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

Meeting Minutes: August 27, 2018 (approved September 13, 2018)

Elections Commission
City and County of San Francisco
Don Chan, Secretary
Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee
Christopher Jerdonek, Chair
Carl Hage
Roan Kattouw
Tony Wasserman
Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee (OSVTAC)
of the San Francisco Elections Commission
Monday, August 27, 2018
6:00 p.m.
City Hall, Room 421
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, California 94102

Order of Business

1. Call to Order & Roll Call

Chair Jerdonek called the meeting to order at 6:03 p.m. Present: Members Hage, Jerdonek, Kattouw, Wasserman. The committee has one vacancy. Also present: Secretary Chan.

2. General Public Comment


3. Election of Vice-Chair

The Committee held elections for the Vice Chair position (formerly held by Larry Bafundo). Member Wasserman was nominated but when Member Kattouw volunteered, he graciously endorsed Member Kattouw. By voice vote of 4-0, Member Kattouw was elected.

4. Approval of Minutes of Previous Meeting

Action was tabled till next meeting.

5. Administration

Chair Jerdonek said he will be putting up an announcement to fill the vacancy left by Larry Bafundo.

The quarterly report to the Commission is due the first week of September. Member Kattouw volunteered to draft it, with Chair Jerdonek reviewing it and sending it to the Commission. It will include the Committee’s work on the results reporter software, the review of the Civil Grand Jury report, comments on the Slalom report, and the tour of the Department of Elections.

The Committee will meet at its regular September 13 date.

The Chair asked the secretary about the attempt to video the meetings. Secretary reported that the camera was recording to its internal memory, which filled up quickly and stopped. The Department said they had fixed that to record to the SD card. It remains to be seen whether it works tonight.

Public comment: none.

6. Member Reports

Member Wasserman is going to be giving a talk on September 4 in San Jose on open source voting. It will be to the Santa Clara County Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections (CACE). Tomorrow, he will be going to an open source conference in Vancouver. Member Kattouw will be presenting at a conference in St. Louis at the end of September.

Chair Jerdonek reviewed the City’s new budget allocation of $1.25 million to open source voting, which brings the total to about $1.7 million over two years, including carry over from the previous year’s budget. He also reported that the Department of Technology is doing the hiring of the project manager for the open source project.

Along with this, he mentioned the last Commission meeting where a very serious difference of opinion was revealed as to who should be the “owner” of the project. Some Commissioners and the Department apparently don’t share the same understanding of this. The vote on his amendment to the Commission’s resolution on open source (passed at their previous meeting), asking to name the Department as owner, failed. Similarly, replies to the Civil Grand Jury report (drafted by Chair Jerdonek working with the Commission President) were approved by the Commission, with the exception of those related to project ownership.

Chair Jerdonek commented on recent media coverage of Los Angeles County’s VSAP tally system’s certification by the State, implying that it is open source. However, he hasn’t been able to find any available code to confirm this.

Chair Jerdonek also mentioned that the scanned ballot images that TAC asked for have been provided. He said that the Deputy City Attorney said it would be okay to post them on the website, as long as there are no identifying marks linking any ballots to particular voters.

Committee members reported having participated in the new election system demo where they could cast a ballot digitally by touchscreen and watch the process of it being produced hardcopy and scanned. The document is not a copy of a hand-marked ballot, but a paper cast vote record. Chair Jerdonek said that all their equipment run Windows except the precinct scanner, which runs Linux. It is an off-the-shelf scanner. The central scanner runs Windows.

Given that it doesn’t make a complete ballot image, there is the problem of verifying each contest by name (not spelled out, just numbered).

At the demo Chair Jerdonek asked the vendor if they give total results for RCV on the election results summary page, and they said they only show first-choice totals.

The question was asked of how precinct scanners report errors. If there is an error, the voter can see it on the screen so the pollworker is not required to review it. But it seems to only show you the first two errors. Member Kattouw said that the scanner is touchy, where slight bumps can disrupt the feeding mechanism.

West Virginia will be using electronic voting technology (cell phone via internet) for their overseas military voters.

Chair Jerdonek was asked about the status of the State matching funds that were spoken about in previous meetings. He said it didn’t survive the appropriations process. Assemblymember Phil Ting, who chaired the Budget Committee, never added it to the agenda, which essentially killed it.

There was a short discussion about the DEF CON event and how they showed that various elections websites and voting machines could be compromised. One piece of equipement was compromised by an eleven year old within thirty minutes.

