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

Meeting Minutes: February 14, 2019 (approved April 11, 2019)

Elections Commission
City and County of San Francisco
William Walker, Secretary
Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee
Christopher Jerdonek, Chair
Roan Kattouw, Vice Chair
Carl Hage
Brandon Philips
Tony Wasserman
Open Source Voting System Technical Advisory Committee (OSVTAC)
of the San Francisco Elections Commission
Thursday, February 14, 2019
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 6:04 p.m. Present (all): Members Hage, Jerdonek, Kattouw, Philips, and Wasserman. Also present: Secretary Walker.

2. General Public Comment - 6:05 p.m.

Brent Turner of the California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO) spoke about a letter his organization sent to the California Little Hoover Commission, an independent California state oversight agency, on the subject of open source voting and election system security.

3. Open Source Voting Project Plan - 6:07 p.m.

Chair Jerdonek reported—

Public comment:

Brent Turner (CAVO) spoke regarding the uniqueness of the Open Source Voting project and suggested that it not be treated like a regular departmental project. He suggested that the Committee pursue project benchmarks and timelines to be implemented, and he supported the idea of Technical Lead Sean Roberts presenting at a future OSVTAC meeting.

Nina Sparling, a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, introduced herself as a journalist and said she will be recording the OSVTAC meeting to gather audio for a podcast on open source voting.

4. Approval of Minutes of Previous Meeting - 7:53 p.m.

At 6:11 p.m. it was announced that this item would be considered later in the meeting. The committee returned to the item after agenda item 8.

The minutes were approved after a motion to approve and a second.

AYES: Hage, Jerdonek, Kattouw, Philips, Wasserman. NOES: None.

5. Administration - 6:18 p.m.

All members but one (Member Wasserman) said they could attend the OSVTAC meeting at its regularly scheduled date on March 14, 2019, so it was agreed to schedule the meeting for that time.

Member Wasserman volunteered to give the Open Source Voting Technical Advisory Committee report at the February 20, 2019 regular Elections Commission meeting. He said that he would discuss the software engineering work OSVTAC has been doing and say that OSVTAC would like to meet with newly hired Technical Lead Sean Roberts.

Chair Jerdonek asked Member Philips to provide his bio and to decide whether he would like an sfgov.org email address.

6. Member Reports - 6:20 p.m.

Member Hage reported that the California Secretary of State’s office reported that former Governor Jerry Brown recently signed AB 2125 into law. This bill permits the use of risk-limiting audits in lieu of the one percent manual tally. Paper ballots are included in the ballot definition, but scans are not allowed. It defines the risk limit for the audit and states that the Secretary of State, in consultation with statistical experts and stakeholders, will adopt regulations to implement and administer the audits.

Member Hage said that the office also mentioned AB 1013, which requires counties to provide a remote accessible vote-by-mail system. This is already implemented in San Francisco. There was also mention of an August 29 notice that there is $134 million in funds allocated to modernize voting systems. This also includes $1.5 million for cyber security and $1.5 million for voting place accessibility.

Chair Jerdonek mentioned that San Francisco’s contract with Dominion for its next voting system has not yet been submitted to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for approval. He will let the Committee know when the contract is made public. He said that Trent Lange of the California Clean Money Campaign is working on another state matching funds request. He mentioned that Elections Commissioner Lucy Bernholz provided information on the possibility of partnering with the federal agency 18F on the Open Source Voting Project. He included that information in the agenda packet. Chair Jerdonek also reported that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors reappointed him to the Elections Commission for a second five year term.

Member Kattouw reported that an organization called the Coalition for Free Governance published a paper on voters in a Tennessee 2018 primary. They found that it is difficult for voters to validate paper ballots that are marked by a ballot-marking device (BMD). He was hoping this information could be included in TAC’s recommendations in the section on pros and cons of BMD’s. He mentioned that the state of South Carolina publishes the digital cast vote record (CVR) of every ballot, something that is not possible in San Francisco with its current voting system. In South Carolina, this data can be converted into JSON files and published. He also added that an academic poster was created that correlated voting behavior between different offices and ballot measures, which is indicative of the types of analysis that can be done when this data is made public.

Public comment:

Brent Turner (CAVO) suggested that OSVTAC should stipulate that the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a botched design for open source voting and does not provide a paper ballot after a voter casts a ballot. Efforts should be made to eliminate voter intent issues that are caused by voters marking ballots by hand. He suggested that people familiarize themselves with the Open Voting Consortium.

7. Voting System Security - 6:44 p.m.

Member Hage reported on his progress with this item and asked committee members for suggestions on drafting a technical document on voting system security. He suggested a methodology and format for cryptographically signing and securing data generated by the open source voting system and said that it could be notarized by the California Secretary of State. He said that an inexpensive hardware-based key could be used, using standard open source software methods. He committed to creating instructions on how to use the key.

Member Hage discussed further legal issues related to public and private keys and suggested having simulated signatures. He added that the committee could recommend how to process and validate digital signatures.

Chair Jerdonek gave suggestions on how to organize the document. He suggested adding assumptions to each section and also explaining what one gets from each recommendation. One can start from a higher level when explaining system specifications in the technical document.

Member Hage stated that security should be part of the architectural design. Member Wasserman agreed, stating that security is a key component of any systems architectural design. He said that principles and preferences can be identified without stating preferences for a particular vendor or software.

Public comment:

Brent Turner (CAVO) suggested sticking with the initial concept of the General Public License (GPL) when developing the open source voting software. He expressed his nervousness about business interests coming in to nuance the system and licensing for the system.

8. Voting System Component Development - 7:11 p.m.

Member Hage reported that he was able to correlate all the ID’s and found missing data in some of the Department of Election’s EMS system. This could be resolved by using fake ID’s.

Member Philips reported that he was researching and prototyping how machine-learning techniques could be incorporated into the open source voting system.

Chair Jerdonek reminded OSVTAC about the Sunshine Ordinance and open meeting laws governing how committee members perform their duties. He discussed logistics and planning for an upcoming OSVTAC special “working” meeting. Member Kattouw suggested using a conference room at a San Francisco Public Library location. Chair Jerdonek asked Secretary Walker to look into scheduling a space for the special meeting.

9. Topics for future discussion - 7:53 p.m.

No topics were suggested.

Adjourned at 7:54 p.m.