EVT ’08 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop

Last week I attended EVT ’08, 2008 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology Workship, in San Jose. <program and papers>

It was pleasing to see a UConn paper on memory card testing accepted and presented. Their work has been previously covered here. Over the next few days I will cover a couple of the other papers presented.

This year the program expanded from one day to almost two days, complementing the papers with a keynote and panels including computer scientists, election officials, and federal election officials. Missing from the panels, for the most part were activists although they did include some computer scientists and election officials that could be considered activists.

Today the panels:

One panel. “How Can Researchers and Election Official Better Work Together”, with computer scientists and election officials ended with a strong statement by an election official against activists questioning our methods and our integrity. I was moved to defend activists and our role. What I said approximately was:

“My integrity is all I have. I lose sleep that I get something significantly wrong. Activists provide an important funcition. That what election officials can learn from computer scientists is the scientific method. When activists challenge election officials with facts and opinions, the response should not be attack but facts and alternate interpretations.”

I also commented in the Q & A during the final panel, “Technical Monitoring and Other Post-TTBR (*) Interim Strategies”, on the statements of Debra Bowen and another panelist. I hope my comments were taken constructively as they were intended. It was late in the session and none of the panelists chose to respond.to my comments.

One panelist said we need to explain our points in three sentences or less to a sixty-four year old housewife so that she understands it. Debra Bowen, California Secretary of State, said she has a “Gramma rule” – you must be able to explain it to Gramma. My approximate comments summarized:

I like the “gramma rule” and the sixty-four year old housewife. I would set the bar lower, we have a bigger problem to solve 1st. We need to be able to explain it to legislators and newspaper editors. The biggest newspaper in our state has an editorial saying ‘nobody has yet figured out how to hack these machines’ and ignores the research at UConn paid for by our Secretary of the State. Expect a flurry of similar feel-good articles and editorials again this fall. When we have failed to explain to state and federal legislators the difference between testing a machine once and the fact it is programmed for each election, requiring new tests and audits – we need to solve that.

(*) TTBR – The California Top-To-Bottom Review.

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