Tagged TrustTheVote

Why Publish Ballots?

I’d like to thank Eric Rescorla for making an excellent and pithy point about the purpose of publishing images of  marked ballots.  But first, thanks (again) to Mitch Trachtenberg of the Humboldt Transparency Project for publishing a hand-picked set of ballot images that provide a great example of the difficult borderline cases of interpreting hard-marked paper ballots — whether it is a human or some software doing the interpreting.  Ballot publication can show how much of a given election result actually depended on these borderline cases.

Eric made a broader point that is so widely misunderstood that it truly merits repetition:

The main point of publishing ballot images  is to allow people to independently verify that the images published correspond to the votes recorded for those images.

True, but verification requires more than ballot images – it requires that each image is published along with information about how that ballot’s marks were interpreted as votes that were counted.  I cringe every time somebody talks about ballot image publication as though it were just posting some JPEGs on a Web site.

By viewing the images plus these “cast ballot records“, members of the public can look at a ballot image and decide for themselves whether they think its votes were interpreted correctly — and if not, whether the putative mistakes are enough to effect the outcome of a race.

And just as important, consider the cases where an election official is involved in deciding an ambiguous mark – particularly at large scales such as with vote-by-mail.  As a result, broader transparency requires that the election process maintain audit records of these decisions, in case they need to be re-visited.

So, sure, the publication of images alone is helpful for transparency, but Mitch’s examples show how much interpretive leeway there can be. And in close elections, that leeway can influence whether a recount is required, or even influence an election result. So it’s just as important to maintain and publish cast-ballot records, audit records, and the like.

But that is a lot of work!

And often is not feasible with current voting systems and election management technology. It’s actually quite a job to maintain and publish all this information in a form useful to members of the public – a job that we’re working on at the TrustTheVote Project of course, by building all of our election technology system components with the “Save Everything” principle.

— EJS

OSDV Responds to FCC Inquiry about Internet Voting

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked for public comment on the use of the Internet for election-related activities (among other digital democracy related matters).  They recently published the responses, including those from OSDV.  I’ll let Greg highlight the particularly public-policy-related questions and answers, but I wanted to highlight some aspects of our response that differ from some others.

  • Like many respondents, we commented on that slippery phrase “Internet voting”, but focused on a few of the specific issues that apply  particularly in the context of overseas and military voters.
  • Also in that context, we addressed some uses of the Internet that could be very beneficial, but are not voting per se.
  • We contrasted other countries’ experiences with elections and the Internet with the rather different conditions here in the U.S.

For more information, of course, I suggest reading our response. In addition, for those particularly interested in Internet voting and security, you can get additional perspectives from the responses of TrustTheVote advisors Candice Hoke and David Jefferson, which are very nicely summarized on the Verified Voting blog.

— EJS

Check out our wiki

Yes, it’s still a work in progress (I guess they remain that, forever.) But recently we’ve done quite a bit of neatening (gardening as they say among some wiki-geeks.) up of the TrustTheVote.org wiki. As we work, we will continue to add most of all we know and think as of a certain point in time. Between the TrustTheVote wiki and this blog, you should be able to have a pretty clear x-ray into the TrustTheVote project.

Wiki’s, unlike blogs, don’t change on a daily basis, and act more like a web site or document repository than as a newsletter or periodic update. Our goal is that as time goes by, you will be able to answer questions you have about TrustTheVote’s approach and projects, status reports, images and documents, and so on.

So let me give you a tour of some items of interest in the wiki. On the front page, there are a few landmarks to help you find stuff. In the top right corner, you see a list of the major TrustTheVote projects. You see links such as “Digital Voting Records System” and “Data Layer” among others. Each of these links goes to a project page, which you will see is in various stages of completeness.

Further on the front page, on the right, below the projects, is a “Recently Changed” list, which shows you exactly what pages have been most recently edited, and actually when that was, so you can see the parts of the wiki that we are working on.

In the left margin, you see an area called “Navigations”. Note the TTV Projects link which takes you to a one page table of all the projects with very brief summaries of what they are, so it’s a good place to get an overview.

Also in that same section is a “Stakeholder Community” link where we are putting information that we are exchanging with out stakeholder community, “a group of election officials, election technologists, election process experts, and advocates, who have graciously offered their advice to the OSDV Foundation’s TrustTheVote Project.”

I hope you will find this wiki a useful resource. You may notice that at this moment it is not editable; this is because we need to figure out a way to allow people to contribute to it without at the same time opening it up to the usual vandals and spammers that love to use open wikis as a launch pad for link farms and other non-sense.

Enjoy.