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SF Open Source Voting TAC

Official site of the San Francisco Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee (OSVTAC)

Meeting Minutes: August 30, 2017

Elections Commission
City and County of San Francisco
Don Chan, Secretary
Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee
Christopher Jerdonek, Chair
Larry Bafundo, Vice Chair
Carl Hage
Roan Kattouw
Tony Wasserman
Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee
of the San Francisco Elections Commission
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Order of Business

1. Call to Order & Roll Call

Chair Jerdonek called the meeting to order at 6:01 p.m. Present: Members Bafundo, Hage, Jerdonek, and Wasserman. Member Kattouw had an excused absence. Also present: Secretary Chan.

2. General Public Comment

Mr. David Cary welcomed the committee members and commended them for their service. Mr. Brent Turner echoed those sentiments and referred the members to the New York Times op-ed in support of open-source voting.

3. Approval of Minutes of Previous Meeting

Chair Jerdonek commended the Secretary for his work on the minutes. Member Wasserman moved to approve, seconded by Member Hage. The motion carried unanimously.

4. Member Reports

Chair Jerdonek reported that he attended the annual conference of the Elections Center in Orange County. He spoke about open source voting as part of a panel. Additionally, he mentioned that Colorado has enlisted a contractor to develop an open source elections auditing system. That software development can be followed on GitHub. Colorado is deciding what type of license they will get. (They don’t presently have one.) There is a GitHub issue accepting comments on this issue.

Chair Jerdonek further reported that AB 668, dealing with providing matching funds for voting equipment, now has a definition of open source software (provided by San Francisco). Unfortunately, the definition is not actually used in the legislation. Finally, Chair Jerdonek said that the Department of Elections has selected a contractor (Slalom) from responses to its RFP to produce a business plan to move toward open source voting.

Member Hage said that he has been researching standards for voting systems. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has some working groups. It is tied to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), so what San Francisco develops should probably be consistent and congruent to this endeavor. There was a short discussion regarding how individuals could work with this group (e.g. members of the Committee). Chair Jerdonek said that as long as members work on this as individuals and not as representatives of the Committee, there should be no problem working with them.

Member Bafundo commented on the op-ed. He felt that it questions the value of open source with respect to security. Member Wasserman cited the Coverity study as relevant to this issue.

Public Comment:

Ms. Mirka Morales asked when the Committee would be engaging input from lay people.

5. Administration

Chair Jerdonek reported that a request has been put in for committee members to get SFGov email addresses. He also reported that he started a webpage for the Committee on GitHub. He created an organizational account so that committee members could be listed as members.

The meeting schedule for the rest of the year seems to be problematic due to holidays and members’ personal travel commitments. It will be dealt with on a month by month basis until a possible regular schedule can be found.

For representation at the Elections Commission meetings, Member Wasserman will attend in September and Member Bafundo will attend in October.

6. Current voting system and election processes

Chair Jerdonek spoke with Director Arntz about the Committee examining the equipment used for elections, but all the equipment is stored away so it would not be easily accessible. He referred members to the document in the binder, which listed ten different components of the elections system. This would give members a sense of what is involved.

Member Hage wanted to look at the audit and revision management controls (software). Chair Jerdonek said that the EMS (Election Management System) is not part of the voting system but ballot design (part of the Dominion system) is.

There was a short discussion regarding various questions: what is and is not part of the EMS, such as voters registration, candidate filing, contest definitions. What is used to validate electronic vote casting. How much of the entire system needs to be open to be adequately transparent.

The main hardware components known to be needed are high-volume ballot scanners in the central office, precinct-based ballot scanners, and accessible voting devices. Some questions are whether print-on-demand will be needed, and the advantage of having distributed tallies vs centralized tallies (except for quickness of results). What is the security of photo-scanning ballots and transferring the data as compared to examining the paper?

Chair Jerdonek summarized how the current system works once a ballot is cast.

Public Comment:

Ms. Mirka Morales commented that current machines print two tapes at the end of the night, one for the polling place and the other transported to the central office.

Mr. David Cary suggested viewing the poll-worker manual and videos. The Secretary of State has a list of what each county is using for their elections. He said that if people come to City Hall to vote, their ballots aren’t vote-by-mail ballots, but rather provisional ballots.

Mr. Jim Soper noted a website that had a diagram of voting procedures.

