Monday, December 10, 2007

SoS Brunner's consideration of citizens in her "election reform" process

At the bottom of this post is the text of Assistant Secretary of State, Chris Nance's email, which arrived in my email inbox on December 7, 2007, the end date of testing, responding to months-long, numerous professional attempts to have independent citizens, with no partisan or other vested interests, be able to oversight and weigh in with SoS selected BOE officials, politicians, testers and vendors on redaction of the testing reports to the public, and recommendations to be made from them about our elections. These attempts began in general in April, and more specifically when the testing subject "re-arose" almost completely planned in June, then since.

That message is both misleading to those who don't know the facts, especially about the SoS's and the VRI, VoteTech sub-group's actions and intentions, and was Nance's "next week" answer promised on November 13, the day before the SoS-planned, 3-hour "field trip" to the testing facility, and their presentation there, which required the signing of the daunting Non-Disclosure Agreement, complete with a date of termination of rights and responsibilities, of October 16,
2017 - but for no meaningful reason, nor equal access to oversight.

That November 13th email - following 2 conference calls, which followed many emails to their office, and direct in-person approach on September 20, (first film) requesting inclusion, many evoking assurances that SoS Brunner had always planned for that to happen said:

Good Morning,
In the interest of time let me get to the point of my email - I do not yet have an answer to the question (s) concerning the role of the VoteTech work group subsequent to the visit/orientation at the State of Ohio Computer Center (SOCC). Consequently, I understand that some of you may choose to participate in the SOCC tour/orientation tomorrow and some of you may not. Anyone who does participate -either in person or via conference call - will have to sign the NDA. As I mentioned on the phone Thursday, I appreciate your questions and I hope that you will share additional questions with the test teams. I hope to have a response to the questions that have been raised within the next week. Thanks.

Christopher B. Nance
Assistant Secretary of State
State of Ohio
180 E. Broad Street, 16th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
614-466-2655 (main)
614-644-0764 (direct)
614-485-7625 (fax)

That was sent in response to my email:


Dear Chris, Kellye and All,

Thanks for the phone conference this am, and for sticking with this process, as we attempt to bring it to one creating greater transparency, democratic dynamic, and one that can create a truly deserved greater public confidence in our voting systems - both the people and the machines - not in any way, less.

A critical factor that becomes clear as we speak, is that recent years of fast-building public outcry, dissent, and at times downright disgust and disconnection regarding election insecurities, wrongly placed priorities; long-impacted dynamics of political patronage, insider political/financial deals, etc. which eventually shut voters out of any say about our own election processes - can be generally placed into two categories:

1. the "personnel" - election officials, system vendors, and testers who may also have their own financial and other self-interests in mind, and incumbents and appointees making the people's election rules and guidelines, not always in public, nor in the public's best interest, but their own, etc.; and

2. the "machines" themselves.

The current machine systems, of course, to date, via many already scientifically done reports and thorugh in-field experience, have shown that they:

• inherently, as "black boxes" canNOT provide the transparency necessary for the most essential factor of elections - that the public, the owners of elections, needs and wants to be able to watch the counting for ourselves/be able to ascertain for ourselves, with no computer codes, that what we're told as the "winners" are really our collective choices, and that our votes are private, etc.

• as "black boxes" also held behind profit-making,
private and "proprietary" interests, cuts the public further off, and very wrongly so, from our own election "results," while we are the ones who must live under "their" "results," and while we are the ones paying mounting enormous sums for them, and for the people who run them "inside" - only supposedly, for us/the people (since we can rarely see "inside.")

• as "black boxes" they are also frought with proven, multitudes of, and at the most foundational, thus, the largest, levels, computer security and operational holes and failures, - allowing to undetectably create or change our "results" to inside advantage, especially for those with the most inside access and often with our no longer useful D/R elections systems, the ones with the most self-serving vestments in election "results."

• even operationally, are unfit for the election use intended - especially the touchscreens. (Just for starters, refer to such concepts as
-failing, and hard to see printers, that keep the our ballots inside the machine, not separately for an outside check;
-tabulators that cannot handle quantities of information causing slower, rather than the faster returns of integrity, as was a promised reason for their being purchased;
-the fragility and overly detailed nature of their set up and operation at polling places, for most poll workers of reasonable intelligence in the given amount of time they have to learn and perform, which is seemingly caused by cheapest, incompetent design and construction, which also causes longer lines and huge payrolls just for people to tend to failing machines in the field;
-soaring costs for maintenance and sole-source supplies
- the VVPAT's and in the case of Diebold, also GEMS - unfitness for conducting reasonably efficient recounts
- the massive number of hours/days of payrolled time to do what boards call L&A testing, which in the end, when talking about true computer security, still prove
nothing about the machines' accuracy, sameness to all other machines, fitness for all ballot styles, etc.
Such truer and necessary L&A testing, however would take far more person-hours and weeks than boards can afford.
- the now upgrowth of the new seeming necessity for a whole new, additionally completely opaque layer of possibly self-interested people, whom the public is to and must again blindly trust - the academic and computer "experts" - to tell us how to "audit" our results to know whether to be "confident" in the machines; to do such auditing; to test the machines; and to write books and make tv appearances....
- and on, and on... )

