12:40 AM Announcements, Breaking News,
Commentary, Politics, Technology
Apart from my other jobs, I moonlight as a wonk. In particular, for
the last 6 years or so, I’ve been involved with a group called the
Open Voting Consortium, much of that on its board and as its CTO.
With that hat on, I am enormously excited that Los Angeles County is
likely to get much better voting systems in the relatively near future.

Let me give the brief plug: we want to make sure that no one has to
vote on proprietary DRE voting machines (or ever does voluntarily,
for that matter). There are two glaring flaws in these systems: the
source code is secret (so-called trade secrets), and both accidental
flaws and deliberate vote tampering is both possible and has likely
happened; a voter has no means to inspect the recorded vote before
casting it (other than a machine telling them, “trust us, we’ll put
the right electrons somewhere”). The right system is an Electronic
Ballot Printer, which is basically to say just a computer-assistive
device to help mark a ballot that a voter can inspect physically
before casting. The paper is crucial because voters and poll workers
can easily and reliably understand both that and why they are secure
and accurate. Using computers is also important though, because it
enables independent and anonymous voting by persons with disabilities
(especially, but not only, blind and visually impaired voters),
enables multi-lingual ballot presentation, and reduces overvoting,
undervoting, and other errors in capturing voter intent.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Dean Logan,
held an all-day symposium yesterday, entitled Technology, Diversity,
Democracy: The Future of Voting Systems in Los Angeles County. This
was a really wonderful effort that shows the best of our government
officials. Registrar Logan has a commitment to getting input from
the range of stakeholders in this process, while simultaneously
understanding well the technical and political issues involved. The
meeting was composed of… well, lots of wonks like me, but ones from
the right range of walks of life. The disability rights community
was well represented; as were LA-based voter groups (such as
advocates for diverse ethnic and linguistic groups that need ballot
access); and a good number of the nation’s top cryptography and
political science thinkers about voting we in the mix for good measure.

The Registrar-Recorder staff, many of whom I had the chance to speak
with, were well prepared and well-informed in their role of
facilitating the symposium. Unfortunately, California Secretary of
State Debra Bowen, although scheduled to participate, was unable to
attend–it’s too bad because she is really one of the good guys in
relation to openness and transparency in government. It was also
nice to hear Election Assistance Commissioner Donetta Davidson speak
though, and I was delighted that I happened to have the chance to
talk with her at breakfast, before the formal sessions.

This is all a bit technical, as good news goes. And nothing is
announced (or developed) yet, in any case. But I encourage readers
to become informed on this, and bring with the process a dose of
optimism that hasn’t been possible for a few years. Read OVC’s site
for background information, and also take a look at the Registrar-
Recorder’s website. Provide feedback to the Registrar-Recorder as
this process unfolds (information will be posted over time, and voter
feedback is essential to our future democracy).

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Received on Wed Sep 30 23:17:11 2009

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