----- Original Message -----
From: Barbara Simons
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Cc: Ellen Theisen; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Sunday, September 05, 2004 2:52 PM
Dear Councilwoman Patterson and Councilman Constantine:
I have been asked to comment on the current election system in Washington State - in particular, the fact that revised optical scan firmware and revised election management system software has been recently installed to count the votes of half the State's population. I have enclosed a brief bio, so that you can judge my qualifications to address this issue.
Rushing the development of software is never a wise practice. A two-month turnaround leaves little time for testing, and as a result, the software is likely to contain flaws. When the vendor is unwilling to accept liability for defects, as is the case with ES&S, the concern is even greater.
Functional testing at the state level is essential, but it is not sufficient to guarantee that the software will function properly during the election. The purpose of having an independent testing authority examine new software and test it against federal standards is to provide additional rigor to the process of ensuring that the voting equipment is reliable. Because this examination has not taken place, the reliability of the new software is in question.
In addition, it is very risky to begin the development of election software after the candidate list is known. Furthermore, since the software, in two counties at least, will never be examined by the independent testing authorities, there is a risk of insider fraud.
Because this new software will be used in the Washington State primary election, it is crucial to conduct a robust manual audit of the actual ballots cast in the election. Ellen Theisen and John Gideon are recommending that the election directors in all six counties follow the lead of the Klickitat County auditor and conduct a manual audit of 16% of the precincts in each county, randomly selected. While this percentage seems low, given the extreme vulnerability of these election systems to error and fraud, it could be sufficient to mitigate the liability of the counties and the Secretary of State to subsequent lawsuits.
It is crucial for the new software to be removed from these systems and replaced with the older, tested software before the November election, particularly since lawyers in both parties will be looking for reasons to challenge election outcomes that are not in their favor. The use of software that has not been tested according to the processes previously used in Washington State would give them valid reason for such challenges.
To protect the counties and the state, I urge you to conduct the manual audit of the primary and restore the previous software immediately afterward.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my comments.
Barbara Simons is co-chair of the Association for Computing Machinery’s US Public Policy Committee (USACM), which she founded in 1993. She was President of ACM, the premier organization for computing professionals, from July 1998 until June 2000.
An expert on electronic voting, Dr. Simons was a member of the National Workshop on Internet Voting that was convened at the request of President Clinton and produced a report on Internet Voting in 2001. She also participated on the Security Peer Review Group for the US Department of Defense’s Internet voting project (SERVE) and co-authored the report that led to the cancellation of SERVE because of security concerns.
Dr. Simons is a Fellow of ACM and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received the Alumnus of the Year Award from the Berkeley Computer Science Department, the Distinguished Service Award from Computing Research Association, the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, the Outstanding Contribution Award from ACM, and the Pioneer Award from EFF. She was selected by C|NET as one of its 26 Internet “Visionaries” and by Open Computing as one of the “Top 100 Women in Computing.” Science Magazine featured her in a special edition on women in science.
Dr. Simons served on the President’s Export Council’s Subcommittee on Encryption and on the Information Technology-Sector of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion. She is on the Board of Directors of the U.C. Berkeley Engineering Fund, Public Knowledge, the Math/Science Network, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, as well as the Advisory Boards of the Oxford Internet Institute and Zeroknowledge, and the Public Interest Registry’s .ORG Advisory Council. She has testified before both the U.S. and the California legislatures and at government sponsored hearings. She was runner-up in the first election for the North America seat on the ICANN Board.
Dr. Simons co-founded the Reentry Program for Women and Minorities in the Computer Science Department at U.C. Berkeley. She is also on the Board of the Coalition to Diversify Computing, a group that works at increasing participation in computer science of underrepresented minorities.
Dr. Simons earned her Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation solved a major open problem in scheduling theory. In 1980, she became a Research Staff Member at IBM's San Jose Research Center (now Almaden). In 1992, she joined IBM's Applications Development Technology Institute as a Senior Programmer and subsequently served as Senior Technology Advisor for IBM Global Services. Her main areas of research have been compiler optimization, algorithm analysis and design, and scheduling theory. Her work on clock synchronization won an IBM Research Division Award. She holds several patents and has authored or co-authored a book and numerous technical papers. Recently, Dr. Simons has taught technology policy at Stanford University.