Mr. Brent Turner suggested looking to New Hampshire’s Prime III system to get away from a vendor mindset. He mentioned the Dechert paper-ballot printing system which removes the need for remaking ballots (as San Francisco does), and that an audit or ballot image does not override the security of a first count at the precinct before transporting ballots. He was asked to explain his disappointment with the Los Angeles County project. He said that they have gone through major grant contracts (more than $15 million) but have nothing to show for it. Moreover, the blueprint given to them by Alan Dechert in 2006 has just been put aside and ignored.

Ms. Mirka Morales commented that checking the 1% tally from last year’s election didn’t give her any idea of what the results were, and is not transparent.

Mr. Brent Turner said that a 100% precinct count with public involvement is the best option for security, accuracy, and confidence.

Ms. Mirka Morales added that when counting ballots downstairs in City Hall, it would be better to have a screen that shows an actual ballot so you can see what is being scanned, which is not the case now.

Mr. Brent Turner said that Dominion has a system being reviewed by the Secretary of State for certification and might be a system available to San Francisco as an interim system.

7. Document template for Committee recommendations

[Items 7-10 refer to a draft document from the Chair that was included in the agenda packet. The approved version will be displayed on the Committee’s website and stored in a project under the Committee’s GitHub account.]

Chair Jerdonek explained that the document has been divided into 4 parts so that each topic could be addressed separately. He said it would be good to solicit substantive comments and feedback from the public on GitHub. Non-substantive changes could be dealt with between meetings, while substantive suggestions could be brought back to committee meetings for discussion.

Public Comment:

Mr. Jim Soper expressed concern over the accessibility of GitHub to the average viewer.

Mr. David Cary agreed that what the committee produces should be publicly accessible. He thought that multiple separate reports might be more useful than a single ever-growing report.

Mr. Brent Turner commented that with all the attention being given to election security, there is the possibility of being inundated with comments by vested interests against open-source voting.

Chair Jerdonek asked if there was a motion to adopt the draft as a starting point. Member Hage so moved. Member Bafundo seconded. By voice vote the motion passed unanimously.

Chair Jerdonek made a follow-up motion to add language to the document that will clearly indicate its draft origination and to allow him to make administrative content changes on the site (spellings, broken links, other design and appearance issues, etc). Member Bafundo seconded the motion. By voice vote the motion passed unanimously.

8. Committee Goals

Chair Jerdonek reviewed the points in the draft. Member Bafundo suggested the following language for the 2nd paragraph:

that the TAC’s focus is to establish parameters that would guide the development of the future voting system.

And possibly: “establishing boundaries and best practices or principles.”

Last sentence to the 2nd paragraph: “the focus of this effort is to establish parameters and recommendations–not requirements–that would guide the development of the future voting system.”

Member Hage wanted to add “establish recommended requirements.” He wanted to include “ensuring the integrity of the process is another aspect” to the goals.

He had an issue with the use of the word specs (the last bullet point) and after discussion about its definition he thought possibly adding the word “detailed” would clear it up. He also commented about accounting for requirements outside of California.

Member Wasserman thought it would be better to say “the committee will give priority to the needs of San Francisco but will draw upon knowledge of other systems and jurisdictions as is appropriate.”

We should not spend time and money trying to build something for everyone and end up with a suboptimal system for San Francisco.

Member Wasserman: “the committee’s recommendations will prioritize the voting system needs of San Francisco without emphasizing the needs of other jurisdictions….”

Public Comment:

Mr. Brent Turner encouraged the Committee to hold the line on the quality of the project against detractors.

Mr. David Cary referred to the EMS in the Scope section, saying that if the definition was just the voter registration system, then EMS shouldn’t be included in developing the OSV system, but it should not be extended to include the exclusion of vote-tracking and compilation.

He said the Committee’s document should try to distinguish notes from actual content, for example by using brackets or some other formatting.

He further hoped that the Committee would be in the position to offer input into the contractor’s report and plan, maybe in advance of its publication. That way it will be in its best form to go forward.

Mr. Jim Soper said the committee needs to try to make this process as easy as possible for the Director.

The answer to the question of whether the contractor will have any interaction with the committee and thus be responsive to any recommendations the committee might have is not known at this time. Chair Jerdonek offered to discuss this with the Director and possibly bring it up at the next Commission meeting.

Chair Jerdonek called for a motion to approve the edits made to the text of sections discussed. Member Bafundo so moved, and Member Hage seconded. Upon voice vote, the motion passed unanimously.