The age-old human bent for wanting to manipulate any election - even high school ones - toward own wishes has truly run amok in this nation - with the stakes as high as "wealth and domination" - the dynamic and process now can easily have little to do with the most apparent ballots or voters - but far more with computer savvy, inside access, and media spin: wholesale undetectable election fraud, not even minutely existent voter fraud.

Increasingly fewer people are still operating under the long-built false myth about who owns, thus must control the people's elections: are re-awakening to the fact that
the people are the owners, and thus we must oversight "the personnel." Thus transparency even in this new machine testing process, needs to be the guiding force, and must take first precedence to all other competing interests for secrecy, even currently where transparency must still be measured carefully against specific proprietary claims.

Yet generally in the RFP for this testing process, and in the the answers the SoS gave to the Ohio Controlling Board to obtain the taxpayer-paid $1.8 million dollar funding for this project, it was stated on page 3, in #3:

"This office has generally taken a pragmatic approach to assisting Ohio's election officials in meeting their statutory responsibilities while working to ensure fair elections and assure voter confidence."

That concept, still is backwards.

Fair, open, honest elections, for, of and by the people, while following all election laws comes first/is the core. The SoS pragmatism of assisting Ohio's election officials to meeting their responsibilities is secondary, and must always be defined only by the first concept, first. The SoS must protect and honor voters first, not election officials, especially those who demonstrate that they do not understand that they are employed by the public, to conduct the people's fair, open, transparent, honest elections.

Recent history in Ohio and across the nation, however, shows definitively that the public can NOT and must not blindly trust election officials, or "testers," - or anyone else, to even follow current laws, let alone determine our results alone. It takes all of us watching to keep all of us honest.
(See traditions of political patronage, partisan or other self-interests, etc. above.)

Given that "personnel" fact, coupled with the insecure black boxes especially vulnerable to inside manipulation, so often hidden behind walls of secrecy, it's no wonder that there is such huge outcry to the public's lack of oversight and complete disconnection about our elections processes and results - though elections are the very cornerstone and seed of our democracy, of hope, of peace.

However still, in this testing process, election officials, some of publicly unproven integrity, have again been placed in core positions of determining the "trustworthiness" of the machines referred to above/again are being placed in the core of making decisions about the people's elections - with not even any checks or balances from the people.

By signing the NDA, at least 12 of these possibly questionable election officials, then a final four, (who may be swayed by such things as their own traditions, their ease, or even some party or job loyalties) will be exposed to oversighting the testing process, the non-redacted versions of the reports yielded, and presumably what conclusions are to be recommended. The citizen advocates of the VRI, on the other hand, to date, are only assured that by signing the same NDA we get to volunteer to see the facility, meet some testers, and see whatever others decide should or should not be presented to us. In the answers to my questions about the NDA, which is forwarded below, it is even noted that should we even sign the NDA and take the "interesting" field trip to the SOCC that we should:

"Please note that you may not be exposed to any Confidential Information while visiting the SOCC or during your participation."

As noted in both conference calls re: this process to date, we in the tech group of the VRI have agreed to volunteer, and have done so with intelligence and diligence - just to meaningfully attempt to help build bridges between the now all too "traditional" but falsely held "inside" and "outside" - to improve the election process - for the people.

The NDA thus, on an ideological level rubs against most in the group's original ideological prioritizations for election transparency. More specifically, it could also potentially completely muzzle us. Even further, it seemingly does so for no meaningful reasons - even not for very specific current proprietary needs for secrecy, (especially if we're not shown anything confidential such as unredacted reports nor included in confidential conversations, plus being not quite sure what we can and cannot say.)
Our own such signing does not (yet) allow us to engage in any meaningful, timely dialogue - even with the above-referenced election officials, and with testers, all of ultimately unknown motivations - so we can make sure the people's views are equally clearly heard and considered before the report becomes public.

I certainly hope such VRI-Tech proposed involvement is rethought and expanded, so our group's signing of such NDA, equal to election officials signing, brings us equally to access, to the unredacted reports, and to the discussion table with election officials and testers.

