Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tuesday Re-Cap

Tuesday felt like a good day, starting with circulating the press release and open letter on election conditions put out by Vets For Peace Humboldt Bay Chapter 56. The first version of that letter dates back to December. While it is still timely and accurate this week, it doesn't contain references to the most current events.

It has been suggested that perhaps after Thursday's meeting of the County's new Election Advisory Board (EAB) there could be a follow-up letter. I have missed the first two EAB meetings in favor of attending the conflicting VFP meetings that were necessary to move the letter along. Thursday will be my first EAB meeting which is open to the public and starts at 6:30 at the County Courthouse in Eureka. I haven't seen an agenda but I understand there will be a presenter doing a demonstration of Vote-PAD.
The Voting-on-Paper Assistive Device (Vote-PAD) is an inexpensive, non-electronic, voter-assist alternative that helps most people with visual or dexterity impairments to vote independently.

The Vote-PAD can be used in any jurisdiction. It is customized to provide access to each precinct'’s hand-counted or optically-scanned paper ballot. All jurisdictions must offer provisional ballots during federal elections, and many also provide paper ballot backups in case voting machines break down. It is particularly suited for jurisdictions that use hand-counted paper ballots.
I've been talking about hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB) quite a bit lately, including during public comment at Tuesday's meeting of theHumboldt County Board of Supervisors. In under three minutes I made the case for investigating Diebold's installation of uncertified software in Humboldt voting machines (.pdf), summarized the problems with Secretary McPherson's recent decision to conditionally certify Diebold, and served notice of my intention to both ask a judge for an injunction against continued use of Humboldt's illegal Diebold OS machines and to turn in a proposal recommending HCPB as an alternative.

Back to Vote-PAD for second, reported this article back in January, followed by news of Wisconsin's approval for use. The Vote-PAD website also contains this announcement from Jan. 19 stating the company will be working with Yolo County, CA. Finally, Vote-PAD was founded by Ellen Theisen, an experienced technical writer who compiled the tremendous Mythbreakers (.pdf) document previously referenced at GuvWurld. Ellen also founded and attended the National Summit to Save Our Elections last fall in Portland. There I had a chance to meet and work with her and develop a strong sense that there is a basis for confidence in her work.

Another exciting part of my Tuesday was speaking to Eureka Mayor Peter La Vallee's graduate class in legal and political social work at Humboldt State University. The invitation was for 30 minutes but I was encouraged to finish out the full final hour of the class. This was much more of a discussion than a lecture covering many topics including: Consent of the Governed and the Voter Confidence Resolution; ranked choice voting, including the distinction between instant runoff voting for single seat elections and choice voting for multiple seat elections; background and current events on Diebold; fascism and the potential future of the Intentionally Divided States of America (.pdf); and ways to get involved with local efforts to address election integrity.

Welcome to the many students who became new subscribers to the GuvWurld mailing list (subscribe), and thanks also to the new subscribers to the Voter Confidence Committee list (reminder: there is a VCC meeting tonight - if you would like to participate, please contact me for the private location of this meeting). I was especially pleased with this speaking engagement because I went in cold, without preparation, planning only to heed the advice I'd been given: have fun with it.

The last part of my day involved talking to a lawyer about pursuing the Diebold injunction. We were considering the arguments to make. I said of course it should be open and shut with the interpreter code making the machines illegal. He then brought up the point that allowing continued use represents a great risk of harm. We both agreed the first argument was stronger. Then I said that the line I'd really like to use is...(guess, go on, wait for it...)...there is no basis for confidence in the results reported. He said this is the top argument. I was somewhat stunned. This is what I've used since I first started developing the Voter Confidence Resolution nearly two years ago. My mind boggles when I think that this phrase, the near equivalent of clicking my heels to go home, could turn out to be so influential in such a potentially pivotal action.

Finally, for your reference, the ITA report (.pdf) upon which CA Secretary of State Bruce McPherson was supposed to base his Diebold certification decision was finally released yesterday. I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I've seen commentary stating that it does not really address the illegality of the interpreter code, primarily due to the way Diebold framed the questions to be answered by the reviewers. That sort of takes the I (Independent) out of ITA. For more on the incestuous relationship between the machine vendors and those tasked with vetting them, read this piece by Dr. Avi Rubin. Also for reference, here again is the security analysis (.pdf) by the Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board (VSTAAB) used by McPherson to justify further rubbing our noses in the absence of democracy.



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