Maryland city to test open source election software

From: <SomeThoughts_at_aol_dot_com>
Date: Sat Feb 28 2009 - 19:27:46 CST

A link to the article below is here
The original seems to come from a pdf file found here:

Jim Soper


Maryland city to test new election software
Scantegrity comes to Takoma Park
By PoliticsInColor News Staff Updated: Sat, 02/28/2009 - 00:35

End-to-end system to be tested in April, used in November

By Kat Zambon (courtesy

Takoma Park, Md. has long been considered a bastion of progressive thinking.
The town is a nuclear-free zone, the city, by statute, is forbidden to do
business with the country of Burma (Myanmar), and residents must apply for a city
permit to cut down trees even on private property.

And the citys progressive thinking doesnt stop with environmental and social
issues, it also extends to elections. Takoma Park allows non-citizens to vote
in local elections, uses instant-runoff voting and recently, more than 20
election integrity advocates, poll workers and concerned citizens gathered at a
community center to discuss Scantegrity, an end-to-end voting system built on
top of an optical scan system that allows voters to confirm that their ballots
were counted as cast after the election.

The November 2009 municipal elections in Takoma Park will mark the first time
that Scantegrity is used for a binding public election but first, it will be
tested in a mock election on April 11 in conjunction with the Takoma Park
Arbor Day celebration.

Previously Scantegrity has been used in student government elections,
according to Dr. Alan Sherman, University of Maryland Baltimore County computer
science professor and Scantegrity contributor.

Scantegrity uses open source software and interested parties can examine the
source code here.

After deciding how to vote, a voter using a Scantegrity ballot uses a special
pen to darken the oval next to their choice and the pen reveals a
confirmation code in yellow. The voter can record the confirmation code on a tear-off
portion of the ballot or receipt with a serial number that the voter can take

After the election, the voter can go to a Web site and enter the serial
number to ensure that the confirmation code matches the code displayed, proving
that the ballot was counted as cast without revealing the voters choice.

?Anyone in China can verify our election,?Richard Carback, a University of
Maryland Baltimore County computer science graduate student and Scantegrity
contributor said.

Workshop participants talked about the nuts and bolts of running a
Scantegrity election, such as what happens to the receipts that voters dont keep (they
will be shredded).

April mock election scheduled

Takoma Park residents have the opportunity to check out the new system in a
mock election on April 11 at the community center. The goals of the mock
election are to demonstrate that Scantegrity is trustworthy and collect data on how
voters use the system, Sherman said.

Select mock election participants will be asked to participate in a focus
group which will be facilitated by a professional moderator, he said. Voters will
also be videotaped to study how easy it is to use the system. Sherman hopes
400 voters try the system in April.

Of course, whether or not a voter chooses to actually verify their votes
remains unknown. Using the mock election, election officials hope to find out who
verified their votes and why, though Sherman pointed out that its hard to poll
people who didnt verify.

?I do not believe that any significant percentage of voters will use the
Scantegrity system to confirm their ballots were counted as cast,?Paul Valette,
former Montgomery County election operations manager said.

In the 2004 elections in Nevada where voters had touch-screen machines with a
printer allowing them to check their ballots, observers found that only a
small percentage actually did, he said. ?The likelihood that people will write
down numbers, take them home, and actually check them online seems to me to be
remote,?he said.

However, Valette added, the fact alone that voters will have the opportunity
to validate their votes will ?provide both a deterrent to tinkering with the
software, and an increase in confidence on the part of the handful of people
who insist that black box voting is unreliable,?he said.

Anne Sergeant, Takoma Park board of elections chair agreed. ?Just because
[the voters] say its important and dont do it doesnt mean they dont believe its
important,?she said. Sergeant thinks Takoma Park voters generally trust the
process and said that the mock election should be informative.

?Im beginning to see the light?on Scantegrity, said Jane Johnson, an election
judge for eight years. ?Now I understand what its all about and where theyre
trying to go.?

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Received on Sat Feb 28 23:17:06 2009

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