Re: San Francisco debate heating up

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 01:31:57 CST

> I did see the insinuation that the only reason we are
> advocating Open Source is because we want to enable
> someone close to us to copy Sequoia's oh-so-precious
> IP for a competitive offering. But, to be honest, that is
> exactly what is legally possible with an Open Source
> license, ....
True. And our disclosure language does not mention "open source." It's
about disclosure only.

> ... and is one of the big differences between OS and
> simple disclosure, and until there is a certified alternative
> ready to go, there won't be much of a credible come-back
> to that claim. ...
Sorry. I don't get your point. Our proposed contract language does not
require "open source." Only disclosure.

Certification is a complex issue. Some states don't require federal

> The logical links don't hold up - we want voting systems to
> be open source, because a true open source community creates
> more reliable code - yet none of us see Sequoia's code as
> forming a reasonable basis for such an collaborative community,
> so forcing Sequoia to open source their code feels like a non-sequitor.
We are using disclosure as a step in the direction of open source -- a
pretty big step at that. We are using the right-to-know as justification
for disclosure -- not as much for the value of peer-reviewed software. AB
852 will require disclosure for new certifications.

I believe if we get disclosure into law, it will be a short step to open
source. I mean, vendors will say if disclosure is going to be required, why
not go all the way to open source. They'll get more eyes on the code and
better participation from the open source community in code improvement.

Disclosure also enables review of the testing and certification process.
Right now, we have no way to know what tests, exactly, were performed in the
certification process. We can't know all the test details as long as source
code and hardware design is kept secret. This is a big issue since we know
many flaws have slipped through the certification process.

Ultimately, we want all the benefits of totally nonproprietary voting
systems. It will be a while before we get there. We have to map out the
process of getting there. If we had a lot of money, the process could be
much different. We have to proceed with what we have.

>> and he twisted Jim Soper's language and propped it up along side a
>> non-existent group ("count as cast") to counter OVC.
> That did seem odd, I don't have enough context to judge intent
> or weight, but I do suggest that if the reply assumed that it was
> a mistake rather than an intentional mischaracterization, it's more
> likely to be corrected.
I only characterized it as a "factual error." I said, "I believe he is
addressing your mistake in a separate email to you and the Board." For the
record, this is what Jim Soper sent to the Board:

I don't think any further action is needed to correct the mistake. We did

>> I get no joy from flaming someone. I wish this whole experience in the
>> past
>> 6 years had been all love and understanding. It just doesn't work that
>> way.
>> I wish we had been able to work with McPherson. I mean, read this
>> letter:
> Why go into McPherson at all in the response to Arntz? ...
I brought it up to make a point. The point is that we've seen an official
say he's organizing a task force on open source for elections, and then poof
... nothing. We are challenging Arntz to show us he's serious about this
task force.

> If you feel that Arntz hasn't enough knowlege of the history of open
> source voting in California, I'd suggest writing a document on that
> history up on the site and providing him the URL; including it in the
> letter, especially if he's likely to already know, just feels like
> lecturing.
Our meetings with Arntz go back a couple of years. I have presented him
with lots of documents, history, etc. over the years. A year ago this
month I provided to all attendees a one-sheet outline (copy on front and
back) of my presentation to the SF Elections Commission -- a 2-hour forum.

He was in attendance. I'm not sure "writing a document on that history"
would add much. He's busy and filters out a great deal of material. I
pointed out your Jan 22nd email to him at a meeting with him about a week
after you wrote it. It drew a complete blank. He had no idea of it.

> If I received a letter like that I would be unlikely to reply, let
> alone contact you in the future, and Arntz is under no obligation
> to do either.
I think it's incidental that my letter was addressed to Arntz. His memo was
to members of the Board of Supervisors. I suppose my letter could have just
as easily been address to the supes. Soper's letter went to the supes.

At this point, we are dealing mostly with the Board of Supervisors. In
January, OVC was asked by a member of the Elections Commission to draft some
policy language that could form the basis of contract language for source
disclosure. I wrote the policy statement and OVC counsel Dow Patten wrote
the contract language based on the policy.

Although the policy has not been formally adopted, it seems like the Board
is working with the policy. We are going to try for formal adoption of the
policy. A friend in City gov is working on getting it into an appropriate

Arntz has chosen to ignore us for several weeks now. I think he made a
mistake. If he really wanted the Sequoia deal to go through, he should have
tried to get language that would be acceptable to all involved -- including
OVC. He has never called me, and he has never requested a meeting with me.

>> That's all I could do. It wasn't pretty, and it sure wasn't going to win
>> him over to our view. We were out to defeat him.
> Does the OVC have the time and energy to work against individuals
> who are against its goals? Or should it instead focus on supporting
> those who favor them? ....
We have to do both. For example, we opposed McPherson and supported Bowen.
As far as I have been able to ascertain, there are very few people in
government that strongly support our goals. Oh, there are lots of people
that say, "I'm all for it :-)" with a big grin. And a lot of people would
probably vote in our favor if an issue is put before them we are backing.
But when it comes to the number of people I know that will take initiative
in our behalf, that number is very very small. Jackie Goldberg was
absolutely wonderful. She's been termed out.

