Open Source Voting Software Released

Wired Article: Nation’s First Open Source Election Software Released <read>

Not actually the first, yet a significant development.  From the Wired article:

The OSDV, co-founded by Gregory Miller and John Sebes, launched its Trust the Vote Project in 2006 and has an eight-year roadmap to produce a comprehensive, publicly owned, open source electronic election system. The system would be available for licensing to manufacturers or election districts, and would include a voter registration component; firmware for casting ballots on voting devices (either touch-screen systems with a paper trail, optical-scan machines or ballot-marking devices); and an election management system for creating ballots, administering elections and counting votes…

Miller said the foundation wasn’t looking to put voting system companies out of business but to assume the heavy burden and costs of research and development to create a trustworthy system that will meet the needs of election officials for reliability and the needs of the voting public for accessibility, transparency, security and integrity.

Open source has great potential to facilitate voting integrity and independence from sole source equipment/software vendors and outsourcing of elections.  This particular project is comprehensive including voter registration capabilities and has interest from major players:

The foundation has elicited help from academics and election officials from eight states as well as voter advocacy groups, such as Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters, to guide developers in building the system. Technology bigwigs such as Oracle, Sun and IBM have also approached the group to help with the project…

The foundation already has California, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington interested in adopting the system and is in talks with 11 other states. Florida, which has been racked by voting machine problems since the 2000 presidential debacle, has also expressed interest, as has Georgia, which uses machines made by Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold Election Systems) statewide.

Other coverage:

InformationWeek Blog: Can Open Source Software Save Democracy? <read> A good overview and summary of the business challenges for vendors.  This is why we are skeptical that left on their own high quality proprietary solutions will be developed:

But the solutions aren’t necessarily obvious: only electronic voting machines are truly accessible to all voters, technicians do need reset buttons, wireless features are needed to report results in a timely manner, and a paper audit trail doesn’t ensure that votes are counted properly unless you can determine which (the electronic or paper) reflects actual voter intent.

The problems are compounded because there’s little profit margin in voting machines (which are paid for by cash-strapped local governments) and thus little incentive for voting machine vendors to invest a great deal in R&D.

And surprisingly, at least to me,  from the John Birch Society:  Open Source Election Software Revealed <read>

Through a collaborative effort between state and local elections officials and technology experts, the group aims to create federally certified voting software that will restore trust and transparency in elections by allowing anyone to inspect the code. Proprietary voting systems used in recent elections have come under fire for secrecy, unreliability and a host of other problems.

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