9. Open Source Voting Project Resources

Chair Jerdonek said making this section its own agenda item was suggested by Deputy City Attorney White. Listed are just some things to start off with. He asked if members had other suggestions. Member Hage said it might be helpful to add a description to each link so that readers wouldn’t have to click each link to find out. Member Wasserman suggested links to the Open Source Initiative’s home page (OSI), GitHub, and the NIST link. When asked about international open source voting systems, Member Wasserman thought there might be one in Paris, and one in the Netherlands. OpenCount and Verified Voting were mentioned as other possibilities.

Public Comment:

Mr. Brent Turner expressed concern about adding links to ”private vendors.” He felt that links to the pioneers of this work should be included in the list.

Ms. Mirka Morales questioned whether people should be required to self-identify as a vendor.

Mr. Brent Turner thought that references to non-vendors should be on the list, for example Open Voting Consortium and the University of Florida.

Member Hage said that each member could come up with items and email them to the Chair and Secretary for compilation and review at the next meeting.

Chair Jerdonek asked Mr. David Cary about his previous website suggestion. He said they were from the Secretary of State’s website, mentioned in the RFP.

Chair Jerdonek asked for a motion to accept this list as a starting point. Member Hage so moved, seconded by Member Bafundo. Upon voice vote, the motion carried unanimously.

10. Committee Recommendations

Chair Jerdonek briefly went over his initial thoughts about various topics that the Committee could be working on. On the interim system: it should allow interoperability with an open source system. It should also follow publicly specified standards.

Under project management, he felt the Committee should recommend a timeline for the department.

Member Bafundo thought they should encourage city ownership of the project, and be agile in its implementation and phases.

There are outstanding decision points and questions around: ballots on demand or not, use of vote centers, and other policy matters. The Department should make decisions earlier than later.

Under Open Source: Chair Jerdonek said that San Francisco, unlike Colorado, should have an open source license from day one.

Member Wasserman suggested adding the word “approved” open source license to item #2. There was a short discussion about GPLv3 and other licenses like BSD.

Public Comments:

Mr. David Cary said that the recommendations for the interim voting system is not realizable, that there are no approved public standards for interoperability, but it’s good to have it stated. He felt that under project management he would “decouple” the project plan and timeline from the RFP. He also recommended the advocacy of an agile project implementation process.

Mr. Brent Turner also supported the use of General Public License v3.

Chair Jerdonek said he agreed with Mr. David Cary’s suggestion to remove the first point under Project Management and say the Department should develop a plan “as soon as possible” rather than specifically saying before the RFP for the interim system.

Member Wasserman said it would be important to have discussion about CLAs included.

Mr. David Cary suggested explaining the term CLA in the document.

Member Wasserman moved to accept this section with edits. Member Hage seconded. Upon voice vote, the motion carried unanimously.

11. Written Report to the Elections Commission

Chair Jerdonek explained this is a very basic first report to the Commission, to which will be attached the approved recommendations document from this meeting, the approved minutes of the last meeting, and also a screen shot of the website. This will give the Commission an idea of how the Committee is progressing. He said he wanted to add another section header for “Meetings.

Public Comment: None.

Member Wasserman moved to approve the report, seconded by Chair Jerdonek. Upon voice vote the motion carried unanimously.

12. Topics for future discussion

Chair Jerdonek wants to list out phases of the project to be more “agile” and to look at project management and procurement. Member Bafundo offered to look into inviting a speaker on the topics of project management and procurement.

Chair Jerdonek told the members if they did think of anything for future meetings they should get it to him by the Monday of the week prior to the meeting.

Public Comment:

Mr. David Cary commended the Chair on the work to organize and prepare tonight’s meeting, and hoped as the Committee gets going, that more committee members contribute.

Member Hage said he’d be interested in knowing what the costs are for holding elections so they can be compared to estimated costs with open source.

Member Bafundo asked Chair Jerdonek if he wanted the members to come to the next meeting ready with text or discussion to build out the topics covered in tonight’s recommendations document. The chair replied yes but that text should be sent in advance of the meeting to allow preparation of the agenda and agenda packet.

Member Wasserman wanted to see the winning proposal for the RFP, if possible.

Member Bafundo thought it would be beneficial to put some thought around “assumptions” to help frame the committee’s thinking going forward.

There was a short discussion regarding setting the time for the next meeting. The third Thursday (September 21) seemed to be okay for all. Secretary Chan will confirm this with members.

Adjourned at 9:07 p.m.