On a new open-source election system being offered by the start-up Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET).
I wrote last month (3/25/2014, http://www.opednews.com/articles/Verified-Voting-Ambiguat-by-Marta-Steele-Democracy_Education_Progressives_Revolution-140325-862.html ) about what I saw as deliberate ambiguation as project names overlap between opposing movements: election integrity born in 2000 in wake of the notorious election versus the new election integrity that supports voter I.D. in direct confrontation of the values fostered by the original coiners of the expression.
Examples of the crossovers, as I mentioned, include Votetrust versus TrueTheVote, and Verified Voting versus Verify the Vote.
Now we have "TrusttheVote" to ambiguate VoteTrust.org further, but there's a difference. The ambiguity does not aim to overlap. Are there so few names around that overlap is inevitable? There is TrueVote, ingenious machinery to improve and verify the system with both security and transparency, invented in the early by the late Ethan Gibbs, whose mysterious death in an auto accident challenges the guise of coincidence. And there are many other variations on this word pair from Australia to home.
This is no Andy Rooney-type tirade. Trust the Vote offers a new concept: a glass box to replace the black box that rules out transparency. Trust the Vote is the brainchild of the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET). Its bottom line is "airtight, open-source vote casting and tabulation software that can be paired with off-the-shelf hardware."
Even in recent weeks plagued by the Heartbleed flaw in OpenSSL, the head of Trust the Vote, Gregory Miller, says that "I haven't yet met someone predicting the end of open source as a method for creating software."
Miller is justifiably alarmed that current election systems are reaching a point where they will require placement due to their limited durability. I think that directing recording, touchscreen technology, whose use is on the wane, is his primary reference. These systems, initially hugely expensive to purchase and maintain, with required maintenance warranties that are documented as neglected as often as not, cost up to $8,000 per machine, before other expenses kick in. These are detailed in my book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols," among other sources.
So there is definitely one category of system worth replacing and another, optical scanners, which are more transparent in that they combine electronics with paper records, but often the latter, which add to transparency, are either deemed illegal altogether or not resorted to for tabulation, which increases credibility and public trust. These systems last longer and are hugely less expensive.
Moreover, the OSET systems, less expensive than optical scanners I assume, guarantee transparency. Anyone skilled in reading source codes will be able to track the voting process from beginning to end, once the vote is cast. I'm not sure that the general public will benefit directly but there will be more Trust in the Vote, if support is garnered from at least some of the experts who vehemently opposed any form of electronic voting even before 2000.
I'm injecting my reactions into description of the product. Mr. Miller is addressing as wide an audience as he can, in that the "original" EI advocate group is small. He achieves this by asserting that "fraud" along with "electoral fraud" is rare and dissociates himself from "conspiracy theories." He also notes enigmatically that "the root cause of voter fraud or election fraud is social engineering." Merriam-Webster defines "social engineering" as "applied social science." Wikipedia expands this definition to "psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information." Sounds like mind control. Mind control happened when DREs were first purchased in droves even before the Help America Vote act was passed at the end of 2003. Major incentive for this stampede was supplied by a powerful lobby that stood to benefit hugely and financially by steering municipalities in this direction as they did. The silicon was dumped in large quantities soon after, some of it sold on the Internet for $30 per machine. But the "audit" tapes expectorated by the devices were nothing but mirror images of the tabulation, rather than paper trails required by HAVA. What's in a few words or a piece of paper? See again "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols" for the details.
My purpose is not to diss Trust the Vote per se. Open software has been proposed before as a system far superior to what we have, but total opacity is replaced by limited transparency. Once experts can trace the voting process, even security can be monitored, so that transparency and security lose the either/or stigma as well as the neither/nor that afflicts DRE systems.
The Trust the Vote system is a work in process, raising funds to materialize what is so far a workable concept. The hand-counted paper ballot system advocated by the original EI movement is even more of a work in progress in terms of public support. Who wants to return to a nineteenth-century method, even highly workable in the twenty-first with new techniques evolved, when a system that holds onto computers, in some ways superior to optical scanning, is offered as an option?
My purpose is not per se to diss technological systems, which experts predict are the future of voting, though not until the myriad glitches are attended to. Nor am I advertising HCPB, my preferred system that is the best interim solution.
My purpose has been to question Trust the Vote. Honest voting is also very much a work in progress. To eliminate social engineering may be the real solution, but first we all have to understand what it means and how it works. How many honest people are around to accomplish this and how much popularity can they gain?
I want a true vote, trust in the vote, and all the concepts distilled into too-similar nomenclature. The public is confused enough, when they have time to be.
For more information on Trust the Vote, see my sources techcrunch.com, oset.com, and trustthevote.org. The narrative is beguiling. We are desperate for solutions, those of us who have time to be, and admit it, there are far larger expenses tugging at the slender wallets of taxpayers than election systems. But studies indicate that fewer and fewer people trust the vote and those who do are often kept from voting, a combination that bodes ill for the future of democracy, the ultimate victim.
Educating the public is the solution. Ambiguous nomenclature doesn't help. Nomenclature engineering may be in order. Who can afford to hire ad agencies these days? Trust the Vote seeks millions to further its goals. So do we others. Disambiguation is a step in the right direction.
Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for Opednews.com since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, 2000-2008" (Columbus, Free Press) and a member of the Election Integrity movement since 2001. Her original website, WordsUnLtd.com, first entered the blogosphere in 2003. She recently became a senior editor for Opednews.com. She has in the past taught college and worked as a full-time as well as freelance reporter. She has been a peace and election integrity activist since 1999. Her undergraduate and graduate educational background are in Spanish, classical philology, and historical and comparative linguistics. Her biography is most recently listed in "Who's Who in America" 2019 and in 2018 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who.