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The word for today is “disenfranchisement” which according to Webster’s means “to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity.” You sometimes hear it used in connection with the policy in some U.S. states where convicted felons are not allowed to vote. That is legal disenfranchisement.

There is also the less savory kind of disenfranchisement, the kind that borders on electoral fraud. For example, in the 2004 presidential election there were reports of activities like:

  • In Ohio, some registered voters received anonymous phone calls telling them that they were not properly registered to vote and that if they tried to vote they will be arrested.
  • In Florida, registered members of one political party received phone calls reminding them to vote on November 3rd. Too bad the election was really on November 2nd.
  • In Wisconsin, fliers were handed out falsely stating “If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election.”

An attempt to fraudulently disenfranchise a voter is despicable wherever it occurs. In a democracy we decide by having a fair debate, and then counting votes. But misrepresenting the rules and procedures in order to prevent another party from exercising their right to vote — this is universally deplored.

I just received an email from someone in a national standards committee considering the OOXML ballot, concerning false information given to his committee which suggested the Sept. 2nd ballot deadline was not real, that they actually had 30 more days to decide. I’m not going to name names in this post, but I will say that this isn’t the first note I’ve received regarding such tactics. Some of the other ploys I’ve heard of include:

  • In the 3o-day contradiction period, one NB was told that the stated deadline from ISO had been extended and that they actually had two more weeks to debate before sending in their response. If they had listened to this advice, this NB would have missed the deadline and their comments would have been disregarded.
  • Another NB was told that they were not allowed to vote in the 5-month ballot because they had not participated in the contradiction period. This is totally false and has no basis in JTC1 Directives or past practice. Luckily this NB decided to check the facts for themselves.
  • Several NB’s were told that JTC1 had resolved all contradiction concerns with OOXML and that these issues therefore cannot be raised again in the 5-month ballot. This is utterly false. No one at JTC1 has made such a determination.
  • Several NB’s have been asked not to submit comments to JTC1 at all, but to send them directly to Ecma. (Yeah, right. Just sign your absentee ballot and give it to me. I’ll make sure it gets in the mail)
  • Many NB’s are being asked to throw away their right to a conditional approval position by voting Approval on a specification that they believe is full of defects that must be fixed, even though JTC1 Directives clearly states that “Conditional approval should be submitted as a disapproval vote.”
  • Many NB’s are being persuaded to vote Approval with the promise that all of their comments will be “addressed at the BRM” without explaining that “addressing a comment” may entail little more than entering it in a Disposition of Comments Reports with the remark “No action taken”.

I’m expecting that such shenanigans are only going to increase as we go into the final week of this 5-month ballot. So I ask you all to remain vigilant. If you see anything like the above happening, then please post a comment. If you feel like you’ve been tricked into not voting, or voting for something that you didn’t really agree with, then remember that JTC1 allows an NB to change their vote up until Sept. 2nd. No vote is final until then. If you hear something that seems unusual or a departure from normal practice, then question it. And don’t take my word for it either. If you need an official answer, shoot off an email to the JTC1 Secretariat and the ISO Secretary General.

ISO works on a voting principle of one country/one vote. Don’t let confusion over proper voting procedures deprive your country of their vote.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Chris Ward 2007/08/26, 6:56 pm

    It’s amazing what you can achieve with a wall of money, if you put your mind to it. Not necessarily desirable, but amazing nonetheless.

    I assume that whichever way the vote goes, Microsoft will continue to derive revenue from selling Microsoft Office (ECMA-376). IBM will continue to derive revenue from selling Lotus Notes (ISO-26300). And Google will continue to derive revenue by giving away SUN StarOffice (ISO-26300) as part of their GooglePack.

    I think Google is doing best financially, at the moment. I wonder how long it will last.

    Cast your votes according to your consciences. Don’t take backhanders from any corporation. Do what is best for your constituents, the way you see it.

  • Luc Bollen 2007/08/26, 8:06 pm

    It seems that strange things are happening now in Mexico. I found the following info on a blog (http://forgotten-place.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!F53FD685A00A8A7C!214.entry):
    “The email I received included a direct link which opens my email client and puts on the body ‘A Favor’ which means ‘I AGREE’ o ‘YES’. The recipient for this email was the person in charge of the votes, but this link included CCs to Microsoft emails! … What!? …. They want to know how many of us voted and what was the vote? Why? Is this illegal? Is this ethic? Why nobody here in Mexico sees this clear illegal and biased tactic to ensure a Mexico vote on YES to the standard?”

    I’ve not been able to double check the info, but it may be worth to keep an eye on what is happening there…

  • Emilis Dambauskas 2007/08/27, 6:07 am

    The public at large needs to know its “heroes” by names.

    What’s bad with copy-pasting exact emails?

  • Charles Robinson 2007/08/27, 1:49 pm

    I blogged about this, but I’ll post it here too:

    A blogger from Sun has a nice run-down of what has happened in various countries: http://blogs.sun.com/sdsouza/entry/standard_needed_for_standards_voting .

  • Stefan Gustavson 2007/08/27, 2:13 pm

    > What’s bad with copy-pasting exact emails?

    It sure isn’t illegal, but I would still consider it unethical in the general case. This, however, is an exception. If I wanted to call public attention to wrongdoings and actually had a smoking gun to shine a light on, then I would consider it my responsibility, even my duty, to post the evidence in public, without censoring it or holding anything back.

  • Rob 2007/08/27, 3:06 pm


    I’m not going to post personal emails to a public list. I just don’t do that.

    Also, we need to keep in mind that some NB’s are very secretive about their proceedings. I could get someone in trouble if I posted their email.

    Another aspect of this secrecy is that a number of important countries have already voted Disapproval on OOXML, in some cases weeks ago. But you have not heard their names in the news, and I cannot mention them. But when the news comes out I promise you that it will be impressive.

    In any case, the purpose of my note was not to expose the miscreants. That will need to wait for another day. But it is urgent that NB’s be aware of these tricks. We’ve reported some of these to ISO and asked that they send a note to NB’s reminding them of the rules. But no luck with that. ISO leadership doesn’t seem interested in keeping their own neighborhood clean.

  • Rick Jelliffe 2007/08/27, 11:40 pm

    Would you care to give specifics about even one of your claims? Which countries? Who said what to whom?

  • Rob 2007/08/28, 7:50 am

    Rick, I’d love to give all the names, dates, etc. I hope to do so soon. But there is a time for getting people out of a burning building, and there is a time for telling the authorities who set the fire. One thing at a time…

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