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Universal Voter Registration

I received a letter (dated APR 7) via US mail the other day from a radio station in Michigan on WPRR, Inc. letterhead, WPRR 1680, from Bob Goodrich. I responded with a letter via mail -- three pages. I was tempted to respond with a simple, "no," but I thought it was interesting. I had a couple of other thoughts after I sent the letter. I should have said "eliminate it or privatize it at the end of this sentence.
Once we identify a function for government to handle (and pay for) on an on-going basis, the impulse from the Left tends to be "federalize it." The impulse from the Right tends to be "eliminate it."
Also, the basic difference between "universal voter registration" and the idea of eliminating voter registration is the difference between centralization and decentralization of the databases.

Here is the text from the letter:

Mr. Dechert,

Is Open Voting Consortium currently working on the legislative steps required to enable "universal voter registration" for federal elections? I suggest by the federal government assigning each of us a specific federal voter identification number, the Republican fantasized voter fraud allegations would be appropriately dealt with.

Each state could duplicate federal voter registration by continuing to have local registration. Considering how Republicans have politicized the mechanics of both voter registration and voting, I'd expect most (particularly southern) states would continue local registration.

It would be a challenge for the Republican/Tea Party US Senators and Representatives to oppose our democratic ideal of: one citizen, one vote. With tens of millions (felons, college students) of federal voters who could not be state/local voters, hopefully the contrived disenfranchisement will trigger both an outcry and a change.

Kindest Regards, Robert (Bob) Goodrich

*************************** my response, sent via US Mail today

Artist's Rendering of Proposed OVC Voting Booth

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A higher resolution copy of this artist's rendering is available here.

The biggest challenge to making the OVC system widely available is creation of the PC-printer unit shown in the drawing. It would be a battery-powered inkjet printer with a processor (like Atom-based netbook or nettop). We are working hard to find a hardware partner and investment necessary to make this. The software and the other hardware are comparatively easy to make.

The booth would fold up into a neat case about 28 inches by 26 inches and about 3.5 inches thick, weighing around 20 pounds. Set up would take only about 2 minutes. The pc-printer unit would store separately, booted, connected and locked into place after the booth is set up. The touch screen panel and cables would stay with the booth when stored.

Thanks to Morgan Hastings for making creating this rendering.

My Testimony at February 8th Secretary of State's Hearing

The California Secretary of State's February 8th hearing on "The Future of Voting in California: The People, the Equipment, the Costs" was a good overview of where we are at with voting system reform.

Open Voting Consortium has been pushing Open Source, Open Standards, and the Electronic Ballot Printer (EBP) design. While not yet evident in the systems in use today, I am happy to report that these concepts are taking hold; Progress seems glacial at times, but we are getting there.

I attended and testified. I did not submit written testimony at the time because I wanted to hear what was said and respond to that. My written submission is now available.

Here is a summary of what I said:

  • "Open Source" gaining currency
  • Discerning voter intent was a key issue in 2000, and that issue remains unresolved
  • We need machine-marked printed ballots to eliminate the voter intent issue. The federal program for military and overseas voters embodies this concept.
  • Progress correcting voting system faults has been very slow
  • The need for a common data format is now recognized. OVC has been promoting the Election Markup Language (EML). We continue to advocate for adoption of EML (now EML v6). Sequoia says they are starting to use EML.
  • Accessible voting booth at each poll site: high cost, high maintenance, and low usage. This is causing jurisdictions to want to eliminate poll sites. We need a different approach, especially for accessible voting at home, which is where people with disabilities tend to vote.
  • Officials need to be more proactive to get the job done. We've heard talk of "banding together," and that's the basis of the consortium idea. Interested parties should be joining a consortium (like the Open Voting Consortium) to solve these problems.

Los Angeles to see Best Voting System Demo of All Time this Weekend

This weekend, we're promising the best demo ever of an open source voting system. We will be showing a touchscreen tablet PC, that will dazzle conference goers (Feb 19-21 at LAX Westin *).

People visiting our booth will be able to create an election by filling in an on-screen form. After that, we can create the bootable CD with the operating system, ballot definition, and application software ready to make a complete voting system.

We can then remove the hard drive (not necessary, but helps to illustrate) and boot from the CD to turn the touchscreen tablet into a touchscreen electronic ballot printing voting machine.

We'll show the whole process from specifying what goes on the ballot, to tabulating the vote. All of this done with free and open source software ... inexpensive hardware.

While this is not a certified voting system for the U.S., it is already pretty close to something that could be used right now in many countries. And it could form the basis of a complete system for any county -- including Los Angeles -- once we have the partners needed to finish it and get it certified. Who knows? We may meet some potential partners this week end.

