Thanks for checking out the OVC blog. We’re just getting up and running here, but we appreciate your interest. If you have any good items to blog about, please send them to us and we’ll post them!
The Open Voting Consortium and California Clean Money campaign sponsored a highly successful Open House acquainting rank and file California Democrats with Open Voting and consolidating support for the already well known Clean Money issue. The event was held at the Manhattan Beach Marriot where the California Democratic Party held its Executive Committee meeting on January 27th and 28th.
Alan Dechert introduced the crowd to Open Voting and also did a great warm up for Ms. Bowen, who is running for secretary of State. Alan noted that legislation related to Open Voting is shaping up, but there is no bill number as yet. Eric Tang of the California Clean Money campaign closed out the evening by pointing out that elected officials aren’t beholden to rich interests for campaign funds that many of our other problems like health care will be more likely to be less intractable. He urged folks to call their Assembly members to help pass AB-583, which is scheduled for a vote any day. Learn more about the Clean Money campaign at www.caclean.org.
Television star and Open Voting Foundation Board member Mimi Kennedy acted as MC and also spoke strongly in favor of both Open Voting and Clean Money. Senator Debra Bowen was the other star of the evening and she stirred the crowd with a great speech on why the voting system must be fixed, if we are to restore faith in elections and our democracy. She pointed out that computer cards used in Diebold voting machines are the same as those for checking the level of corn moisture and anyone can buy them on the Internet.
Pat Higgins, who is volunteering as OVC Outreach Coordinator, helped organize the event.
Friends, we have received a $10,000 challenge grant from OVC supporter Chris Franklin. Here’s what he had to say about it:
In thriving democracies, vote counting is observed by representatives from all of the parties involved. This process makes cheating and/or mistakes almost impossible. Use of closed, proprietary, software to count the vote eliminates any observation, making the vote totals inherently untrustworthy. Open voting systems, that can be examined by all parties involved, is the only way to retain this crucial oversight when votes are counted by machine. OVC is a central part of making sure this is done.
I am making this donation with the expectation that others will match my contribution. People who, like me, want to look their children in the eye and know that they have done everything in their power to hand down a great country with a democratically elected government. Only with a voting system that is completely open to voter oversight, can that be ensured. If we lose our democracy to secret vote counting, our children will not enjoy the freedoms that we have today.
Please help match Chris’ contribution by donating what you can today.
From California State Senator Deborah Bowen:
In just the past seven days, more than 2500 people have emailed Secretary of State Bruce McPherson through my website, urging him to reverse his decision to re-certify Diebold voting machines.
The people of California deserve a full and transparent process for managing elections, a process that welcomes their participation and input — not backroom deals and secret studies that only see the light of day after final decisions have already been made.
Apparently, email messages from 2500 concerned citizens aren’t enough to make Secretary McPherson change his mind — so we need to make sure he hears from thousands more people, like you. That’s why I’m asking you, urgently, to forward an email to the Secretary of State as well.
The Washington Post has a great graphic that details the differences in regulation between Vegas slot machines and proprietary electronic voting machines.
The State of Nevada has access to all of the software that runs slot machines, and it’s illegal for casinos to use software that’s not on file. Meanwhile, Diebold, Sequoia and other vendors aren’t required to disclose software code for their voting machines because it is a “trade secret.”
I’ll be on Keepin’ it Real with Will & Willie tomorrow morning at 7:30a. That’s Will Durst, the comedian/satirist and Willie Brown, former San Francisco Mayor and former California legislator. It’s 960 AM on the dial or you can listen via Internet. http://www.quakeradio.com I’ll be talking about the upcoming San Francisco Elections Commission forum this Wednesday evening. http://www.sfgov.org/site/electionscommission_page.asp?id=38123 Also, I’ll talk about how industry folks like Diebold are trying to kill the bill we are sponsoring, AB 2097 (D-Goldberg, Los Angeles). This bill would require full public disclosure of all technical details (including source code) for voting systems as part of the certification process. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/bill/asm/ab_2051-2100/ab_2097_bill_20060217_introduced.html Here’s the letter we received last Thursday. It’s full of bald assertions, deception, lies, irrelevancies, etc. http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/ad/itaa322.pdf We’ll need some help to successfully fight this battle. AB 2097 is set to be heard April 18 1:30 pm in room 444 of the Capitol Building.
I’ve said it a few times in public. There’s “no opposition” to the OVC project. The challenge is in gathering together the support needed to accomplish steps toward our ultimate goal.
So when Jackie Goldberg’s office (of the CA Assembly Member that’s carrying our bill, AB 2097) informed me that lobbyists were showing up saying that industry is making it a priority to kill our bill, I had to re-think that just a bit.
