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Meeting Minutes: September 21, 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
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Order of Business

1. Call to Order & Roll Call

Chair Jerdonek called the meeting to order at 6:02 p.m. All members were present at the gavel.

2. General Public Comment


3. Approval of Minutes of Previous Meeting

Member Kattouw pointed out a couple of mistakes. In regards to Colorado seeking a license for their risk-limiting audit (RLA) system, it should not be identified as a GPL v3 license. Member Wasserman pointed out a grammatical error in #9 “When about international….” Should be corrected. With these corrections, Member Kattouw moved to approve the minutes, Member Wasserman seconding. Upon voice vote, the motion carried unanimously.

4. Member Reports

Chair Jerdonek mentioned the SF Chronicle article on open source voting (the reporter attended the last Committee meeting), which was positive. He then referred to the document (in the packet) which addressed Member Hage’s question about the cost to run an election in SF. There was a short discussion about specific items in the table: contract amounts vs general costs, numbers of elections and precincts.

There was a question raised about a Tecla switch (in the presentation on accessible voting) and Member Hage mentioned standards being drafted by the EAC (Elections Assistance Commission) that might include this element). Member Wasserman asked if we might set a requirement that the contractor (for SF) have thorough knowledge on disability access so that their project incorporates that from the onset.

Chair Jerdonek said that the Committee members wouldn’t be using the GitHub site (for working with content) until the “Sunshine” implications are cleared up, but they can work on their own profiles if they want.

Member Kattouw reported he would be going to New Hampshire on personal business in the next couple of months, so if the Committee wanted him to touch base with the people working on their open source voting system, he’d be happy to. He asked if Committee members could issue “pull requests”. He asked what the term “re-making ballots” means (heard at the Elections Commission meeting. Member Bafundo explained what he’s seen in the LA process.

Member Hage mentioned what the working group of the NIST was developing in terms of definitions. He said he searched and found that the voting machines San Francisco uses are from ESS, which was bought by Dominion. He described the steps the machine takes in the voting process. He went on to describe what different locales are doing vis a vis open source voting;

  1. Colorado is doing a risk limiting audit where they are using uses a contractor (Free and Fair) who uses Open Count software (a general-purpose scanning tool) to rescan a statistical sample of ballots.

  2. the LA system has a custom designed voting booth, which is still to be made.

  3. New Hampshire uses a paper ballot printer and counts choices electronically, but it was only used for accessible voting.

  4. The Travis Co. system is similar to Prime III, voting in precincts, but can use a QR code to print the ballot. It is just being proposed now.

Member Wasserman gave a short review of his report to the Elections Commission last night.

Chair Jerdonek mentioned that he was speaking on open source, in Berkeley at an October 7/8 weekend conference, and that Director Arntz expects the contract with Slalom would get signed off in about 2 weeks. He noted LA county had issued a document for verified or confirmed vendors; documents are online.

Member Bafundo reported that the former Secretary of State of Missouri, who consults with 18F, might be a good resource to have come speak to the Committee or he could speak with her first and bring the points regarding agile contracting and procurement strategies to the Committee.

It was stated that presenters before the Committee could present via video feed, while Committee members could not participate via video. He also spoke with Dean Logan of LA county and asked if he would share their software solution design document created as part of their project, but has not heard back yet. If they would it could help San Francisco get started as it’s very detailed about various parts of its project.

Public Comment: Mr. David Cary said that Colorado’s earlier Risk Limiting Audit process did involve re scanning ballots but that they had problems tracking those images back to physical ballots.

Ms. Mirka Morales spoke of her observations from the March 2016 primary where ballots were ‘re-made’. She also questioned the LA County procedure where they will not do precinct level tallies, but just central. (It was clarified that the LA system does not produce or record an electronic cast vote for tallying, but prints out a paper ballot that is transported for central tallying.

