8/21/2005

Election Reform -- Finally some good news! Impending Shuffle brings good guys to top

An announcement today will result in an unspecified shuffling of the players in the election reform movement (as usual, ordinary citizens aren't invited, and only high-tech voting solutions will be considered):

"Johns Hopkins-led center will study and develop voting technologies. Technology, public policy issues and election booth behavior will receive scrutiny," says the press release.

Called "ACCURATE," the project will be funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Avi Rubin. The other participants: (funded) David Dill, Dan Wallach, Doug Jones, David Wagner, Michael Byrne, Diedre Mulligan, Dan Boneh, Drew Dean, Peter Neumann (Unfunded affiliates): David Jefferson, Cindy Cohn, Whitney Quesenbery, Chris Edley, Josh Benaloh, David Chaum.

The thing about an NSF grant is this: You can't wear certain kinds of hats concurrently while taking NSF money. Therefore, plan to see the deck chairs being rearranged a bit in the election reform movement. Running a organization that raises funds and/or does lobbying, and working for an NSF grant on a related issue at the same time would be likely to raise eyebrows with funders.

David Dill, along with his wife, and his EFF attorney (Cindy Cohn) have been the directors of powerful Verified Voting organization and foundation, a 501c(3) and 501c(4) respectively. These organizations do voting advocacy and lobbying, and together form one of the largest, best funded, and most respected organizations in the U.S. A Verified Voting directorship also presents a significant conflict of interest, and there is probably a plan for Verified Voting to take on new management.

David Jefferson heads a technical advisory committee for the California Secretary of State's office (a new committee, recently created by Calif. S.o.S. Bruce MacPherson), where his technical prowess is badly needed. Jefferson has also been a director for the California Voter Foundation, a group that raises funds and participates in voting-related public education and lobbying. Jefferson was also, at one time, involved with a vendor called "Votegrity," together with another member of the new NSF-funded group, David Chaum. Jefferson is probably clean on these relationships, since his involvement with the NSF project is reportedly only an advisory role, and he has taken care to observe proper protocols all along, since he must observe security requirements in connection with his position at Lawrence Livermore Labs.

Avi Rubin, according to WiredNews.com, recently launched his own company to perform security evaluations, Independent Security Evaluators (ISE). Rubin, a former advisory board member for voting system vendor VoteHere, says his new "ISE" company will only test voting equipment "pro bono" in order to remove any potential conflict of interest with his academic work on voting system security. Rubin is also reportedly hoping to author a mass market book featuring his own role in the e-voting movement.

Doug Jones is also considering writing a book --likely to cover the history of voting integrity problems, a subject on which he possesses a wealth of fascinating knowledge. A stickier situation for Dr. Jones will be any continued involvement as a director with Open Voting Consortium, a vendor (although he has reportedly stepped back from his OVC involvement recently).

Cindy Cohn is involved with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the organization that litigated the groundbreaking punitive damages against Diebold for abusive use of cease and desist notices. The EFF frequently produces Amicus briefs related to important election litigation.

Many of the above activities may present no conflict, depending on the terms of the NSF grant. Some relationships, however, will have to be terminated, causing a change in roles played by key election reform advocates.

The new "ACCURATE" center can provide an outstanding contribution to election science, as long as there is no vendor influence.

Black Box Voting Forums: 8-15-05: Election Reform -- Impending Shuffle

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