I also hope that for everyone's sake, that the public version of testing reports presents a 1.5 - 2 week period of questions and comments from the public, as was brilliantly suggested by Sibley, before the final version is taken to the legislature. Though this may seem "messy" or "inefficient" and not worthy of the "extra" few weeks, the benefits to authentic public "confidence" and the implementation of such a truly democratic process about the democratic process of elections, are necessary, would be huge, and would far outweigh any more short-sighted "efficiencies."

Because every election brings in its own set of "winners" who immediately act on their own building agendae, often gluttonously, at times to create more election-"winning" "guidelines" and strategies - such as redistricting, or HAVA, - in addition to their prioritizing use of the military, bombs, spying, torture, spreading fear and hate, etc. it is time for us to move forthrightly, no longer patiently trying to put thousands of band-aids on broken election personnel- and machine- systems that can NOT be "mitigated" - to get the election process righted, put back into the oversight of the people, in a way that can hold all the partisan conflicts and campaign strategies and dirty tricks, but that in the end, everyone can know that the announced winners came from the people's collective will. The people will not patiently swallow yet another highly questionable election as in 2000 and 2004, no matter how much media spin is placed.

Again, thanks for the conference call this am. I think we positively achieved alot, as especially Chris made sure that we were all listening to one another and making our views known clearly. I hope we can together take these views to the necessary next step of citizen participation.

And, just in case Kellye gets more busy than I, and because I had this response close at hand from last evening, I forward to the VRI Tech group the responses I received to my questions re: the NDA and the Tech group's proposed involvement in EVEREST testing and reporting.


Here's Chris's December 7, "next" message:

Dear Vote Tech Workgroup members. On behalf of Chris Nance, I am forwarding the below memo to you. Thank you, Kellye Pinkleton

December 7, 2007

TO: VRI Vote Tech Work Group

FR: Christopher B. Nance, Assistant Secretary of State


I would like to thank you for your patience since we last spoke on conference call several weeks ago. Since that time there have been some questions and concerns raised which will be addressed in this memorandum.

As you know, all were offered and a few were actually able to participate in the Vote Tech workgroup tour of the testing facility at the State of Ohio Computer Center here in Columbus. During that visit we provided an opportunity to visit with members of the test teams, observe the testing environment and engage in a discussion with our respective project team leaders. There seemed to be two factors that limited the actually number of Vote Tech members that were actually able to attend; travel/schedule constraints as well as a decision by others not to sign the non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Just to be clear, every single individual that has entered into the testing area is required to sign the NDA - there are no exceptions to this protocol. At the same time we respect the individual choice of any Vote Tech workgroup member not to sign the NDA.

At that time some questions were raised about additional participation of work group members in the overall project. As you may know, there are a group of election officials that were asked by Secretary Brunner to be involved in the review of reports as an extension of their sworn duty as local election officials. Volunteer participation in the VRI Vote Tech workgroup is a valuable contribution to civic engagement yet it is different than the statutory responsibilities of election officials. Consequently, Vote Tech workgroup members will not be involved in the review of EVEREST findings before the release of the public report.

The January meeting (to be announced soon) of the Voting Rights Institute will include an opportunity for Vote Tech workgroup members as well as the overall Council to engage in a discussion on the major findings of the EVEREST project. We believe that the results of the study will position the opportunity for important enhancements in the integrity of Ohio’s elections.

Christopher B. Nance
Assistant Secretary of State
State of Ohio
180 E. Broad Street, 16th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
614-466-2655 (main)
614-644-0764 (direct)
614-485-7625 (fax)

"Volunteer participation in the VRI Vote Tech workgroup is a valuable contribution to civic engagement yet it is different than the statutory responsibilities of election officials. Consequently, Vote Tech workgroup members will not be involved in the review of EVEREST findings before the release of the public report." ??

On December 7? And at what "time" did Chris represent questions were asked about citizens having meaningful participation in the process, possibly worthy of signing the NDA, not just a supposedly satisfying "field trip?"

I read the above as, "we can control what BOE officials say, who statutorily "serve at the pleasure of the SoS," but we cannot control citizen speech (thank God) - which in addition to citizens having no inside deal-making power, puts us through the lens - of being "outside" the "election reform" process - to be tolerated, gracious to, and put off and shut out whenever it is so desired.
And as you may have already gleaned, I would not characterize my own reaction, at least, as "patience."

(To see the facts, for comparison and the actual story around the NDA, see Has Cuyahoga been set up for failure? - "Questions to possibly ask"- numbers 3 and 4.)

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