5. Administration

Chair Jerdonek said that for now, he would do updates to the repository on GitHub until later when it could be rotated to another Committee member to do, to avoid multiple members working on the documents, which could look like a violation of Sunshine. Individual members could do as Member Hage did, work on something (a document), submit it to Chair Jerdonek to be included in an upcoming meeting for discussion.

Member Kattouw suggested that more items be ‘farmed’ out to Committee members so that it doesn’t all fall on the Chair to compose.

Committee representation at the Elections Commission meeting: Member Kattouw will attend the October meeting, and Member Bafundo will attend the November meeting.

The following dates for Committee meetings were proposed for the remainder of the year: October 19, November 16, December 14.

6. Project Terminology and Resources

(Discussions of items #6-9 are based on the documents in the agenda packet that refer to each item)

Chair Jerdonek said that from the last meeting it was suggested that further definitions/descriptions of terms were desirable. The Committee reviewed the glossary of terms that Member Hage submitted for the item. There was a mention of a white paper by LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), but LAFCO is not a body related to open source so should not be included.

Member Kattouw asked about 3b and said there is no reference to open source in the LA County official documents, but they have made oral claims that they want to be open source. Member Wasserman commented that many times projects start off as open source but have added proprietary layers that can generate revenues in the future. He mentioned the use of the Open Core model.

Member Kattouw moved to accept the document with the deletion of LAFCO as a link, seconded by Member Bafundo. Upon voice vote, the motion carried unanimously.

Member Bafundo commented that the text from HAVA (Help America Vote Act) seems to infer preference for a particular hardware/software configuration (a distributive tally model).

Member Kattouw felt that the description was of a more exhaustive model and that anything less would just mean reducing the number of elements (hardware) needed, so this could be written into the assumptions. Member Wasserman questioned whether this could conflict with the object of using off the shelf commercial hardware.

There was a discussion about whether the description of hardware was prescriptive or limiting, and language was suggested to say that the description is just a representation of the components found in existing voting systems, but is not intended to constrain the choices that a future implementation might make.”

Member Kattouw offered: to section 2.2.2 second paragraph…for simplicity, “we assume for the purposes of this example,” add at the end of that section “we further assume tallying occurs at the precincts.”

Member Bafundo suggested adding the ballot as a component. Member Kattouw suggested this be written up for the next meeting.

Member Hage said the document does not mention the poll book. It was mentioned that this is in conflict with the HAVA definitions.

Member Wasserman said that the software support for the accessible ballot marking device isn’t mentioned in 2.2.2.

Chair Jerdonek offered to add: Accessible ballot marking device software (in bold).

Asking for a motion to accept the terminology with edits, without the glossary, Member Wasserman so moved, seconded by Member Kattouw.

The vote was called and the motion carried unanimously.

Public Comment: Mr. David Cary handed out a document that had select terminology from the VVSG1.1 (Voluntary Voting System Guidelines) Glossary. He said that the term Election Management System is something contained entirely within the definition of a voting system. That is in contradiction to how the Committee’s document uses it.

He further talked about incorporating ballot adjudication as a component of the system. And a separate software component of an “event logger.”

It was clarified that adjudication of ballots was only for those needing human intervention to resolve any questions of its markings.

Chair Jerdonek stated that the EMS that San Francisco uses is sold by DFM (vendor).

It was suggested that the glossary Member Hage put together be used as an appendix and include terms beyond the need of the document the Committee creates (sort of a global glossary for open source elections), and one be specifically made up of terms used in the text of the document.

Member Kattouw was surprised that there isn’t a definition of “outstacked ballots” and suggested adding that.

Mr. David Cary suggested making this a proposed glossary “pool” where the public could make comments and suggestions to.

Member Kattouw reminded Committee members that if they had items they wanted added to this, they need to prepare them and submit them for that.

Mr. Jim Soper suggested having a definition of ballot image. There is one in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.

7. Project Management and Procurement

Member Bafundo asked if project management was going to focus specifically on risk mitigation? He felt that this was related to #9 where that could be seen as a product of project management. Chair Jerdonek explained that the overall project management would be issues of how to do the various processes, eg, how to let RFPs, in one large packet or in multiple smaller ones. Outsource the management? How to course correct?

