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OSS Election Systems Desired, but Not Ready 182

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-than-ready dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Even though many American voters are ready for open source systems at the polls, Newsforge (a Slashdot sister site) has an interesting story about why open source may not be ready for the polls. From the article: 'The only open source e-voting effort that Rubin [an e-voting expert] noted was the Open Voting Consortium (OVC). "I don't agree with everything they are doing, but they are all about transparency and open source," Rubin said. OVC President and CEO Alan Dechert says it would take a large investment of time and money to provide an alternative to traditional e-voting systems vendors, but he says an effort known as Open Voting Solutions (OVS) is looking to do just that.'"
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OSS Election Systems Desired, but Not Ready

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  • Paper Ballots? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:28PM (#14864087) Homepage
    What's wrong with paper ballots? They work great in Canada. We even have election results within a few hours, at most. As far as I can tell the only "downside" is that paper ballots are hard to rig elections with.
    • Re:Paper Ballots? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stubear (130454)
      We have this thing in the US called States Rights. Voting systems are picked by each district, not on a Federal level and you'd have a very hard time forcing thousand of districts to replce their current systems. Some out of spite and stubborness, others out of financial hardship, and probably a mix of the two with the rest. The US Constitution was written to appease the States and as such the Federal Government could not appear to take too much power over their little feifdoms. Things like this are the
      • Re:Paper Ballots? (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by NoTheory (580275)
        That's a bunk argument. So many states rights issues have been overruled by the federal court system. And, specifically, there have also been noises made about mandating a federal standard for federal elections. I'm quite sure that principle is not going to win out in this sort of discussion, as in many others.
      • We have this thing in the US called States Rights. [blah blah blah blah]. Perhaps you should try to understand this concept and why it came about before you bash the US.

        That's all fine and good, except you totally failed to actually address the question. What is wrong with paper ballots? They work fine in Canada and many other countries, and they seem to historically have fewer problems than other alternatives.

        That in mind, to address your two main concerns:

        1. You point out that they can't be mandated at
      • If people wanted to be picky they would simply point at there is no oppurtunity for profit in a straight forward, paper ballot, hand counted system, which means of course there is no way in hell, that it will be used in the US, no profit - un-American ;-).
    • Re:Paper Ballots? (Score:2, Interesting)

      Not to post simply to be disagreeable, I think paper ballots (or at a minimum, a paper-trail from electronic voting devices) are certainly preferable over some of the other options that have been tried...

      but you should keep in mind -- the entire population of Canada is less (nearly half, as a matter of fact) the population of only California...

      I'm fairly certain that has some bearing on the ability to rapidly process the paper ballots :)
      • No it doesn't. You have 10 times as many people voting. You also have 10 times as many people working the polls and counting ballots and whatnot. End result: the same amoutn of time. Getting 10 times more people to work elections in a country with 10 times more people... geee. that'd be the same percentages as here. You people suck at math.
    • Paper is no good because we "need" to let people vote in 42 different languages. Understanding what the candidates promise is not a prerequisite for voting.

      Paper does not self-validate. What if somebody messes up? They get disenfranchised! We "need" to ensure that every moron can just play with the ballot until it is valid.

      More seriously, paper is hard to reprint when a candidate dies a week before the election.

      Some people with poor eyes need HUGE letters.

      Plus, e-voting is all high-tech, so it must be good.
    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:02AM (#14864697) Homepage Journal
      A blind citizen given a paper ballot has to get someone to help, raising problems of confidentiality and trust.

      A computer UI can, in principle, be made easier to follow than a crowded piece of paper. Googling for "butterfly ballot" will get you an example that turned out to be important. A computerized ballot can do validity checking and spare the counting system from having to divine "voter intent" from a double-voted or unreadable ballot.

      Those are the only real advantages I've ever seen mentioned.
    • Paper trails can easily be added to existing voting systems. Rolls of adding machine paper are cheap, about 55 cents for a 150' roll at Staples. I am sure they can be had for cheaper if bought in bulk. The adding machines and the ink are cheap too. How much are we paying Diebold and the others for thier voting kiosks?

