Wednesday, December 22, 2004

NC E-Voting Committee December 13th meeting

First Meeting of Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting Systems, website:

The State Legislature appointed Electronic Voting Committee met for the first time on
December 13th, 2004. NC Voter Blog begins with this event.

N.C. Voter did not write this account. I will be happy to forward comments and compliments to the writer, who gave permission to use this account:

Remember the parable of the blind men and the elephant?
Today’s meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting Systems would have reminded me of that, if not for the earnest and energetic efforts of a few of the committee’s members struggling to get their arms around this complicated issue.

This was the first meeting of the committee – convened at the request of the state Legislature. The committee’s membership seems quite balanced to my eye:
It includes state Senators and Representatives of both parties, two computer experts, state and county election board officials, a moderate GOP attorney, a Republican realtor, an Orange County commissioner, a Common Cause activist, and an “all-star” litigation attorney.

Here’s a brief story further describing the committee: story
And here’s a link to contact info and names for all the committee members: link

After introductory remarks by Sens. Ellie Kinnaird and Austin Allran, and Rep. Verla Insko and Ms Susan Adams, members of the committee made statements about their goals and expectations.
David Allen came out swinging by stating as plain fact that it is the private makers of election equipment who are in control of elections – not the citizens nor their representatives, and that the profit motive and public elections are simply incompatible. Go David!

Committee staffers gave reports on federal and state laws concerning voting equipment. This revealed that Congress has appropriated about $65.5 million to North Carolina for HAVA implementation. (The state legislature has kicked-in about $5.2 million.)
From Gary Bartlett, Executive Director of State Board of Elections (SBoE), we learned that SBoE has a plan for spending these funds (which Bartlett was quick to characterize as preliminary). The HAVA Implementation Plan is 60+ pages long, available here or here as a PDF: here:

His “myths debunked” are truly powerful ammunition in the fight against black-box voting. They are a must-read.

Perhaps the most important thing that happened during Justin’s talk regards the debate over open-source versus closed-source computer code. This is the question of whether or not our computerized voting machines should be proprietary black-boxes or if their design should be open to public review and scrutiny.

For those who are new to this debate, open-source software is essentially peer-reviewed, and as such, the resulting products are far more robust, stable, and secure than proprietary or closed-source software. (Here’s more info: http://open-vote.org/ )

Sen. Austin Allran (R, Hickory) started asking serious and bold questions about open-source computers. He asked the question, “can we pass a law forbidding closed-code software on DREs?” And he went on to say that if a DRE vendor didn’t care to offer an open-source product then they didn’t deserve North Carolina’s business. Wow! Exciting words from a ninth term, socially, fiscally, and politically conservative Republican.

Shortly after this, Justin Moore gave some concluding remarks, then officers from several county boards of elections gave brief reports on their trials and tribulations. These escaped my note-taking because I was engaged in conversation with Mr Ed Pond.The meeting was adjourned and the next meeting set for the same place and same time, next Monday. That’s December 20th, at 10:00 am in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. Map & directions:

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