(Rebecca Mercuri asked me to write this as a follow-up to my post about the MN Post Election Audit Summit. I’m a bit hesitant as I do not know the whole story, have had very little interaction with any of the players, and I am concerned that I am jumping into a preexisting conflict which I know very little about. I am posting this anyways as a favor to Rebecca.)
Kathy Dopp writes about her troubles trying to attend to Post Election Audit Summit:
[AllAboutVoting: Lightly edited to fix some pronouns.]
Since June 2005, I have developed new election auditing mathematics and procedures in collaboration with statisticians and other mathematicians. My research work has tried to advance the state of election auditing by developing effective auditing methods, by identifying the critical elements that distinguish effective from ineffective methods, and by bringing attention to certain deficiencies and ethical conflicts in other organizations’ election auditing work. I founded and directs the National Election Data Archive, a 501(c)(3) group of volunteer statisticians and mathematicians devoted to ensuring accurate election outcomes.
I registered online to attend the 2007 Post Election Audit conference in Minneapolis, MN, booked air travel and made hotel reservations; but the next day the conference organizers informed me that that I was not in fact registered because there was no room left at the conference. I resolved to go anyway, to continue my work with others to ensure that election outcomes are an accurate reflection of voters’ choices, even if I were not permitted to participate in the conference workshops.
On the first day of the conference, October 25th, as I entered her Embassy Suites hotel room, hotel staffers called me to tell me that I was not permitted to attend the conference. Before I had spoken to one conference attendee, hotel staffers approached me and told me that I was not permitted to speak to any conference attendees in hotel common areas, that I was not permitted to be in some common areas of the hotel near to the conference area, and that I was not allowed to provide any conference attendees with any information that I had prepared on election auditing. I knew several conference speakers and attendees and hoped to be able to speak with them. However, when I tried to speak to anyone I knew who was walking through a hotel common area, the hotel manager followed me and stood between me and that person, preventing any conversation by blocking visual contact and talking, stating to all present that I was not allowed to give them information on election auditing.
While at the hotel, the hotel did not receive any complaint against me, nor did I violate any ordinance. Yet the conference hotel manager dogged my footsteps and while I waited in line at the front desk to sign up for Internet access, evicted me from the hotel when he saw a conference attendee ask for, take, and try to put away the one page election auditing information. Then the hotel manager ordered me to sit in a chair and not move, called for police to escort me to my hotel room to pack my belongings, and made me sign a “trespass” form.
The hotel told police that I was “expected to disrupt the conference”. Why? I have promoted election auditing at election industry conferences since 2005 without causing any disturbance.
Why Did Conference Organizers Seek to Exclude Me, and What Possible Reasons Would Any of The Organizers Have to Treat Me In This Manner?
One response comes from attendee Joseph Hall:
She was told on no uncertain terms that she was not welcome and not invited. I think claiming she “originated a lot of the mathematics behind election audits” is a bit of a stretch. She’s been very active and has made important contributions, but she does not play with other well, in asymmetric communication or real-time. The conference went off without a hitch and the organizers, unfortunately, spent an inordinate amount of time and money making sure that it did. They were intent on creating a productive, collaborative space for election officials, and they did a very good job.
The official response from the conference organizers:
Given the limitations of our budget and our desire to use the conference to begin a constructive dialog about audits between the various stakeholders, we limited attendance to this private event to a specific group of less than 100 invitees. We advised people who inquired bout the even but had not been invited that they would be unable to attend due to these limitations.
The hotel where we met has a clear policy on what is termed solicitation, which includes handing out materials while on private property. One may or may not agree with this policy, but it is spelled out in writing, and existed prior to, and independently of our Summit meeting. For whatever reason, one individual apparently chose to violate this policy, and the hotel enforced its policy. We did not witness this occurrence.
- I think that conference’s invitation only policy was the root of this conflict. Why did the conference organizers choose to adopt such a restrictive policy?
- Dopp’s account indicated that she successfully registered for the conference and made flight and hotel reservations before she was informed that she would not be able to attend the conference. This makes me wonder whether the conference’s invitation only policy could have been made plainer. It sounds to me like Dopp was already vested in attending the conference before she found out that she was not allowed to attend.
- I can understand the need of a hotel to have a solicitation policy and I am unsure of whether they acted outside their rights. I do think that they acted outside the boundaries of common sense and that they chose to use an extremely heavy-handed response to innocuous activity given that Dopp’s nefarious deeds were attempting to talk to and pass out handouts to people she knew while in hotel common areas.
- The conflict likely could have been avoided if:
- the conference had a more open attendance policy
- the conference registration system enforced the invitation-only restriction
- the conference organizers communicated the invitation-only restriction more clearly [I am not sure what was communicated and whether Dopp was aware that she was not allowed to attend before she successfully registered. It is possible that she was.]
- Dopp had been informed of the hotel’s solicitation policy before arriving at the hotel. There is an argument that it was her responsibility to discover this policy when she chose to go to the hotel with handouts without being admitted to the conference.