      The trick is to print the vote out and let the voter see it as it prints. The voter will not be able to touch the vote, only see it. Before the voter leaves the booth the vote gets rolled up. N
    • Paper ballots are just as easy to rig elections with than electronic voting. Been there, done that. The only thing that keeps ANY election clean is levels and more levels of checking and rechecking.
  • Australia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kangburra (911213) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:32PM (#14864105)
    Here in Australia we have a system that works, and has been used already.

    http://www.softimp.com.au/index.php?id=evoting [softimp.com.au]
    • Re:Australia (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Here in Australia we have a system that works, and has been used already.

      It's also worth noting that the eVACS system is free software under the GPL and you can get the source, and some more info, at the ACT Electoral Commission site [act.gov.au].

      Relevant to the article!
  • Easy formula (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HairyCanary (688865) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:36PM (#14864121)
    For public safety, I say we require three things from electronic voting systems:

    1. Open source. We need to be able to trust these systems and how can we do that without being able to examine the code behind them?
    2. Paper records kept for the government. Just in case there is a trust issue, this is a backup method for the recount.
    3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

    So easy. I am all for having the convenience and speed of electronic voting, but I cannot for the life of me understand why we must give up the benefits of paper ballots at the same time, and even improve on them (as in the paper copy for the voter).

    • Re:Easy formula (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ??? (35971) <k@nOSPAm.kobly.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:01AM (#14864247)
      1. Open source. We need to be able to trust these systems and how can we do that without being able to examine the code behind them?

      Indeed, I concur

      2. Paper records kept for the government. Just in case there is a trust issue, this is a backup method for the recount.

      So long as these records contain a human readable indication of an individual voter's intent, and were verified by the voter at vote-time.

      3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

      Absolutely, uncategorically, under no circumstances. Proof of vote makes wholesale coercion, vote-buying and vote-selling methods practical.
      • 25 Problems with Printed voter reviewed logs:

        0) Its just less flawed, its a false sense of security.
        1) Recounts are done from a paper log you can't review; multiple printouts. (1 voter, 1 official, 1 for election officials)
        2) How many people can read the small print?
        3) Will you have time enough to read it scrolling bye?
        4) Will you see the last person's? (tons of white space + shield)
        5) Will a bug or miss-configuration cause it to scroll past the viewable area?
        6) What happens if the printer gets low o
    • Re:Easy formula (Score:4, Informative)

      by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:40AM (#14864419)
      3. Paper records for the voter. Worst case, every voter has a copy of their own vote. Hard to use for a recount, but could help identify irregularities.

      Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This used to be the standard, until they caught on to Big Business asking their employees to show them their voting receipt to make sure they were voting for the right candidate. Especially around the turn of the century, this became an effective way to abuse immigrant workers, who had little choice in employment and didn't know much about the political system.
    • 1. Open source. We need to be able to trust these systems and how can we do that without being able to examine the code behind them?

      Disclosed or open source is critical, but not sufficient, to be able to trust the system. Assuming you've already verified that the disclosed code is totally trustworthy (a big assumption), you need to also convince yourself that the electronic voting machine in the polling place is running that exact code.

      "Trusted computing" might be a bad idea for desktop PCs (where th

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by femto (459605) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:36PM (#14864122) Homepage
    The article itself states (and other comments have pointed out):

    "Successful open voting systems that are cheaper, easier to manage, and more transparent than proprietary systems can be found in Australia, Canada, Estonia, and other places."

    Perhaps the author meant to say:

    "no American vendor offers open source software and systems that are ready for voting."

    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by killjoe (766577)
      What I don't understand is why they are waiting around for a vendor? Take the money you would have given diebold, pool it with all other states that would have done the same thing, hire people, get it done.

      You can also create a private company and buy a significant percentage of shares in it and sell the system to other states or countries. There are all sorts of govt-private partnerships all over the world like this.
      • by femto (459605)
        My understanding is that that is essentially what the ACT government [act.gov.au] did in Australia.

        It's interesting to note that the source code includes a patch to rectify a bug found by a local University. The Uni (ANU+NICTA) took advantage of the free nature of the code and used it as a basis for formal code verification research. Score one for Free software.

    • "Successful open voting systems that are cheaper, easier to manage, and more transparent than proprietary systems can be found in Australia, Canada, Estonia, and other places."

      You know it's getting bad when the Americans need to start looking to Estonia for tools to build a better democracy...
  • Australian (Score:3, Informative)

    by LetterRip (30937) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:37PM (#14864124)
    EVACS started open source under the GPL - but closed the source at a later point.

    http://www.elections.act.gov.au/EVACS.html [act.gov.au]

    It is made in Australia, and I was of the impression has been used in elections already.

