Minimal voting system design

From: Fred McLain <mclain_at_zipcon_dot_net>
Date: Sun Nov 11 2007 - 17:36:15 CST

In light of some of the discussion on this list today, I have been
thinking about the base software system needs for touch screen
voting. As mentioned earlier, no real operating system is require for
software that simply counts votes. This reduces the complexity of the
open source software to be reviewed and allows for complete inspection
and testing coverage. A base issue is how to interact with devices
used to display and tabulate the votes. This is a simple proposal.

1. Use an LED grid for touch screen locations.

This has the advantage of a zero drift system eliminating the
calibration problems inherent to capacitive and resistive touch
screens. It is also nearly immune to tampering. Back in the 90s I
and a small group of engineers developed exactly this sort of system
for a kiosk based business card vending machine. Although our
printing system did not perform well, the LED grid approach to touch
location worked flawlessly. Furthermore, no "mouse driver" was
required and reduced software complexity dramatically.

2. Use a serial ASCII printing system

This is a printing at it's simplest level. Again we eliminate the OS,
saving literally millions of lines of code may otherwise require
inspection. One could argue that the printer itself has quite a bit
of microcode, but for an audit trail it would not be difficult to
split the stream going to the printer for an audit record.

3. Use a simplified display interface

This is still an item I am not entirely decided about. However, it
should be possible to create a display that does not require video
cards and drivers to display the ballot. At worst, we could simply
project an image of the ballot with a location grid. This is what we
used in the OVC demo project. That approach would likely be based on
existing display technologies and thus be at least testable, although
video drivers do involved a large amount of code to verify. I'm very
open to suggestions here, particularly on how we could reduce the
complexity of the display interface.


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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:14 2007

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