ESI to test voting machines...

elections, certification/testing, hacks, research, policy

Looks like the Election Sciences Institute has an agreement with Franklin County, OH to test their incoming ES&S electronic voting machines.

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Licensing Woes...

elections, copyright, hacks, open source, chilling effects, SIMS, policy, legal

Anyone out there that will be taking our class on open source this fall (taught by Pam Samuelson, Steve Weber and Mitch Kapor) will soon appreciate this (if they don't already): In the process of managing the development of the Verified Voting Foundation's Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) I've realized that four major pieces of open source software were used to cobble EIRS together in order to have it ready for the 2004 election and each has a different license (GPL, LGPL, aGPL and BSD). Fortunately, only two of those licenses are incompatible (the GPL and aGPL)... but there's a twist: the aGPL and GPLv3 will be compatible when v3 of the GPL is finally released. So, we either have to not release this software until v3 comes out (which sounds like 2007) and then up-license the GPLv2 and aGPL code to GPLv3, or we have to cut out the aGPL code and license everything under GPLv2.

This isn't to dis the code; it's quite extensible and elegant. It's just that every development team has to think about these things eventually, and it's easier on everyone if a project has a well thought-out licensing strategy from the beginning. Lesson: before beginning development always ask 1) what's the license? and 2) do I have to assign my copyright to contribute code?

I learned something today...

elections, reform, politics, research, policy, education

Duverger's Law, Duverger's Hypothesis

In 1951, the French political scientist, Maurice Duverger, formulated what he called "a true sociological law" concerning the effects of different electoral systems on the structure of politics. This "law" was that systems in which office is awarded to a candidate who receives the most votes (with two candidates, a majority, but with more than two, a plurality) in a single ballot election will produce a two-party political system, rather than a multi-party one. Maurice Duverger, Political Parties: Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State (1954). This plurality, winner-take-all system is used for nearly all American elections as it is for British elections. Other political scientists had reached similar conclusions: "single-member district-system- plus- plurality-elections... discriminate moderately against the second party; but against the third, fourth, and fifth parties the force of this tendency is multiplied to the point of extinguishing their chances of winning seats altogether." Elmer E. Schattschneider, Party Government 75 (1942).

-- From page 1091 of my Election Law casebook, The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process, Issacharoff, Karlan and Pildes (2002).

Atty letter (on behalf of no one) claims AutoMARK is not accessible...

elections, certification/testing, accessibility, vendors, news, wtf?, politics, litigation, usability, legal

John McDermott, the attorney that represented the AAPD in their unsuccessful attempt to nullify, California's former Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley's decertification order for some DREs last year, is apparently sending threatening letters to California jurisdictions to warn against the use of the AutoMARK ballot marking device (via Randy Riddle, "Attorney threatens election officials over use of AutoMARK voting system").

McDermott claims, like others have, that the unit is not accessible to people with manual dexterity disablities. Curiously, McDermott doesn't say who he's representing. I've mentioned before that this neglects the addition of a privacy sleeve ("The Automark is accessible... no matter what Jim Dixon says"). However, I took the liberty to call Mr. McDermott and he said he was aware of this (and not much more).

There is a spectrum of accessibility and disability; niether are ever black and white such that a piece of technology is 100% accessible or someone 100% disabled. It will always be possible for some disabled constituency to claim that a device is not accessible... for example, does a person who is unable to hear or see have to be accomodated under HAVA? No. In fact, as Riddle points out, that's exactly what the DoJ says:

Last year Mr. McDermott made similar arguments in unsuccessfully challenging the Secretary of State's DRE decertification orders, and the letter indicates that the Secretary of State rejected his arguments in certifying the system. Mr. McDermott's absolutest view of HAVA also appear at odds with an opinion from the United States Department of Justice interpreting the accessibility provisions of HAVA.

Desperate need for PHP programmers at VerifiedVoting

elections, hacks, open source


Verified Voting has a desperate need for programmers with PHP and MySQL knowledge that have a few hours per week to help code the 2005 version of the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS). I volunteered to be the CVS release engineer but, out of need, have taken over development management.

If you think you might be interested, please take a look at this volunteer recruitment page:

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