    LetterRip

    • Re:Australian (Score:3, Informative)

      by LetterRip (30937)
      and from a previous slashdot article,

      [QUOTE]Within the world of electronic voting, though, eVACS (for "Electronic Voting and Counting System") has been a rare success story both for open source development methodology and for the benefits that electronic voting can offer. The first generation of eVACS (running on Debian Linux machines) was developed starting in March 2001 in response to a request for bids by the Australian Capitol Territory Electoral Commission (ACTEC), and it was done on a budget of only A
  • by jaywee (542660) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:38PM (#14864132)
    Can anyone explain me how can I trust OSS running box more than the one running closed software? How can I verify that the software running in the box is the same I verified? How can I be sure the cpu isn't mangled by some foreign goverment? (Since most hw is now made on taiwan..) What's wrong with paper ballots?
    • (Mandatory reference) Reflections on trusting trust: http://www.acm.org/classics/sep95/ [acm.org]

      Spot on! Another question: How can you trust the net card (there was post not long ago about IPMI, and the potential for hiding complete remote control backdoors in network interfaces).

      Then again, how can you trust humans to count perfectly?

      What's wrong with paper
      Nothing! Absolutely nothing. As much as my mom suggests I should write my masters or Ph.D thesis on "on-line voting", I relly think this is one of the areas
      • Most of the difficult questions about anynomity and uniqueness have already been solved.

        Browsing through an introduction to cryptography will show you a large number of different different voting systems with different properties.

        Of coruse, then the new question becomes how to manage PKI in a system which is understandable and easy for the entire population. (I'm sure a system can be made though.)
    • Nobody said "OSS == trustable", you've created a straw man.

      OSS is just more trustable as it's harder for the software writer to, accidentally or deliberately, pull a fast one.

      There are still many potential problems that need to be addressed, as you and other posters have noted.

      Open source is everything that closed source is. Plus the source is available.

      ---

      Don't be fooled, slashdot has many lying astroturfers [wikipedia.org] fraudulently misrepresenting company propaganda as third party opinion. FUD [wikipedia.org] too.

    • You can be sure that the code on the machine is the same as the source by compiling the source code yourself, building the data image, then comparing that to the flash memory. You could even overwrite what's on the flash memory.

      A CPU that mangles code, in any vote-altering way, without a consistent pattern of irregularities would cost more money than would be financially viable to produce and sell.

      Nothing is wrong with paper ballots.
  • Paper trail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:41PM (#14864151) Journal
    I don't care how "open" or secure a system is, I want a paper trail.

    We make photo kiosks. Every time someone places an order, we print a receipt. The receipt printer is one of the most reliable pieces of equipment on our systesm. We have about 60 employees. If we can do it, I see no reason why you could not have a voting machine print a paper receipt with your voting selection on it along with a unique, encrypted number. On the way out, the voter places the receipt (or paper ballot, if you will) in the drop box. Once the election is over, if everyone is satisfied with the results, the paper ballots are discarded. If there is a challenge, the paper receipts are counted and compared to the digital count. There should not be much of a difference. If the difference is enough to change the outcome, I'd say go with the paper count. However, if voting fraud is an issue, it will not be a small margin. It is doubtful that someone will try to fraud for only a couple of votes and there should never be more pieces of paper in the box than digital votes cast.

    This will allow for a challenge, investigation, and is the only way to provide for a recount.

    • Re:Paper trail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ??? (35971) <k@nOSPAm.kobly.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:08AM (#14864279)
      However, if voting fraud is an issue, it will not be a small margin. It is doubtful that someone will try to fraud for only a couple of votes

      Then clearly, you underestimate the skills and resources of your adversary. It is precisely small margins that are concerning. Remember, a small margin of votes can be changed in a close race without producing statistically significant differences from polling (and exit-polling) to raise suspicion. Such small changes, well placed, can have a significant effect on the overall race.

      If you think that people do not have the skill to predict where small vote count frauds will make a difference, you need to visit the "gerrymandering" page on wikipedia, particularly the "Gerrymandering computer technology" heading.
      • Re:Paper trail (Score:3, Insightful)

        by killjoe (766577)
        In the last two election there was a statistically significant variance between exit polling and actual vote. In any other election, in any other country this would be a sign of voter fraud. In america nobody even cared.

