Thursday, October 29, 2009
Hawaii should clean its election house and join other states supporting open source voting software
by Larry Geller
Who will you vote for in 2010?
If you live in Hawaii, the better question right now is “how” will you vote in 2010.
If a crisis can be an opportunity, we’ve got the makings of a grand opportunity as our Office of Elections continues to melt down.
Senate Ways and Means and Election Commission hearings that put Chief Elections Officer Kevin Cronin on the hot seat have not yet revealed any clear path to solving the many problems the CEO faces.
With its budget cut 94% by the gov, lawsuits still pending and procurement on hold, there is yet no solution in sight. Hawaii is, in fact, unable at this moment to even have an election in 2010. Of course, somehow we will get through this.
Now is the time for Hawaii’s government to grab the brass ring. Our crisis can be our prize. How? It won’t directly help the 2010 election, but we should take the opportunity for a long-term solution and join with other states that are supporting open-source voting. In the end we should save money because of greatly increased competition for systems and support.
Open source voting (which this blog has suggested several times before) is alive and well, and in fact, the first software has recently been released. You can download a sample here, if you wish, and play with it on your own computer.
The software also demonstrates how easy security can be. As a “LiveCD,” you can have a CD in your pocket that will boot up on most any computer and produce the exact same voting system without chance of alteration. The entire system is on the CD, just waiting to be loaded onto a machine somewhere. It’s open source, so you can look at the code if you wish. If there’s any question about whether a machine has been “hacked,” all that’s necessary is to reboot it from the LiveCD and everything is re-initialized.
The gov stresses “innovation” for Hawaii. My understanding is that innovation often means putting your money where your mouth is. Now is our chance. Our investment would not be very risky, we would not be pioneers:
The [Open Source Digital Voting 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, [foundation co-founder Gregory] 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. [Wired, Nation’s First Open Source Election Software Released, 10/23/2009]
A forward-thinking Elections Commission could re-set priorities for its Office of Elections and work with the Legislature to save the 2010 elections and at the same time get Hawaii into the open source project. Perhaps local software developers could be employed to work on the project and implement it right here. It would be a great stimulus project.
To do that, the Office of Elections, like an elections computer, needs to be rebooted, and a new LiveCD loaded. If you get my drift.
(Thanks to Bart Dame for his vigilance and pointer to the Wired article.)
Links for more information:
Nation’s First Open Source Election Software Released
The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation
The Sharp Project (Demonstration software release)
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