Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Firmware Verification - DRAFT letter

I'm going to send my own letter. This is a draft from David Powell, my party's chair. I'm the vice-chair. As such, I can be more of an attack dog. I hate it when a bureaucrat plays gatekeeper and closes volunteers, taxpayers, voters, citizens and experts from a watchdog opportunity.

David Powell
Chair, Libertarian Party of Allegheny County
924 Chislett St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206 
(412) 661-1135

Mr. Mark Wolosik
Manager, Division of Elections, Allegheny County
604 County Office Bldg., 542 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2953
(412) 350-4500

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Mr. Wolosik:

I have been informed that on Monday the 22nd the Division of Elections carried out a procedure to verify the integrity of the software contained within the iVotronic DRE voting terminals employed in Allegheny County. Though many members of my organization would prefer a voting system enabling voters to be sure their votes are recorded as cast, as long as the voters of our County must use paperless electronic voting machines we would certainly hope for any available assurances that they may be operating properly. So it is good news that the County is pursuing this matter.

Unfortunately, I have also been informed that the individual designated by our party to observe the process, Ronald Bandes, was not permitted to participate. Mr. Bandes is a graduate student studying Information Security, Policy, and Management at Carnegie Mellon University and has also served as a poll worker. As you may recall, in the November 2008 general election our party fielded candidates in the state-wide races for President, Attorney General, Auditor General, State Treasurer, and also for the 35th district of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We of course wish votes for our candidates to be accurately counted, and were looking forward to the informed observations which Mr. Bandes volunteered to provide.

I am not an attorney, nor otherwise intimately familiar with the Pennsylvania Election Code. As a layperson, it would seem only natural that all parties with candidates on the ballot in the November general election would be entitled to observe election procedures on an equal basis, in accordance with the requirement in Article 1, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution that elections be “free and equal.” So that we can plan appropriately for upcoming elections, could you please provide me with your understanding of which provision(s) of law govern who may appoint observers for firmware verification events?
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Dave Powell, Chair
Allegheny County Libertarian Party

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

Good points, from Dave E, as always, about the draft letter going onto my blog before the final one was crafted and sent.

Mark, I'm in favor of transparency because it is frequently
a tool for bringing about liberty, though I do not regard
transparency as a first-class goal of its own, and I think
most people do not (after all, most of us do not live in
glass houses, though modern glass technology makes this
possible). Many of us feel that George Bush's warrantless
wiretapping scheme was wrong--but all he wanted was for some
phone calls to be transparent.

In this particular case I don't see how posting a draft letter
on your blog before the actual letter is delivered to its
recipient advances the cause of liberty. Because we don't
control the government of Allegheny County, making a public
statement that we are unhappy doesn't force anybody to do
anything our way. I just don't see an upside to publishing
that letter now as opposed to two weeks from now.

Meanwhile, I really do think this could be premature publicity
in one or more senses. First, if a member of the press reads
your blog post and calls Mark Wolosik, Wolosik can totally
shut down the conversation by completely factually pointing
out that he has received no such letter. I don't see how this
can increase our credibility with the local press, and can
easily see how it would hurt. Second, I think it is plausible
that Wolosik made a snap decision which he might back down from
if given an opportunity. Perhaps not! But since we're not
running a candidate in the February special election I don't
see what we lose by giving him a chance to explain himself
to us before inviting other people to complain at him.

All in all, I don't get how it makes sense for Wolosik to be
the last to know about the contents of a letter supposedly
sent to him, and I really do think it might have made sense
to see his response, or lack thereof, first.

Dave Eckhardt