Public comment:

Mr. Brent Turner (CAVO) said it sounded like the new Dominion voting system is more like the “Dechert” design. He said there is a call for moving to smart-phone voting. He made comments against Verified Voting and the Director of Elections.

7. Voting System Component Development

Due to the personal business obligations of Member Hage, he wasn’t able to do much more on the results reporter. He will be working on converting the electronic representation of the November election results into a format that the results reporter can read (e.g. election definitions and results data).

Member Hage would like a PDF of a blank ballot or a high resolution scan of one. Chair Jerdonek said he would ask Director Arntz, or wait until the scanned images get publicly posted, so that Member Hage can see which ones he needs. Chair Jerdonek asked where the scanned images should be posted. It was decided that they could be added to the sample data repository and then linked to from the committee’s main website.

Member Hage asked if he should snapshot the county’s DFM election definition data and add it to the sample data repository.

Chair Jerdonek will email the members when the scanned images are posted.

Public comment: none.

8. Project Ownership and Project Management

Chair Jerdonek reviewed this issue and question that raised disagreement at the last Commission meeting. Briefly, the question of who “owns” the open source voting system project, and what “ownership” means brought out different views. Recalling the Civil Grand Jury’s statements about the project not having a clear “owner” that interfered with the progress of the project, the discussion at the Commission meeting centered on whether the Department of Elections should be named the owner or whether it should be a project of another department, e.g. the Department of Technology (DT), since they are hiring the staff position. The Director of Elections felt that DT was more appropriate than the Department of Elections itself being the owner.

Chair Jerdonek felt the disagreement stemmed in part from misunderstanding what the term and nature of “owner” was. He referred to the documents that he and Member Wasserman found for this agenda packet that presented clear parameters for that.

Member Wasserman used the metaphor of a home repair project, using a general contractor who manages all the sub-contractors who actually do the individual aspects of the whole project. In this context the “home owner” does not personally perform any of the smaller work projects, but provides the guidance for the direction of the whole project to the general contractor. The owner does not necessarily manage the work. The general contractor would do that. (In the case at hand, the project manager would play the role of the general contractor.)

Member Kattouw read a definition for project owner–

The project owner is in charge of defining the scope of the project, the “What?” and the “Why?” They are responsible for collecting all the requirements for a product.

He contrasted it with project manager–

The project manager is in charge of getting things done, the “How?” and the “Who?”. The project manager is responsible for completing the project within an established time and budget.

There were many new terms introduced in the documents (e.g. “scrum”), but it was decided that it shouldn’t get too technical and removed from commonly understood definitions.

Chair Jerdonek suggested that the Committee come up with a short piece (like a couple of paragraphs) which clarify the terms and roles, and make a recommendation to the Commission for its use.

Member Kattouw said the Department of Technology could be the builder of the project, but the Department of Elections would be the customer (owner) who would provide the guidance and specifications for what the build should do.

Member Hage read another definition from one of the documents:

The product owner is commonly a lead user of the system or someone from marketing, product management or anyone with a solid understanding of users, the market place, the competition and of future trends for the domain or type of system being developed.

Chair Jerdonek suggested using the two paragraphs Member Kattouw and Member Hage read off, using the metaphor of home owner and general contractor, and identifying which position within the Elections Department would be the Project manager.

There was a discussion about using the term “product owner” versus “project owner.” Chair Jerdonek suggested leading off with project manager vs project owner, and saying project owner shares many of the characteristics that a product owner has in “scrum.” Chair Jerdonek further suggested using the term “key stakeholder” for the product owner term.

Member Wasserman commented that the domain expert would be found in the Department of Elections because you wouldn’t expect the project manager to necessarily know the details of the voting process.

Chair Jerdonek reviewed the proposed language of the discussion by saying that the text will include the paragraphs read by Member Kattouw and Member Hage, with the terms domain expert and key stakeholder, using the building metaphor but with Department of Elections, and Technology being the roles.

Member Kattouw moved to have Chair Jerdonek draft the letter, with Member Wasserman editing it. They will send the final draft on behalf of the Committee. Member Hage seconded the motion. Upon voice vote, the motion carried unanimously.

Public comment: none.

9. Committee Recommendations

The committee discussed adding the text created tonight regarding ownership to the recommendations document at the next meeting.

Public comment: none.

10. Topics for future discussion


Adjourned at 8:06 p.m.