There is some opposition. We ran into that. Tom Umberg’s staff didn’t seem to like the bill. The American Electronics Association (AeA), a large industry association was represented at the hearing. Deborah Seiler (former Diebold salesperson) of Solano County and Jill LaVine of Sacramento testified on behalf of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO, Conny McCormack of Los Angeles, president). There was also opposition from another large industrial consortium, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), which had sent a long opposition letter signed by representatives of ES&S and Sequoia. Two of McPherson’s senior staff members represented the Secretary of State’s office, explaining his position.
April 18th began with a call from Sally Lieber’s office. Assemblywoman Lieber, a strong ally and co-author, had been working on Tom Umberg. She was having trouble with the issue of how open systems can be secure, and she wanted a little coaching. This is a common question that we’ve answered many times in varying levels of detail. Also, this assertion (that an open voting system will be less secure) also turned up in Secretary of State Mcpherson’s letter, which he had sneaked in at the last minute (dated April 17th; Goldberg received late on the 17th and was faxed to me early on the 18th). So I took my short answer to that question and moved it to the top of my one-page handout I prepared for committee members. I emailed it to Lieber’s office and hoped she would be able to use it in time. I also knew that Jackie Goldberg would be working on Umberg before the hearing too. So, while I was doubtful we would get his vote, we certainly were not going to let him off easy.
I invited Josh Berkus, our designated independent open source guru from San Francisco, for lunch (a few blocks away at the Fox and Goose) so we’d have a chance to get oriented. Brent Turner joined us. We walked over to Goldberg’s office around 1:15. Jackie arrived shortly and we all walked to the hearing room by our appointed time (1:30).
One bill was heard before us. As I understood it, they were scheduled to hear 30 bills that day so I was very concerned about the timing. Joan Quinn took a seat near me. She asked about what she could do and I said that I wasn’t sure there would be time for testimony from the audience. Cliff Costa of Johan Klehs office walked over to me and said that Klehs would vote for the bill but that he had to leave by 3:00 pm.
We got started around 2:00 pm. Jackie presented the bill in an interesting way. She explained that a friend of hers for 30 years — a computer engineer with a lot of experience working on large complicated systems — had explained the issues to her, and she recounted the reasons for moving to an “open source” voting system (at one point, she mentioned his name: Richard Dawson). It was an excellent presentation and demonstrated that she really had a handle on what amounts to a very complicated subject. She described our bill as a “simple little bill,” and explained clearly what it would do.
I spoke next. Before the testimony, I had given the sargent-at-arms copies of my one-page outline to distribute to members. I attached to that a copy of page 51 from the GAO report that lists OVC as a key initiative for making voting systems more secure and reliable. I had a stack of big fat reports in front of me, plus the Bowen article about the Senate Elections committee February hearings on open source software for elections and voting system certification.
My basic strategy was to wave these documents one-by-one and say a little about each. Study-after-study indicates the need for transparency. I picked an excellent quote from the ACCURATE report. There were many great ones to choose from in that document. The Secretary of State’s report on Open Source gave me few choices, but there was at least one great usable quote. When I got to the last item, I spoke a little bit loud. This report, and the outrageous behavior of the vendors with respect to this problem exposed in Leon County Florida, gets me a little riled. I had spoken with Ion Sancho shortly before the hearing just to make sure I got all the facts straight.
After Josh’s testimony, Umberg asked if others want to testify in support. Joan Quinn and Michelle Smith came up to testify. They are great supporters and I was glad to have them there. Given the time constraints, I was a little nervous. It all worked out. Joan Quinn talked about how the public’s business is supposed to be aired in public.
Some of the most vocal opposition OVC hears comes from activists that don’t want machines involved in the process at all. These activists tend to be few and far between but they tend to congregate and are quite vocal. It’s a bit ironic that few of these, if any, showed up for the hearing. In her testimony, Jill LaVine, Registrar of Voters for Sacramento County, said that if this bill passes and the vendors don’t want to comply, “we will have to hand count the ballots!”
I was surprised by the level of interest expressed by the two Republicans. Villines said that after hearing our testimony, he would have to rethink his position. He then said the most interesting thing I heard all day. We explained the difference between “open source” and “disclosed source” (open source is publicly disclosed source licensed under a free software license). Our bill calls for disclosed source. Villines said, “it would lead to open source.” I didn’t say anything. I was thinking, “he gets it.”
