What This Blog is About

For the first ever blog posting at OSET, I thought I’d answer a couple basic questions about why we blog and what people can expect to find here – and what not to expect.

There already a lot of blogging and public commentary about voting, election reform, and the like. Rather than being just another such voice, we focus on technology and voting. There’s a lot to love about the way that America votes today, and no small amount that’s troubling or even seems wrong or broken.

In the latter category, technology is the culprit in many cases. Technology developments, concerns, issues, glitches, fixes, improvements — that’s the core of what you can read in this blog, including technology-focused entries, policy-focused, and most often a mix.

So that’s the type of commentary you can find here. But in addition to opinion, there is some education or explanation that we’d like to do, starting with “Why OSET?” but generally extending to a surprising (to me at least) number of area of background or even history that define the role of technology in voting in the U.S.

Another thing you’ll find here, once or twice a month, is a news roundup. There’s rather a large amount of buzz, froth, real news, thoughtful blogging, and more, all about events and issues in digital voting.

We provide our own slice through the news, from our “activity-ist” viewpoint, not in the sense of advocating or pursuing policy changes (many good people are being excellent activists in that way) but in the sense of focusing on activities can be pursued now, towards near term impact in which technology is more a solution than a problem in the means of conducting elections in the US.

We look for news and commentary that shows the scope for such activities, and (one hopes) progress!

Last but not least we certainly do provide commentary that is focused on issues and questions posed within our OSET community, especially those that are shared by readers generally. Although the entire OSET blog space is publicly accessible, we think it’s important that the public-facing blog should provide some summary view of what we’re discussing amongst ourselves.

What you should not expect to find here (and call us on it if — OK nobody’s perfect — when you see it) is anything that’s whining, alarmist, polemical, or political in the sense of partisanship or advocacy.

The no-whining part is really important to me personally. You can find plenty of that elsewhere. If you see anything in OSET as complaining about voting or elections, it should be in the context of explaining solvable problems, and suggesting how to try and assess technical approaches to at least some part of the problem.

And one more key point regards advocacy. OSET is not an advocacy group, doesn’t engage in lobbying, isn’t trying to do election reform per se.

We are very interested in the positions of various advocacy groups and other folks, and how they can impact, or being affected by voting technology.

But the only position of advocacy that we take is that there are real problems with voting in the U.S. where technology is partly the cause, and where new technology can make substantial improvements.

OK, that should be enough to set expectations. Now for some shorter and to-the-point postings!

Any form of question or suggestion is most welcome!


2 responses to “What This Blog is About

  1. >But the only position of advocacy that we take is
    >that there are real problems with voting in the
    >U.S. where technology is partly the cause

    >and where new technology can make substantial improvements.
    Partially agree.

    For many in the election integrity community that is a controversial position.

    In particular, your site states that your goal is to help “develop open source guidelines, specifications, and prototypes of high assurance digital voting systems and services”. (It is not clear to me whether you are angling towards electronic voting machines or towards on line voting.)

    In my view having an open source voting system is not enough to ensure a sufficient level integrity. In particular there is no good way that I am aware of to convince someone that the voting system is running the software that it claims to be running.

  2. Open source software (or an open development process more broadly) is neither necessary nor sufficient. But it is very close to necessary in a practical sense because open access to a system enables a much more feasible and cost effective process of building assurance, including inspectaion, assessment, and certification. Openness is certainly not sufficient, because that assurance building process is required as well — and that it be based on at least de facto standards and methodologies in order for results to be consistent and repeatable.

    As for convincing someone that a particular computer is running a particular software build– including a computer that is a voting system– there is certainly a body of techniques for doing so at least for a system’s boot image. However, these techniques are only convincing to computer software and systems professionals (or those similarly skilled), so that again we fall back to a public process for review, and public trust in the review process and reviewers. It’s not mainly a technology solution, though the technques exist as a basis – code signing, trusted software distribution, tamperproof (write-once) phsyical media, and so forth.

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