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Subject: Re: EML Clarifying Questions

In a message dated 5/24/01 12:13:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
wysong@technodemocracy.org writes:

<< Subj:     EML Clarifying Questions
 Date:  5/24/01 12:13:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
 From:  wysong@technodemocracy.org (Thom Wysong)
 To:    election-services@lists.oasis-open.org
 In thinking over what we have covered during our first nine days in 
 existence as a committee, I've sensed that we may not all be on the same 
 page in terms of what we feel the direction and scope of EML should be. I 
 thought it'd be worthwhile to pose a few questions that will hopefully get 
 everyone's views on the table. Then we can decide what the overall best 
 direction and scope will be.
 The purpose of our committee is listed on the Election Services committee 
 home page (http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/election/index.shtml). It 
 is "to develop a standard for the structured interchange of data among 
 hardware, software, and service providers who engage in any aspect of 
 providing election or voter services to public or private organizations".
 I find it interesting that the stated purpose of the committee focuses 
 strictly on vendor-to-vendor and vendor-to-client relationships within the 
 elections community. I hadn't noticed this before. I had been working under 
 the assumption that EML would be more broadly focused on providing value 
 anywhere in the elections community that it could. 
 It's worth noting that direct 
 election-office-to-election-office, candidate-to-election-office, 
 agency-to-agency, jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction, and 
 election-office-to-voter data interchange (among others) are not covered by 
 our committee's stated purpose.
 An initial stated purpose for the committee obviously needed to be 
 developed to help define what the committee would be working on. However, 
 since this initial stated purpose was developed before the committee ever 
 met, it makes me wonder if it's within our powers as a committee to alter 
 our stated purpose now that we're together. Does anyone know if this would 
 be within the "official rules" of OASIS?
 If it is within our powers to do this, a few questions would need to be 
 addressed. One is what are the possibilities? What would we change it to? 
 Another is what's in the best interest of the committee?  What's in the 
 best interest of the elections community?  What will increase EML's chances 
 of being widely adopted? And finally, is there sufficient support on the 
 committee to alter our stated purpose?
 Another issue that would be beneficial to explicitly clarify is what voting 
 methods and voting technologies are we targeting EML to be useable by?
 Voting methods include paper ballot, lever machine, punch card, optical 
 scan, electronic, Internet, and telephone.
 It would be logical to assume that only fully electronic voting systems 
 would be able to make use of EML. This would include electronic, Internet, 
 and telephone voting systems. And would exclude paper ballots, lever 
 machines, punch cards, and optical scan voting systems.
 However, it seems to me that jurisdictions that use paper and mechanical 
 voting systems could make use of EML to a limited degree. The recount of 
 Florida's 171,000 undervoted and overvoted ballots from the November 2000 
 election (http://recount.usatoday.com) is an example of this. While there 
 were many groups who would have liked to view and analyze those ballots, 
 because they were only in paper form, re-counters had to be physically 
 present as the ballots where handled one by one. Substantial financing was 
 required to afford this recount effort and therefore very few groups were 
 able to participate.
 However, the re-counters could have created an electronic representation of 
 the punch card ballots as they processed through them - designating how 
 many "corners" of which chads where still connected, which chads were 
 "dimpled", etc.  Then the file containing the electronic representation of 
 those ballots could be posted on the Internet. Any group wishing to analyze 
 the ballots could do so for substantially less cost than it would take to 
 process through the physical ballots in person. Additionally, if the 
 ballots were represented in a standard xml format, computer programs would 
 be able to analyze them from a hundred different angles.
 Currently there is no standard way of representing punch card or optically 
 scanned ballots in electronic format. However, it would not be difficult to 
 create this. It's just a matter of whether it's inside the scope of our 
 committee or not.
 I'm not sure if anyone else on the committee sees a value in creating xml 
 elements for voting systems that are not purely electronic. I'd be 
 interested in hearing everyone's comments on this.
 Yet another issue I think would be worth discussing is whether **all** 
 elements of EML will need to be useable by **all** targeted voting systems? 
 Or, will EML contain specialized subsets of elements that may be useable to 
 some voting systems, but not to others?
 This question came to mind when the brief discussion on ballot presentation 
 occurred during our first meeting. It seemed to me that those who objected 
 to tackling presentation issues may have been assuming that all voting 
 systems would have to be able to successfully handle all 
 presentation-related elements. Since no explanation was given for the 
 objections, I may be entirely wrong in my interpretation of the situation.
 However, regardless of whether or not my understanding was correct, it 
 seems that it would be worthwhile for us to decide whether EML is to be 
 single set of xml elements useable by all targeted voting methods?  Or, if 
 we will create special subsets of elements that are useable by only a 
 subset of the targeted voting methods?
 After the above matters are discussed, I tend to think it would be 
 beneficial for us to lay out an explicit set of simple parameters or 
 requirements that would guide the committee's future work.
 As a part of this, it would seem beneficial to list any scenarios that, 
 ideally, would involve the use of EML. These parameters and usage scenarios 
 would help to keep everyone going in the same direction.
 I would also like to present some comments and questions on presentation 
 and accessibility issues. However, this email is long enough. I'll send 
 those thoughts out separately.
 Thank you for your time. I look forward to reading everyone's comments.
 -Thom >>

Dear Thom,

Thanks for that incredibly thoughtful analysis of project scope.  It occurred 
to me in reading it that really there had been little discussion of goals in 
establishing the EML -- and that may be a necessary discussion before you can 
agree upon scope.  Although VIP is not a voting member of the committee, we 
are eager for any framework that will make secure verifiable lifetime 
registration a reality. So it follows that we would like EML to be available 
(and constructed) for the widest possible application and use, so that the 
states, vendors, administrators, legislators can begin to think in terms of 
creating 50 state centralized computerized registration systems that could 
easily network permitting the accessibility of one's local ballot from any 
secure polling station and also the instantaneous verification of 
registration nationwide. That may sound blue sky, but we think it actually 
could become a reality fairly quickly, once the framework is in place. Now, 
if we are wrong in thinking EML is an important element for that vision, 
please clue us in now, because I am writing an op ed piece this weekend for 
Tuesday publication that will lay that vision out.

On the equipment issue, I had assumed we were talking about electronic-only, 
but you have raised an exciting possibility.  I think that America's lower 
end systems are going to prove stubbornly resistant to quick upgrading, 
except in some high profile states. An application such as you describe could 
be an incentive for even those counties clinging to their punch card systems 
to dangle a toe in the water.

Best regards,


Deborah M Phillips
Chairman and President
"Defending Your Freedom By Protecting Your Vote"
(888) 578-4343
PO Box 6470
Arlington VA 22206

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