Wired: Nation's First Open Source Election Software Released

From: Arthur Keller <voting_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Mon Oct 26 2009 - 14:12:56 CDT

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/10/open-source

Nation's First Open Source Election Software Released

     * By Kim Zetter Email Author
     * October 23, 2009 |
     * 12:14 pm |
     * Categories: E-Voting, Elections

LOS ANGELES - A group working to produce an open
and transparent voting system to replace current
proprietary systems has published its first
batches of code for public review.

The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV)
announced the availability of source code for its
prototype election system Wednesday night at a
panel discussion that included Mitch Kapor,
creator of Lotus 1-2-3 and co-founder of the
Electronic Frontier Foundation; California
Secretary of State Debra Bowen; Los Angeles
County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan; and Heather
Smith, director of Rock the Vote.

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.

"How we vote has become just as important as who
we vote for," Miller told the audience of
filmmakers and technologists who gathered at the
Bel-Air home of film producer Lawrence Bender to
hear about the project. "We think it is
imperative that the infrastructure on which we
cast and count our ballots is an infrastructure
that is publicly owned."

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.

"We believe we're catalyzing a re-birth of the
industry Š by making the blueprint available to
anyone who wants to use it," Miller said.

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.

"That was unexpected," Miller said.

The code currently available for download and
review represents only a small part of the total
code and includes parts of an online voter
registration portal and tracking system, election
management software and a vote tabulator.
Prototype code for producing ballots has been
completed and will be posted soon. Code for
auditing is still being designed.

The voting firmware and tabulator program are
built on a minimized Linux platform (a stripped
down version of Sharp) and the election
management components are built with Ruby on
Rails.

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.

"Currently two vendors impact 80 percent of the
vote" nationwide, Miller said, referring to
Premier/Diebold and Election Systems & Software,
which recently merged in a sale. But if all the
states that have expressed interest in adopting
the open source system follow through with
implementing it, about 62 percent of the nation's
electorate would be voting on transparent, fully
auditable machines he said.

The foundation is especially interested in
getting a system that would be workable in Los
Angeles County, the nation's largest and most
complex election district with 4.3 million voters
casting ballots in seven languages.

"If Los Angeles County figures this out, we will
have solved the problems for the rest of the
country," Miller said.

Kapor called the project "a breath of fresh air"
and said it symbolized the kind of "disruptive
innovation" that has characterized all of the
best technological developments over the last
thirty years.

Photo (left to right): Dean Logan, Mitch Kapor,
Heather Smith, Debra Bowen, Greg Miller. Courtesy
Luke Wooden

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Received on Mon Nov 30 23:17:09 2009

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