What a day! The Atlantic Council hosted an executive round table that featured an international group of 30 of the best minds in election administration and technology. One of our co-founders, Gregory Miller was fortunate to be included in that group of participants. We thank the Atlantic Council for including us. There was an excellent two-hour discussion that can be seen here.
We had so many comments about the Atlantic Council's Report, "Democracy Rebooted" that we prepared a feedback document released with this post (patience please, it may take a few moments to load). It was impractical to try to talk about our comments at the Round Table with so many participants and topics, save the one we chose -- the issue of open source and public ownership as an innovative catalyst in the future of technology in elections.
By now, you may already "get" the "cutting room floor" reference. But if you missed it, you can see and hear (in the web cast) the Report's author, Conny B. McCormack respond to a comment by Gregory regarding a lack of any mention of open source efforts in, and public ownership of election technology. Ms. McCormack replied that the topic of open source election technology was forced to the "cutting room floor" due to priorities, size, and scope limitations of the Report: Democracy Rebooted: The Future of Technology in Elections (although really, the "scope" was driven by a sole topic: the challenges and opportunities of adopting e-voting technology.)
Mr. Miller's sole remark during this two-hour discussion comes at the 1:45:14 mark, takes about 2-minutes, after which the Atlantic Council facilitator and the author reply. See our document for a detailed discussion.
OK, so we're left to wonder for a moment, whether the efforts of open source in election technology hit the cutting room floor because the Atlantic Council (or at least the author) simply does not see it as a priority or viable innovation. We must conclude that's not the case, even if the report was underwritten by a commercial e-Voting vendor.
That noted, we're seeing a lot of chatter about the Report's underwriting. That's not us. We don't want (or need) to focus on the optics of underwriters. We mention it in our feedback document, but to be clear, we think actually, Smartmatic probably did the right thing sponsoring the Report -- we know firsthand how challenging finding research underwriters can be, and this is important work to be done. Besides, there really are no "unbiased" funding sources. Hiring qualified researchers to perform the research is smart and the Atlantic Council did the right thing conducting the research. So, we're not concerned about the underwriter, but rather the notion that the research project, although labeled one thing, appeared to over-train on a single aspect. To us, "elections" covers the entire ecosystem including, but not limited to the process of voting. Perhaps had the title swapped "in Elections" for "in Voting" we wouldn't have that opinion.
But in any event, what a privilege and honor it was to participate in this imperative conversation, arguable nuance aside, for which we are grateful. We believe that innovation and opportunities of open source and public ownership are important elements of that on-going conversation.
What do you think?