eVoting Panel Format and Questions


Voting machine

At next Monday's Digital Democracy Teach-In, I'm moderating the panel on eVoting. The panel is at 2:15 in California Ballroom C. The participants are

  • Gary Chapman, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas
  • David R. Jefferson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Bill Stotesbury, Vice President of Marketing, Hart InterCivic

This is a good, balanced panel and I think the discussion will be good. Here's how I like to do panels:

  • Each panelist gets five minutes to introduce themselves and their positions. I discourage powerpoint slides, but if they must be used, the panelist is limited to 2 slides max.
  • I will set-up a situation and ask for reactions, ask questions of specific panelists, and try to keep the conversation from lagging.
  • Audience interaction and questions are encouraged anytime after the opening intros by the panelists. Questions should generally be directed to specific panelists in the interest of time. Other panelists are welcome to follow-up if they have something to add.

Here is a list of potential questions that I've come up with. Feel free to propose your own questions either in the comments below or by emailing them to me.

  • What's the current state of eVoting? Should eVoting machines be used in the 2004 election or should we scrap them all in favor of paper until we gain more trust in them?
  • To most people living in the Internet age, eVoting seems somehow inevitable. Is it inevitable? Is it something we fix and then move on or are we destined to always use paper if we want to trust the system?
  • What's the difference between eVoting and Internet voting? Should we discuss them separately or is the difference insignificant from your perspective?
  • I was CIO of Utah for almost two years and worked in the same office with much of the Elections Office staff. They know a lot about elections, but not very much about technology. Yet, I don't recall ever getting a question from them about this subject. In general, how "tech-savvy" are state elections people?
  • Dan Gillmor has said "Electronic voting machines, the touch-screen voting machines, are ... a really shocking scandal because the lack of interest in this until recently [by] the major media...[T]he fact that people in government have been just sort of fecklessly running along with this is outrageous." Is this really a scandal or "much ado about nothing?"
  • One of the primary complaints against eVoting has been that there is no paper trail and no way to verify the vote. Can we fix eVoting by simply adding some sort of voter verifiable paper trail as the California Secretary of State recently called for? Why have most eVoting machine manufacturers been against this? Would the public accept ATMs that had no verification mechanism?
  • Another big complaint against the machines is the lack of transparency in something that is fundamental to our democracy. Open source proponents have long claimed that open source software is more secure because its open. Can we make eVoting systems more secure by opening them up? Can we open them up and protect the intellectual property rights of businesses? Is this something that governments ought require be open and then be willing to pay the cost for that?
  • Many will say that independent review boards are enough to solve the transparency issue and yet some voting machines (I'm thinking of the Diebold case here) have been subjected to that sort of scrutiny, but still found to be flawed when opened to a more general examination. Can we ever trust an independent review board working behind closed doors? Do we have to?
  • Let's talk about the DOD's SERVE program. A recent report (which was authored in part by one of our panelists, David Jefferson) concluded: "Because the danger of successful, large-scale attacks is so great, we reluctantly recommend shutting down the development of SERVE immediately and not attempting anything like it in the future until both the Internet and the world's home computer infrastructure have been fundamentally redesigned, or some other unforeseen security breakthroughs appear." What is SERVE and what are its biggest flaws? Can Internet voting ever work and if so, under what circumstances?
  • Many people think that eVoting is about the touch-screen system that is inside the polling booth, but in fact, an eVoting system has as much to do with ballot preparation, a difficult process, as it does with ballot presentation and vote counting. What issues arise in the ballot preparation portions of eVoting systems that we should be concerned about?