> I'm sure it was frustrating to have McPherson saying supportive
> things and then turn 180 degrees, but once that's done, what's the
> point of making enemies? ....
Since he was opposing everything we proposed, we had to work on getting him
removed from office.

> If your reputation was abused, make a public clarification via a
> blog or something, stay on good graces as tides can
> shift again, and then route around them or find other better
> opportunities.
I appreciate what you are saying. In politics, it's a tough call.
Sometimes, you have to throw down the gauntlet. At that point, "good
graces" may evaporate. Nonetheless, I try to keep it civil enough that
things can still be patched up after the battle is over.

>> Arntz made the outrageous suggestion that I wanted the ability to
>> replicate
>> the Sequoia system so I could use it commercially. I showed why this was
>> wrong by showing what OVC has done, what OVC is doing, and what OVC is
>> trying to do. If the reader gets that, the Arntz suggestion is
>> disproven.
>> That was a little windy, I admit. I did what I had to do.
> It would not surprise me to hear uninformed or barely-informed
> people confusing OVC and OVS, and surmising that since OVS's
> solution is not yet certified, that OVS could consider using Sequoia's
> code commercially. ....
I think my letter covered that pretty well.

> In addition to correcting that mistaken assumption, let's try to
> understand how people arrived at that, so as to avoid it in
> the future, since we might need the support or at least consent
> of uninformed people in the future.
I would say that educating people about all these things is what I do more
or less all day every day.

> What we do not want, I don't think, is the cause of Open Source voting to
> be cast as an effort to unfairly advantage one specific commercial outfit
> over another. Otherwise, OVC's credibility will be shot, and it'll be all
> too easy for a politician or beaurocrat to assume the worst and aim to
> split the difference or at least take the easy answer.
Right. Over the years, a number of people that weren't so interested in the
consortium model, said, "let's build systems and try to get some contracts."
I always said, "I will continue with the consortium, but I hope you'll do
that and be successful and become a good consortium member." David Webber
and Dick Johnson are the only ones that went off and actually tried to do
that. I am amazed at what they've accomplished so far. If they get some
good paying contracts, I think they deserve all the credit in the world.

We aren't so fragile. Did you know that last year there were lobbyists
running around the Capitol Building saying bad things about OVC? Members of
the clerks association (CACEO) said there were fighting against us "with all
our being." This year I was invited to address CACEO in LA (Jan 12).

Right now, there is someone going around in the Capitol Building saying "OVC
is conflicted" since were lobbying for AB 852.

OVC's credibility has been shot a few times. OVC died a few times. Some
people that used to love OVC now hate OVC. Some people that used to hate
OVC, now think we're not so bad. It goes on.

> I have a great deal of sympathy for the idea of "right to know", but it's
> nowhere near as important IMHO as voter-verified paper ballots, ....
Okay, let me make this as clear as I can possibly make it. I had the basic
idea of OVC in December of 2000. The first substantive conversation I had
with someone in the Capitol Building in Dec of 2000 was Larry Sokol of
Speaker Hertzberg's office.

After a few weeks of probing, I found that there was a well-developed plan
to put and paperless DRE in every voting booth in the state. The plan was
backed by leadership in the Assembly, the Secretary of State, and the
Governor. I found people on the Senate side more open to other ideas.

My reason for meeting people in the Capitol Building quickly became a
tutorial on why they must NEVER support paperless voting. I spent countless
hours one-one-one with staff people and Legislators. This was very
important spade work. I was not immediately successful but did plant a lot
of doubt. If you look at our bill AB 852, you'll see Lloyd Levine listed as
principle co-author. I can remember spending over two hours in his office
six years ago this month. He was Chief of Staff to Longville, Chair of the
Assembly Elections Committee. When the conversation started, he let me know
that they were going for paperless DREs everywhere. After intense
discussion, I left him feeling that he got my points and was starting to
think maybe I knew what I was talking about and maybe actually had a better

So, the first order of business *was* voter-verified paper ballots. Even
though I thought open source was the most unique part of our idea, when we
did our first big demo in 2004, the ABC (KGO) TV news person called it a
"paper trail" proposal. That's because paperless voting was still legal in
CA. Once paperless voting was banned, our demo because more about open
source and less about paper trails.

> ....regular audits, ...
This is important. But as Paul Lehto recently said, "Invest in the remedy
that takes place before the first count of the votes." Also, audits don't
mitigate against a whole host of problems -- presentation attacks, for
example. You might be able to find an anomaly due to a faulty ballot, but
it will probably be too late to do anything about it. Ask Christine
Jennings (Sarasota Co, FL)

> .... and the other topics that the Holt bill has brought up.
Don't get me started. It's late.

Alan D.

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Received on Sat Mar 31 23:17:03 2007

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