        Let's face it you could out and out rig the machines and nobody would care. This is america only 35% of people eligable for voting even care enough to stop by the polling place on the way from work.
    • You are in luck - the Open Voting Consortium design does, in fact, produce a paper ballot that shows, in human readible form, the voter's choices. It's not a receipt, it's the actual ballot and has to be put into a ballot box to be counted. And it won't go into the ballot box until you, the voter, have a chance to review it to ensure that it reflects your choices.

      The OVC system is very much the traditional paper ballot system but with computer systems added to help voters (including voters with physical i
  • Privacy?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Freaky Spook (811861) on Monday March 06, 2006 @11:44PM (#14864157)
    I haven't really read how this e-voting works, but if it means you can log on to a website and vote from home, wouldn't that make your vote not anonymus? What would happen with the log of your IP, your vote could be traced back to you.

    I like paper ballots because they don't get traced back to you, once you put it in the box you have no identity.
    • The "e-voting" here refers to the use of electronic voting machines (specifically Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) [wikipedia.org] machines, which tabulate votes internally on digital storage). In particular, the "entrenched" DRE systems described in TFA typically offer weak (if any) resistance to tampering with the digital vote tallies, and they usually don't provide any auxiliary non-electronic verifiable record (such as a "voter-verifiable" printed ballot: a piece of paper which you can visually confirm represents you
    • Having your IP/access time is the equivalent of spotting you walking into the booth. You cant say you didnt vote, but no one knows who you voted for because the vote is done via SSL.
  • by Soong (7225) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:06AM (#14864269) Homepage Journal
    It's cheaper to count them by hand. [bolson.org] A full county wide voting machine system costs a lot of money, a lot of money that could buy a lot of ballot counting labor hours.

    I love a technofix as much as the next geek, but computerized voting machines are not the technology for now.
  • by iamwoodyjones (562550) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:10AM (#14864289) Journal
    VOTER: "Okay need to vote...here we go...."

    VOTER: "Huh, it's a command line terminal...Okay..."

    Looks at people running the voting place

    VOTER: "Excuse me. How do I vote....?...Uh huh...'ls'? Uh huh...'RFTM?' What does that mean...Oh I see. Thank you very much"

    ls

    VOTER: "Okay there's a file in here called README and INSTALL. I'll look at README first."

    after some time...

    VOTER: "Seams to be something about a pissed off guy named Richard and something he humps called a GNU...Okay. I'll take a look at INSTALL instead here"

    VOTER: "Generic install instructions....something something something, configure....something something make? Okay worth a shot"

    configure; make; make install

    ....
    Checking for sed.....ok
    Checking for awk.....ok
    Checking for kernl...
    ........

    30 mintues latter
    Checking for libyourmom....ok
    Checking for libkitchensick...Found Emacs....ok
    Checking for ruby on rails....
    ruby on rails not found...
    ruby on rails not found.??
    ruby on rails not found.??!!!!!!
    RUBY ON RAILS NOT FOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ruby on rails is the latest h4x0r dood!!!!!
    Install Ruby rails AJAX0r!!!!

    VOTER: "Son of a....!"
  • We've got an open source electronic voting system in the Australian Capital Territory, it's been used in two elections.

    Details and code here [act.gov.au].
  • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:19AM (#14864332) Homepage Journal
    The worst part about OSS election software is that someone else runs 'make', you run 'make install', but the install process installs too much crap and trashes some of your local files.

    Then, you try to 'make uninstall' but the process fails halfway through and so you're left with a system in an unknown state, with rogue files hanging out everyyear.

    But as Thomas Jefferson said, it's doubful that your current system will remain stable forever. Every once in a while you need to Reinstall the Operating System.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:20AM (#14864341)
    Look. This is America. The nation that led the world in technological development for two hundred years, put men on the Moon a couple of times and invented the personal computer, and now we're saying that we can't even develop a machine that can count reliably???!!! Please. This is not, repeat not a technological issue. It is a political one, pure and simple.

    The only reason that implementing a transparent, auditable electronic voting system is such a problem is because there are certain people that have a vested interest in making it a problem.
    • I agree. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:50AM (#14864832) Homepage Journal
      There are only a few criteria:


      • You must be able to prove that every valid vote was counted exactly once - no more, no less
      • You must also be able to prove that fake ballots cannot be injected into the system
      • You must finally be able to prove that valid votes cannot be deducted from the system for the required length of time


      These are a bit trickier than just building a machine that can add 1 to a column, but not THAT much harder.