The Committee discussed what the boundaries of this were and what questions had to be raised in order to address the different barriers to possibly enlisting best practices, eg. the laborious RFP process of the City; how could an effective contract be let to account for the many components that need to be developed. How do the different bodies within the election process (the Department, the Commission, the TAC, the vendors) relate to one another to expedite best practices? There needs to be research done on the question of what is possible within the constraints of the City’s processes.

Public Comment: Mr. David Cary felt that things needed to be developed for the Department that they can handle (ie. in pieces), and that it is important to look at procurement vis a vis the City’s processes to see how Agile management can be employed.

The Committee discussed the need for a library to be used in project development, and if the Committee needs to prescribe particular types of hardware.

Member Kattouw moved to adopt the language of this section as is for the present, seconded by Member Bafundo. Upon voice vote, the motion carried unanimously.

Public Comment: Mr. Jim Soper commented that there are many people involved in this concept and should be called in to hear about their experiences.

Ms. Mirka Morales said that looking at the scanning devices for ballots would be important as in the future there may be relatively little precinct based voting.

8. Committee Recommendations

Chair Jerdonek explained that these items were assembled from various past discussions, and in no prioritized order. These are the decision points and not necessarily the decisions themselves. There is a distinction between accessible voting and not-necessarily-accessible voting.

There was a discussion about preserving the privacy of the voter. The question of license compatibility for different components was raised. In relation to this was the re-use of previously existing software components. Member Kattouw will work on language to include this topic. He suggested further clarification to the term open source software language – preferring the phrase “programming language.” He will also work on language for this.

The question was raised as to who would oversee and maintain the repositories after they are developed, and when the code would be made available for review during the process of development. Chair Jerdonek said that the section on maintenance could be used to record ideas on this.

On the point of using actual voting data sets to test the program, Member Kattouw mentioned the example of the Merced election. Such a data set could be used.

On the question of open source’s security, it was felt that a discussion on this issue should be included in the document.

Public Comment:

Mr. David Cary referred to “Assumptions” and suggested adding a section that says “this is the foundation we are building on and here are the facts to do it.” He further suggested taking out “end-to-end verifiability.”

Mr. Jim Soper said that end-to-end verifiability is far from realizable.

It was asked if elections ballots are kept for any length of time. The answer is yes, but they cannot be opened without a court order.

Chair Jerdonek agreed with Mr. David Cary’s point about not making some decisions very early on. He will change the language on that point and the language regarding end-to-end verifiability.

With agreed-upon edits, Member Kattouw moved to accept this section. Member Wasserman seconded. Upon voice vote the motion carried unanimously.

9. Incremental Approaches

The meeting was re-convened at 9:16 pm.

Chair Jerdonek commented that these items are part of the system that could be developed and implemented in “piecemeal” fashion rather than waiting to activate as a total system, and that the Committee feels development and implementation in increments is preferable. There was a discussion of SB 360 and what it allows. There was a discussion around defining data formats required of the contractor, or allowing the contractor to do so.

Public Comment: Mr. David Cary encouraged the Committee to take a stand to use incremental approach to the development of the system.

Member Kattouw moved to accept the language in this section. Member Hage seconded. Upon voice vote the motion carried unanimously

10. Topics for future discussion

Member Wasserman said to re-visit agenda items #6, 7, 8, 9 and proposed changes to them. Member Hage said he’ll work on some items and post them before the meeting. Member Wasserman suggested a report on the Berkeley conference. He asked whether the Committee members should take a ‘low profile’ or begin to develop a ‘talking points’ presentation. Member Hage recommended reading the LAFCO report. Member Wasserman said he’d like to review the winning proposal for the RFP, if available.

Public Comment: Mr. Jim Soper described a little more of what will be happening at the Berkeley conference.

Mr. David Cary mentioned that according to Director Arntz, only the wining proposal to the RFP would be publicly viewable.

Adjourned at 9:56 p.m.