Sunday, September 26, 2004

Michael Shamos voting testimony

Michael Shamos's July 2004 testimony before the House of Representatives regarding electronic voting machines. He is obviously a longtime electronic voting proponent. I link the testimony here in the interest of fairness, but I don't have time to rebut all his claims now, beyond saying that most of the arguments he attributes to DRE voting machine opponents are straw men (albeit subtly constructed straw men).

Most thoughtful DRE voting machine opponents acknowledge that electronic voting machines, in some form, can be superior to other forms of voting. We object to the bad design and lack of verifiability in the current generation of DRE voting machines, as well as the lack of transparency on the part of the voting machine manufacturers.

Unfortunately, Michael Shamos's testimony reads as a full-throated defense of electronic voting, with calls for verifiability and trustworthiness only coming at the very end. It therefore gives a misleading impression to lay readers.

p.s. Michael Shamos is a professor at CMU's School of Computer Science (though not, it is worth noting, in the Computer Science Department itself); but the list of computer scientists who have endorsed the contrary Resolution on Electronic Voting is rather more impressive. The older, hand-maintained version sorts by rough seniority and, well, if you recognize any of the names on that list, you'll see what I mean. Yes, OK, the appeal to authority is a fallacy, but Shamos seems to like putting "Ph.D., J.D." after his name, and his testimony is full of logical problems itself, so it's worth pointing out that we should not accord Shamos any special credibility because of his own credentials.

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