Lou Dobbs polls viewers about verified voting

elections, reform, news

Link: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/lou.dobbs.tonight/

So, Lou Dobbs had one of his Quick Vote on-line polls today from 5-6 PDT. The question was, " Do you believe states should be required to provide paper receipts of electronic votes?" Well apparently, those who voted thought so...

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Doug Jones: Confusion of Myth and Fact in Maryland

elections, reform, news

Link: http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/voting/myth-fact-md.html

My esteemed colleague, Doug Jones, has authored a rebuttal to the Maryland Board of Elections ridiculous brochure that was obviously written in close consultation with election systems vendors.

In late June or early July of 2004, the Maryland State Board of Elections issued a brochure, Maryland's Better Way to Vote -- Electronic Voting: Myth vs. Fact listing 6 "myths" about electronic voting and offering "facts" in response to each "myth." This brochure was intended to counter widespread public criticism of the voting system in use in Maryland. Clearly, skepticism about the voting system does threaten public trust in that system, and public trust in the voting system is essential if the government is to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the electorate, so some kind of defense is appropriate.

Sadly, Maryland's Myth versus Fact defense contains a sufficient number of misleading assertions, straw-man arguments and outright errors that it may well do more to fuel public distrust than it does to assure the trustworthiness of the system it defends. In sum, many of the statements in this brochure would be more nearly accurate if the labels myth and fact were exchanged. A more appropriate defense might have involved squarely admitting the defects in the current system and clearly documenting, for each, the actions taken by the Board of Elections to deal with the problem.

ITAA says e-voting researchers pusing open source agenda

elections, reform, standards

Link: http://www.computerworld.com/governmenttopics/government/story/0,10801,94584,00.html?SKC=news94584

(Via Michael Geist's ILN for BNA) The ITAA and their "survey" are both chalk full of shit. The researchers come out on top in this Compuworld piece... I'll include the quotes in the article, not the commentary below and then add my own two cents:

[...]

A recent survey by the Arlington, Va.-based Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) showed that 77% of registered voters aren't concerned about the security of e-voting systems, and ITAA President Harris Miller said critics who claim to be concerned about the issue are really pushing a political agenda on behalf of the open-source software community.

"It's not about voting machines. It's a religious war about open-source software vs. proprietary software," Miller said in an interview with Computerworld. "If you're a computer scientist and you think that open-source software is the solution to everything because you're a computer scientist and you can spot all flaws, then you hate electronic voting machines. But if you're a person who believes that proprietary software and open-source software can both be reliable, then you don't hate electronic voting machines."

[...]

"Every technologist that I have worked with believes that even if we had open-source software, we would still need a paper [audit] trail," said Alexander. "There would be no guarantee that the software that was inspected by the public would be the same software that is running on every machine in every jurisdiction in the country."

Eric Raymond [...] said Miller has the issue wrong. "Most [e-voting] critics, including me, aren't focusing on open-source vs. closed-source at all, but rather on the lack of any decent audit trail of votes -- one that can't be corrupted by software. Open-source would be nice for all the real reasons but is less important than the audit trail."

[...]

"Would they ask questions about the safety of a medical procedure of patients or of doctors?" asked Rubin. "They should ask computer security experts about computer security questions, not end users, who may like the look and feel of the machines but have no way of knowing if they are really secure."

[...]"There's never been a demonstrated case of fraud other than an occasional mechanical problem," said Miller. Asking proponents of open-source software to comment on the security of electronic voting systems "is like asking a bunch of clergymen what they think of premarital sex," he said.

Jim Adler, CEO of VoteHere [... said] "The reality is that 2 million votes were lost in the 2000 election because of machine malfunctions or machine-user interface problems. So the long pole in the tent hasn't been security."

However, Jeff Zaino, vice president of elections at the American Arbitration Association in New York, the largest provider of private election administration services in the country, said paper audit trails for electronic systems are critical -- not only to voter confidence but to preventing an endless number of legal challenges if the election is close.

Only two states, Florida and California, have a manual recount law -- and in Florida, the law doesn't apply to paperless touch-screen systems. "In principle, it's outrageous that we have secret, proprietary voting systems," said Alexander. "We have outsourced our elections to private companies and handed over the keys to the kingdom to a handful of vendors. And all they have said since this debate started is 'Trust us.'"

I agree with most of these quotes... of course, you can't prove or demonstrate fraud without access to records and technology, which is still the subject of ongoing litigation. As well, I think the quote from Alan Dechert of the OVC says a lot in a few words. Many of us in the verified voting camp believe that there is a place for both propreitary and "open" code, but it is becoming clear that completely closed voting technology is a bad thing for everyone involved.

A new google hack: defeating unaccessible directories...

elections, hacks

Haven't you ever been poking around a website after having arrived there due to a particularly-tasty peice of information only to be stymied by directory-listing denied 403 errors and the like? Well, at least for highly linked-to documents, I've found a rough way around that using a simple Google hack.

For example, I was googling and ran across an interesting tid bit on the CA Secretary of State's page: "Report on Secretary of State Testing of Diebold PCM 500 Units". That's all good and well, but what honeypot does this paper sit inside of? So I try:

http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/ks_dre_papers/

Damn. 403 error. But wait, Google can probably help... because I would be satisfied to see just a list of Googlified URLs that point to things in this ks_dre_papers honeypot. So, I go to Google and enter (link):

site:www.ss.ca.gov inurl:ks_dre_papers

Low and behold! All sorts of goodies! Note, what I did was use the inurl: Google specifier to tell Google that I want only URLs that contain ks_dre_papers (the site: one restricts it to the Secretary of State's website).

UPDATE [2007-09-10T18:41:07]: Note: the examples linked to above no longer work as examples (that directory has been moved from the target site)

Out in Napa: Regusci and Sequoia Grove

wine, tasting notes

Yesterday, Michelle and I took a jaunt up to Napa to hang out with some friends (one of whose husband is an enologist). It was a gorgeous day and what do you do in Napa on a gorgeous day? You go on a picnic or go to Lake Baryessa. We opted with picnicing at a vineyard... specifically Regusci. We had some sandwiches and did sommersaults in the grass with a 4 year old and a 9 month old.

We then went into the winery, which is a large, stone structure built in 1878 with 2-ft.-thick walls. This makes for a cool tasting room in the mid-day heat. The Regusci wine was delicious and the tasting was free for the four who tasted (as is the case if one of your party has a connection to the wine biz.). We had to walk out of Regusci with a Zin (their current release (2002) mixes 100-year-old vines and 5-year-old vines).

On the way home we had to hit up our favorite winery in the area (strictly in the graduate-student price v. quality measure for wine), Sequoia Grove. Sequoia Grove is a quaint little winery that is done completely in wood and full of very large (20 to 30 ft. high) oak barrels. The winery looks like it is recovering nicely from a lightning strike last fall that blew apart one of it's Sequoias. We had their regular tasting and their reserve tasting. Their reserve wines were delicious... so much so that we had to walk out with a '96 Cab and an estate reserve Chard.

We finished off the day with homemade pizza and the '96 Cab. The '96 Cabernet Sauvignon from Sequoia Grove is damn good. It's aged to the point where the macho-ass tannins have been worked over in their fight with time. The tannins have reached that state where even a Cab can become remarkably "buttery". The finish is subtle with lots of dark berries. It's an unfiltered wine which adds to that "I don't taste wine like this every day" feeling. What a perfectly California day.

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