All of the committee members were very engaged in the discussion. There were many comments and questions. A lot of the discussion had to do with security of the voting system and how disclosing the source code might impact that. I think we nailed that one pretty good. The other big topic was how much it might cost if vendors were not cooperative. Jackie made a couple of excellent points. She said that if they abandoned the state, that would tell them something about who they are. And, if it’s a question of spending some money compared to securing democracy, there is no contest. Also, she pointed out that she hears it all the time in other committees: vendors complain about the state imposing new requirements and they threaten to leave the state. “They never do,” she said. “California is too big a market for them.”
One of the biggest highlights for me: Theresa Taylor Carroll, assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, said that we need more time to study this. Jackie quickly shot her down with a reference to the report on open source the Secretary of State was asked to do. It was her resolution two years ago, ACR 242, that called for this study. This resolution and the other reports illustrate how years of work were pulled together on this day.
Lloyd Levine asked a lot of questions. He zeroed in on how often systems have to be certified. One of his questions had to do with “ballot programming.” We had to clarify that “ballot programming” (an unfortunate term) did not involved writing programs. It’s more like software configuration. When the software is changed, the voting system has to be recertified. Disclosure happens, according to the bill, when systems are put up for certification.
I really enjoyed having Assembly Member Betty Karnette there. She’d ask a question then look at us like, “why are you asking me to decide this … do I look like a computer programmer?”
At one point, I was thinking, “Leno’s not here; Klehs has to leave soon; the other committee members are asking question after question; Umberg’s probably going to vote ‘no.’ We don’t have the votes. We’re sunk.” The turning point for me was provided by Karnette. After some talk about how this could cost the State of California a lot of money, Karnette suddenly perked up. She said something like, “sure there’s going to be disasters. This is California! I’m going to support the bill.”
I was elated to hear the vote, but I was careful not to show it. When Umberg cast his vote, he noted that the vendors had not shown up. I don’t think they would have done themselves any good by showing up. Everyone in the room would have recognized their hot air.
After we left the hearing room, I saw Assembly Member Mark Leno on the monitor (California Channel broadcast) in the waiting area. The Public Safety Committee hearing he chairs was still going on. A little while later, he came to our hearing room and cast his vote. The final tally was 5 in favor, none in opposition. The Republicans did not vote.
My cell phone call log shows that I started making calls a little after 3:30 telling people about our success. The hearing must have run at least an hour (I was expecting 15 – 30 minutes). I received quite a few phone calls and emails, thank you, that evening and the next day. Monica Smith of Sally Lieber’s office called around 6:30. She had not heard the outcome and sounded concerned. I told her that we got Umberg’s vote and I thanked her and Assemblywoman Lieber for their help. She was pleased. Ion Sancho (the Leon County elections chief who assisted in proving the hackability of the Diebold system, and from whom I used some facts in my testimony) called me the next day and wanted to hear all about it.
I will tone down the “no opposition” rhetoric. There is opposition. What I mean is that this opposition won’t stand that light of day when the facts are laid on the table. This is still no guarantee we’ll win. We have to have the opportunity to present the case to decision makers. The April 18th hearing was an opportunity to do that and we showed up.
California State Senator Debra Bowen won the Democratic Party endorsement for the office of Secretary of State at the convention last weekend. In the debate with Senator Deborah Ortiz, her opponent in the primary, she condemns Diebold and says, emphatically, “we need open source voting software that is publicly owned and not proprietary….” Click here to listen to that part.
Or, you can listen to the whole debate. Willie Brown is the moderator. Senator Bowen received over eighty percent of the delegates’ votes!
As the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle put it a week earlier, Bowen lives up to the idea that, “An individual’s actions should be presumed private, while a government’s actions should be presumed public.” I believe that axiom, too. Don’t you?
There is no candidate for office this year anywhere in the United States more deserving of support from people who care about the future of democracy. Please visit her campaign web site and see what you can do for her. http://www.debrabowen.com/
Opposition to our open voting bill AB 2097 (Goldberg) was predicated on vendor non-compliance. They said our law would cost the state huge sums because vendors would refuse to go along.
We have proven this to be false. At the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting last week (Jun 6), the registrar of voters, Dave MacDonald described the contract with Sequoia. He said that the agreement includes a provision that says the vendor will comply with any state or federal law that requires open source. You can listen here.
This is a major victory for advocates of open source software for elections. Jim Soper deserves credit for working with the supervisors on this. Other Open Voting supporters that have relentlessly worked on Alameda county officials include Michelle Gabriel, Jerry Berkman, Pat Sax and quite a few others (The list is long, so I apologize in advance for omissions).
This also serves to show how far we’re brought this into the public consciousness. A voting software disclosure requirement is now anticipated.
Thanks to all that support this effort!