SF Seal

SF Open Source Voting TAC

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

Meeting Minutes: May 14, 2019 (approved November 14, 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
Tuesday, May 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 6:10 p.m. Present: Members Hage, Jerdonek, Philips, Wasserman. Excused absence: Member Kattouw.

2. General Public Comment

Ellen Lee Zhou commented regarding the need for the Elections Commission to update their website, publicize its meeting to the community, and investigate voting fraud and corruption in San Francisco.

Brent Turner commented that the historical timeline of the Elections Commission and meeting minutes needed to be updated because of inaccuracies.

3. City CIO / Executive Director, Department of Technology Discussion

The discussion in this agenda item was divided into the three sub-items listed on the agenda:

  1. Planning for Open Source Voting Community Meeting
  2. Draft Open Source Voting State of the Art Briefing
  3. News re: ElectionGuard open source software development kit (SDK)

Director Gerull discussed the planning for the Community Meeting on open source voting. The event is currently scheduled for June 24, from 2pm to 5pm at 1 South Van Ness in the Second Floor Atrium. Director Gerull asked if the TAC could provide a list of email addresses of people or organizations that the TAC thought might be interested. She said the meeting would be facilitated by On Strategy and provide an opportunity for communities involved over the years to come together, and for the project to receive input from those communities.

Director Gerull said the information received from the community will inform budgeting for FY 2020-2021. She wants the facilitator to focus on what open source voting is and what value it brings; to get statements from the community describing what the benefits are, what the vision is, and what success looks like; and to create more information to define deliverables and project schedule. There is a plan to make the system as accessible as possible, with voter integrity, using a paper ballot, and to bring benefits of open source voting to the community and to society in general. These will all help the conversation. If there is anything else that should be asked, she asked that the TAC provide that information to her.

Member Wasserman asked if the meeting should focus on San Francisco residents, or reach out further to people with deep expertise in open source.

Director Gerull answered that it would be helpful if participants were residents, but added that others would still be able to come and be heard. She said the conversation would not be technical in nature. It would be an opportunity to form the basis as to why this is important, and to provide new talking points in various conversations.

Member Wasserman asked if the meeting would cover what the project manager does, as well as the roadmap for the future. Director Gerull replied that the community meeting is more for the 10,000-foot view.

Member Wasserman said that if the topic is raised at the first meeting, the second meeting could say how it will be addressed.

Director Gerull said that for buy-in and advocacy, when they did a similar event for emerging technologies, they heard from the transportation community, the vendor community, and disabilities groups. Everyone comes with their own perspective, which broadens and deepens the conversation. She said the Department of Elections volunteer list will also receive an invite, and there are more than 400 people on that list.

Member Wasserman also asked a question around security and privacy, and said it may or may not be a technical issue. He said that a lot of people do not understand these issues, so a “101 course” defining these things could help so that we don’t assume people understand it at the outset.

Chair Jerdonek asked how long the meeting would be and when the second one would be. Director Gerull replied that it would be about 90 minutes, with the second one happening September or later, sometime after the school year starts.

Chair Jerdonek asked whether and when working groups would be created. Director Gerull responded that this would be discussed at the meeting. It was also asked if TAC could help support the break-out groups for the meeting. People agreed that Department of Technology (DT) staff could also assist.

Member Hage pointed out that open source voting also involves open hardware and open data, and that San Francisco should publish its election data and not just software.

Member Wasserman said that San Francisco has been pretty good about open data for the last 5 to 10 years.

Member Hage said that was not necessarily true of other counties.

Public comment:

Ellen Lee Zhou asked what open source is. Director Gerull replied that open source software is computer software that is not proprietary. Ellen Lee Zhou stated that this would allow the results to be manipulated.

David […] said he wanted to see the data, voting processes, and hardware all to be open source processes. He also discussed the need to have proper auditing processes.

Brent Turner said the notes look good, and that it’s necessary to explain open source voting to the public in very understandable terms, for example by calling proprietary software “private” and open source software “public.”

Director Gerull stated that as public engagement begins, a place for the public to get answers will launch prior to the community meeting. It will be a central website with meeting information, meeting outcomes, and frequently asked questions. The website is nearly complete.

In reference to the third sub-item, Director Gerull said she plans to prepare a package for the business community covering history, outcomes, lessons learned, and costs of previous projects. This way the community will know that DT and the Department of Elections (DOE) have done their due diligence, and it can begin to frame how interactions will take place between potential project partners and the City and County of San Francisco.

