Monday, July 16, 2007


Why not open source voting machine software?

The Progressive Review News ran a comment I sent them in response to their article, Major New Questions in Electronic Voting Scandal. I was pushing my idea of open-source voting software. It's worth repeating here (see below).

Today's Star-Bulletin had a short article mentioning the state's use of Hart voting machines which now have thermal printers attached. Of course, the voter doesn't check the printout. The printer is in an inaccessible place. So what good are they if the machine fouls up (or alters) your vote?  In a recount, if the machine has printed something different from what you intended to vote, no one will know. That's one way elections can be rigged.

The scandal mentioned above was in Los Angeles. As I recall, the software used in the machines may not have been the software that ES&S put in escrow. But the software is proprietary, so no one can check exactly what is in the machines. What a mess. Hawaii's situation is different, but we could use the same approach that I propose.

Here is my suggestion:

Why not open-source voting machines?

Many Progressive Review readers know about the open source movement. It's possible to operate your home computer entirely without expensive commercial software since open source programs exist that do pretty much the same work.

So why doesn't a huge district like Los Angeles or a state such as California make a relatively small investment and fund the development of open source voting software that anyone can inspect?

It's clear from the current situation with ES&S that the proprietary nature of the software is not only at the heart of this particular controversy but is behind the possibility, for example, that Diebold did, indeed, deliver Ohio's vote to the Republican Party.

So before the 2008 election is upon us, how about producing some software that is available for any citizen to inspect, and which will run on standardized platforms from voting machine makers or on touch-screen PCs? To start with, manufacturers will not release the interface specs on their machines, so standard tablet or touch- screen PCs can be used. If Diebold, for example, wants to get back into the race, it will eventually have to conform--to open source standards.


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