One problem: I have to raise the money so I can pay bills and get everything together for the trip to Los Angeles. If we don't raise the rest of the money we need, I don't see how we can do it. Thanks to all that have contributed, we are only about $1,100 short of what we must have.

As someone who spent all day a week ago at the CA Secretary of State's hearing on the future of voting technology, I am here to tell you the voting system is STILL a complete mess -- the vendor-driven model based on proprietary technology is completely broken. We can't expect them to fix it. We the people have to show the way.

If you care anything at all about the future of democracy,


The Future of Voting Technology in California, the U.S. and the World: Why We Need a Decision Now

Open Voting Consortium (OVC) will be featured at the California Democratic Party's Executive Board meeting this weekend. I will have an hour to present our case for why California should go for the OVC solution -- beginning around 6:00 pm in San Diego, Hyatt Mission Bay. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Brigette Hunley, Chair of the California Democratic Party's Computer and Internet Caucus recently announced,

Subject: CDP Computer & Internet Caucus Meeting

Please join us on Saturday night from 6 to 8 pm at the San Diego e-board for our Government 2.0 Transparency Series

Our featured speakers are from OVC and they promise an exciting discussion on the future of voting technology.

I hope to see you there!

Alan Dechert

OVC Presentation at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Washington D.C.

One of our top programmers, Parker Abercrombie, represented OVC at the National Institute of Standards and Technology workshop on Common Data Formats, OCT 30.

OVC has been pushing for Open Source and Open Standards for some years now. By all accounts, our presentation there was very well received.

The slides used are available here in PDF format. You can find presentation slides for the workshop presenters at NIST.

Thanks to Parker and thanks for all OVC supporters that helped make this happen.

OVC gains momentum with San Francisco Event

This was one of the more memorable events in all the years we have been at it. There was a very nice article in the Fog City Journal: Pelosi Adds Voice to Open Source Voting Systems Momentum.

Thanks to all that helped make this happen, and, of course, thanks to Christine Pelosi for brightening up the space.

California Democratic Council Voters Enjoy OVC

Delegates to the California Democratic Council conference September 26-27 in San Diego had a chance to try out Open Voting Consortium's Electronic Ballot Printing system. It's very simple: make your selections on a computer screen, and then print out your finished ballot.

"When will this be in all the voting booths in California?" That was the typical response.

OVC Boosted by Series of House Parties

Thanks to Eric Smith and all the fine people that attended the event Friday evening at his home: it was a great event. We raised some money for OVC and at least one more person agreed to host another event. Special thanks to Brent Turner for his organizing efforts.

Importantly, for our campaign, we met quite a few new people. There were about 20 people there that I had not met before. Attendees included Debra Walker, candidate for Supervisor in the 6th district. Also pictured above are Brent Turner and Eric Smith, who is running for Supervisor in the 10th district.

Luke Thomas of the Fog City Journal was there and took quite a few pictures.

The attitude here was all positive. Yes, we can!

The next event is at the home of Eve Matelan in Sunnyvale Sep 18th. Christine Pelosi will speak for us at our Oct 1st event in San Francisco. We are looking forward to building up a schedule of many more events to gain consensus and momentum for Open Voting.

OVC to provide Voting System for Democratic Party Elections


Aug 4, 2009 Contact: Alan Dechert, 916-772-5360
President, Open Voting Consortium
4941 Forest Creek Way, Granite Bay, CA 95746

GRANITE BAY, CA -- The California Democratic Council has asked Open Voting Consortium to provide the voting system for their September 27th Executive Board Elections in San Diego. This will be the most important demonstration OVC has done of their voting system so far. Hundreds of political movers and shakers will be trying out the system.

California Democratic Council President Henry Vandermeir made the request, and said that they will be voting for president, secretary, treasurer, and controller. Endorsements for statewide political offices and policies will be included in the Sep 27th elections. OVC will provide a booth for disabled access.

The idea initially came out of a casual conversation between OVC stalwart Brent Turner and Mr. Vandermeir. Mr. Turner said, "People in the Democratic Party frequently tell me they would like to try out the Open Voting Consortium voting system. I am delighted that they will have a chance to do that."

"This is an important step for OVC," said OVC president, Alan Dechert. "We are moving closer all the time to having a system that can replace existing flawed, secretive and proprietary voting systems for public elections."

Besides this large demonstration in September, OVC has other smaller but important demonstrations to give to election officials around the state of California over the next month.

Open Voting Consortium is a nonprofit organization that develops and promotes free and open source software for the conduct of public elections.

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