Draft of letter to the EAC

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 12:08:07 CDT

This is a draft of an important statement we need to make. This will be a
letter to the EAC on OVC letterhead with the names of the directors included
along with, perhaps, a few major contributors in the current discussion
(like David Mertz, Charlie Strauss, Laird Popkin, and perhaps others). This
will be followed with a press release.

Dear Commissoners

We are delighted to learn of your interest in open source software. It
makes sense that a public process like voting be best served with public
software. The Open Voting Consortium is the organization most actively
promoting this mode of election administration, and we would be happy to
participate in the next EAC hearing.

Last month we showed our demo voting software to the world. This was
announced in the New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, San Jose
Mercury News, and many other papers coast-to-coast on April 1st. People
like this sensible idea. After seeing our April 1 demo at the County Court
House in San Jose California, in an April 8 editorial, the San Jose Mercury
News lauded our system as the Holy Grail of voting systems. They followed
this with an editorial (Apr 23) urging our Secretary of State to "replace
your proprietary code with open-source software that voters can trust." At
a minimum, we think that open source public software should be offered as
soon as possible to jurisdictions as an alternative to closed source black
box voting systems.

We have been able to move the project forward with vounteer scientists and
engineers. However, funding will be needed in order to complete and
certifiy the high quality comprehensive software that the United States
voting system deserves. The Open Voting Consortium is working with states
and their public universities to get this project launched. The Open Voting
Consortium is designed as a durable organization that will provide an
on-going structure for maintenance and delivery of the Open Voting system
for many years after the Research and Development has been completed.

As you sort through what this all means, it is important to keep in mind the
various meanings of "open source." Simply publishing the code used in
proprietary systems is not enough. Engineers cannot freely examine and test
proprietary code without risk of being sued. A form of public licensing is
needed so that examiners are free to use the code under a controlled set of

Public licensing of published source code has served the computing world
very well. Most of the software used to bring us the Internet is open
source with public licenses. Apache (web server software) and Linux
(computer operating system) are outstanding examples of such software.
Studies have shown that these software programs are higher quality--better
performance and fewer bugs--than competing closed source proprietary
software. It is no wonder that most of the web servers on the Internet are
running robust applications like Apache along with an open source operating
system like Linux.

Another advantage of our approach is that interoperability will be improved.
As it is, each vendor of proprietary systems also has proprietary file
formats for ballot definition files. Aggregating the vote count is
complicated by the fact that the results are presented in the various
formats vendors have chosen to use. How can we talk about standards in this
regard when the details are trade secrets? The advent of Open Voting will
bring interoperability, simplicity and effiency, as well as openness.

We look forward to increasing the dialog between the Election Assistance
Administration and the Open Voting Consortium.

Alan Dechert
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:30 2004

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