      I would ascribe every digital ballot paper with a hash value that uniquely identifies that paper and would be hard to forge. eg: Have each ballot paper marked with a serial number, then digitally signed by the electoral authorities.


      Each voter's voting card would have a totally random public encryption key on it, plus a number. On going to the voting machine, the card would first tick the person off on the list of people who had voted. After casting the votes, the machine would encrypt the ballot paper with the encryption key, then it would append the number to the end. The electronic ballot paper would then, after a random delay, be sent back to the central repository via an SSL connection. The machine would keep no tallies and no records whatsoever. Nor would the local office. It would all be central. (The local office could count votes cast, though, as it would be useful to compare against votes decoded.)


      The central system would use the number to select a relatively small set of private keys. It would try each key in turn until it found the key that unlocked that ballot paper. That private key would then be deleted. The unlocked ballot paper would be placed into a secure database. The number of valid votes identified would be counted and publicly published in real-time.


      Just to be absolutely certain what is meant here, the database must be write-only from the central system and must be in a tamper-proof environment. Once all ballots are uploaded, it will then perform the count and download the results, ALL of the decrypted ballots and ALL of the encrypted ballots.


      That way, anyone can perform a recount and although it would be a monumental task to validate the votes, it could be done. This system is pseudo-anonymous, not truly anonymous, using a VERY large base to make anonymity effective. The upshot is that if a random sample of voter cards were gathered (anonymously!), it would be possible to show that each of those cards matches to exactly one encrypted vote and one decrypted vote.


      This shouldn't be necessary, as most of the avenues for fraud have already been eliminated. The effort to fraudulently enter a vote in this system would be extraordinary, as it would require breaking the ballot paper generation system, the encryption key system AND the decryption system, in order to be transparent. Failure to break all of these would result in the votes being rejected by the unbroken component.


      I don't think an actual voting system need be this complex, but that's not the point. The point here is that it is possible to imagine a system that is (a) Open Source and (b) so damn-near impervious that it would be cheaper to just buy the person who'd been elected than rig so much as a single vote.


      Has this been done? Probably not. Could it be done? Sure. Give me a couple of weeks, a few smart-cards, readers, kiosks and a tamper-proof computer case. There should be no difficulty in writing a system that would be close to iron-clad for the next 50-100 years, with so close to zero chance of tampering that it's just not going to happen.


      If an OSS election system group has the hardware and would like to play with this scheme, I'd be happy to write it for them.

  • "OVC President and CEO Alan Dechert says it would take a large investment of time and money to provide an alternative to traditional e-voting systems vendors, but he says an effort known as Open Voting Solutions (OVS) is looking to do just that.'"

    How much capital does an originization really need to code up a secure counting machine? I just don't get where all these costs are coming from. The thing is just supposed to simply count. How hard is it? A couple of geeks should be able to do it in an afternoon
    • "How much capital does an originization really need to code up a secure counting machine?"

      While implementing a voting system isn't as trivial as you make it sound, the cost isn't so much in the development of the software to implement voting as the political and certification processes to allow it to be used. It costs $millions to work with the states to get each state to modify their laws to allow for the use of a secure, open source voting system, and then to them get the system certified in each state. K
  • Who's ready? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SEWilco (27983) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:56AM (#14864466) Journal
    "... open source may not be ready for the polls."

    Is closed source ready for the polls?

  • Am I completely out to lunch or could a 100% bug free e-voting system be written in half an hour and 100 lines of PHP?

    I just don't get what the holdup is. I'll help out whoever wants to build one and write up the functional specs:
    1. Present list of choices
    2. User picks one
    3. Present confirmation
    4. Print paper copy for confirmation #2 and recount purposes.
  • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:46AM (#14864823) Homepage
    Slate on India's all electronic voting system [slate.com]

    A simple, scalable, system.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:20AM (#14864900) Journal
    Seems rather strange that the richest and most powerful country in the world can't afford decent voting systems (whether free or not). There are plenty of really smart people in the USA, good in crypto, systems, architecture etc. So the talent is there.

    As for the money: this is the same country that has spent BILLIONS in Iraq for dubious reasons (the official reasons kept changing, so they can't have been the real reasons).

