----- Original Message -----
From: John Seibel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: 'Lorrie Faith Cranor' <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2000 1:36 PM
Subject: DRE Challenge/ Listen to Neuman and Mercuri
I'm an election administrator. We run private elections. The kinds of
elections that we run and their respective requirements run the gamut. I am
personally involved in each one. We have probably run more elections in the
past year than most state or county supervisors will run in a career. We
use DRE systems, paper systems, Telephony based systems, and various
combinations thereof. We are not beholden to any single technology or
medium, so we evaluate each on its own merits without (unlike some other
participants in this debate) pushing an agenda or product.
As numerous people have opined, there is no perfect system. There are
advantages and limitations inherent in each medium. In a nutshell, here are
the limitations of the DRE as I have observed them.
1. There is nothing to audit.
a. All you have when you get done with a DRE election is a record (however
many copies or however detailed) in a database to audit. Regardless or
whether or not you believe that there is "hidden code" or other nefarious
goings on, it is self evident that, from the voter's perspective, there is
scant proof of the fact that each vote counted mirrors the vote cast. It is
a matter of perception/trust of the system, which must be earned at a much
more basic level than the current rhetoric/debate addresses.
2. They are inefficient.
a. When we have used a touch screen based systems, we find that under the
best of circumstances, and even in relatively simple elections (2or 3
offices), we can move a maximum of 30 voters/hour/unit through a touch
screen system. For more complicated elections, it may move closer to 10
voters/hr/unit. Whether you need to move a thousand or a million voters
through a system in a single 10 or 12 hour period the number of voters per
unit required is low (requires lots of units). Do the math! The throughput
that you can attain is generally not high enough to justify the cost of the
equipment for a single use every year or 2 years.
3. Many people can't deal with interactivity.
a. It may come to a surprise to people in the geek community that there are
significant numbers of people who are intimidated by computers and
interactivity in general. This is particularly true (but not universally) of
older people. No amount of training will pacify them. This leads to
discouraging some people from voting, and/or significantly lengthens the
transaction time of some voters, dragging down the efficiency even further.
The bottom line is (as discussed in detail by P. Neuman, and R. Mercuri)
that there is no perfect system. Which system proves to be the best one is
largely a function of which priorities you place higher or lower on your
personal election scale.
I think that we all agree that DRE auditing mechanisms that record each vote systems are artificial at best. They can perhaps be useful in tracking down some types of problems but if you can't trust the DRE system to start with, you can't trust any type of logging that isn't verified by the voter. And you can't have it verified by the voter without violating privacy (which of course applies to all voting systems).
Therefore you have to be able to trust the system.