Member Wasserman commended DT and Director Gerull for a comprehensive study of other systems.

Member Hage commented on the list on page 7. He said that one of the open source projects missing is Prime III (aka the “One for All” System). He suggested adding it and emphasized that is the only one actually in use. It was used previously for voters with disabilities. He added that Verified Voting and TAC’s recommendations document both have information on this system.

Member Hage said there is a software package called Open Count that is the only known open-source software able to interpret scanned ballots. It was used in Colorado. He said it is a giant monolithic application that is not easy to use. One of his criticisms of the system is the lack of documentation of system requirements. He added that it is difficult to discern what each system does in the history.

TAC members provided further comments to Director Gerull and agreed to provide them in writing.

Chair Jerdonek made some comments on the draft regarding internet voting and government election projects.

Public comment:

Brent Turner thanked mention of the point about STAR-Vote. He said one thing that needs to be kept clear is that, except for the Prime III project in New Hampshire, no project has successfully been used in a real election. He added that the New Hampshire project does not have the tabulation piece yet, however. He said that even though OSET is listed, OSET has never accomplished anything in this space. He said that the Open Voting Consortium (OVC), which was listed and did work in 2004, are not looked to for advice. He said San Francisco needs to develop its own plan. He added that the TAC is best served by doing it themselves and not delegating.

A TAC member remarked that the Humboldt County election project found an error in the Diebold System. An independent verification was done, and they found an error.

Director Gerull said she will bring the document to the Elections Commission in the future.

Public comment:

Ellen Lee Zhou suggested marking each ballot with a number, and then the open source system could match the ballot with that number. This would help prevent absentee voter fraud because it would ensure that all returned ballots came from the voter who said they returned it.

Someone suggested running two systems so two sets of results could be obtained. If both give the same results, then the systems would be seen as accurate.

Director Gerull discussed project funding. She said she would be talking about it tomorrow night. She had a meeting with the mayor’s office and DOE and discussed support for AB 1784. Director Arntz sent a letter, and it was accepted. She was sure this would help. The challenge is that the City has not yet funded the project. Using funds from the previous year, there is $1.2 million for two years, using the previous fund balance. The City would currently have $1.5 million eligible for matching. They tried to get up to $3 million that could be matched 2-to-1, but they were unsuccessful. They need to think carefully about budgeting for FY 2019-2020.

4. Approval of Minutes of Previous Meetings

Chair Jerdonek noted that the minutes were posted pretty late, so members shouldn’t feel pressured to approve them tonight.

Public comment: None.

Member Wasserman requested a change to the March 14 minutes regarding the wording around the SCaLE 17x conference.

Member Hage moved to approve the March 14 draft minutes with the change suggested by Member Wasserman. Seconded by Member Philips. The motion passed unanimously.

Member Hage moved to approve the April 11 and April 21 draft minutes. Seconded by Member Philips. The motion passed unanimously.

5. Administration

The committee decided that Chair Jerdonek would represent TAC at the May 15 Elections Commission meeting. The next TAC meeting would be on June 13. Chair Jerdonek asked Member Philips if he could provide a bio for TAC’s website.

Public comment: None.

6. Member Reports

Member Wasserman reported that he would be presenting at OSCON in July and at the Open Source Summit North America conference in August on the topic of open source voting in San Francisco. He will present on the history of the project in San Francisco and include budget and legislative topics.

Member Wasserman attended a California Clean Money event in the Mission District on Saturday, May 10, which collected a number of petitions for AB 1784. Speakers included State Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember David Chiu, Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen, and District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, among others.

Chair Jerdonek reported that Brent Turner sent an email with a conversation about ballot marking devices and how voters aren’t reviewing what is printed. There was also discussion about receipts.

7. Voting System Component Development

Committee members recapped the April 21 special meeting at the main public library that Members Hage, Jerdonek, and Kattouw attended. They worked on a demo page for the results reporter, as well as improved styling and a more functional table of comments.

Chair Jerdonek reported that he met with John Arntz (Director of the Department of Elections) and said he received favorable comments regarding the presentation so far.

Member Hage also gave an update on his activities related to the component’s development.

8. Digital Signatures

Members discussed digital signatures, chain of custody, data auditability, and vote tabulation in reference to the draft language prepared by Member Hage.

9. Topics for future discussion

Member Wasserman suggested the topic of providing advice to Director Gerull on holding the community meeting.

Public comment:

A member of the public supported the idea of preparing for the community meeting and suggested the idea of creating an instructional video.

Adjourned at 8:43 p.m.