    I heard one of the US Gov's "reasons" was to have democracy/free elections in Iraq, but that can't be the real reason since the US Gov was very obviously not pleased when there was democracy/free elections in Palestine and Hamas got elected ;).

    I don't know what is really going on with the USA, but I doubt that the main issue is whether a voting system is OSS or non-OSS.

    With all this "globalisation" being hyped as such a great thing, maybe the US should outsource their elections to India, and have UN observers for free to observe stuff. ;).

    After all India is arguably the world's largest democracy (1 billion citizens). I bet if they had results as ridiculous as "more votes than voters", "negative votes" heads would _literally_ roll. They somehow have managed to get a decent chap as Prime Minister ( Dr. Manmohan Singh seems to be well-respected by most).

    If I were a US citizen I'd _demand_ that all the people involved in supplying or approving crappy election systems be charged for _TREASON_.

    After all, the USA keeps saying democracy is so important etc.

    Prove it with actions and not bullshit.
  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:48AM (#14864959) Homepage

    From the article:

    ""Companies could still maintain intellectual property rights, so that they are the only ones who can sell it, but members of the public should be able to inspect it," Dill says."

    Not only does maintaining "intellectual property [gnu.org] rights" not preclude others from distributing copies of the software for a fee (as anyone who understands Free Software licensing already knows), merely inspecting the software is insufficient to get real work done in a way that is beneficial to the public.

    I served on the Champaign County election equipment advisory board—an appointed board made up of representatives of businesses and political parties from Champaign County, Illinois. Over months in the past couple of years this board weighed a few machines from a variety of vendors so that we could make a recommendation to the elected County Board who would then make the final decision and sign the appropriate contracts. We were told at the first meeting that we were only to consider machines from "approved vendors" but in the end we learned that even the machines we were considering had not yet all been approved by the State of Illinois. It was just a means of narrowing the allowable debate, effectively excluding a variety of vendors who probably never knew we were seriously considering voting machines.

    I knew early on (and did my darndest to convince my fellow board members) that we want complete source code to the machines we'd buy so that we could make repairs and improvements while enjoying the benefits of global competition. Locally we have lots of talented computer programmers, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is in this county. It is a shame to waste all the talent we have by getting into a monopoly.

    Politically, there are good reasons to need the source code too: it's your machine paid for with your tax dollars, so you should not be restricted from getting it fixed when it breaks, running it any time you want, and not just inspecting what it ostensibly does. But we should also not constrain ourselves to the features the machine has today. Locally, we could switch from a first-past-the-post to some kind of ranked voting system (like instant run-off or some Condorcet system) for local elections. But so long as we can't get the vendor to do what we want and as long as we can't help ourselves because we're choosing to buy into a monopoly for support (which is what you do when you get proprietary software), we have an additional restriction to overcome with our voting machines—we can't switch to the voting system we want because the proprietor won't let us and we can't afford to simply switch to another set of machines.

    I discussed Free Software voting machines on Counterpunch [counterpunch.org].

  • http://russp.org/GVI.htm [russp.org]

    GVI, The Graphical Voter Interface, is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for voting, suitable for use in private or public elections. Although it could be adapted for online voting, it is currently intended only for conventional "precinct" voting. For security reasons, GVI does not require that the voter have access to a keyboard. It can handle write-ins and multi-language elections, and it can automate voting along party lines. GVI can be used for Condorcet Voting and Instant Runoff
  • Electronic voting systems haven't been around long enough to be called "traditional".

    Traditional voting systems put up with the delays of moving physical ballots around and counting them by hand because the process is too important to be defined by the desire of TV networks to sell advertising on election night.

    We'd be better off enacting a one week news blackout on election results than going to ANY kind of electronic voting system, even one that retained the essential primacy of the paper ballot.
  • The article makes mention of "Successful open voting systems that are cheaper, easier to manage, and more transparent than proprietary systems can be found in Australia, Canada, Estonia, and other places."

    Could anyone elaborate on the Canadian system?
  • I Disagree (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GmAz (916505)
    Though I have nothing wrong with OSS, an open source voting machine just smells bad. There are tons of great and nice people out there willing to make the system better and help fix holes, but there are others looking for the holes and trying to exploit them. Though I am a techie, I would prefer paper ballots. Maybe a different method of paper ballots so no more "hanging chad" incidents, but paper none the less. Now we just have to work on getting people other than people that can't count higher than 10

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