Barbara Simons, an accomplished computer scientist and e-voting expert, was recently appointed to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors. (The EAC is the U.S. Federal body responsible for voting technology standards, among other things.) This is good news.
The board has thirty-seven members, of which four positions are allocated for “members representing professionals in the field of science and technology”. These four positions are to be appointed by Majority and Minority leaders in the House and the Senate. (See page 2 of the Board’s charter.) Given the importance of voting technology issues to the EAC, it does seem like a good idea to reserve 10% of the advisory board positions for technologists. If anything, the number of technologist seats should be larger.
Barbara was appointed to the board position by the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. Kudos to Senator Reid for appointing a genuine voting technology expert.
What about the other three seats for “professionals in the field of science and technology?” Sadly, the board’s membership list shows that these seats are not actually held by technical people. Barbara Arnwine holds the House Speaker’s seat, Tom Fuentes holds the House Minority Leader’s seat, and Wesley R. Kliner, Jr. holds the Senate Minority Leader’s seat. All three appear to be accomplished people who have something to offer on the board. But as far as I can tell they are not “professionals in the field of science and technology”, so their appropriate positions on the board would be somewhere in the other thirty-three seats.
What can be done? I wouldn’t go so far as to kick any current members off the board, even if that were possible. But when vacancies do become available, they should be filled by scientists or technologists, as dictated by the charter’s requirement of having four such people on the board.
The EAC is struggling with voting technology issues. They could surely use the advice of three more expert technologists.