Open-source voting technology is the cure for what ails democracy

Washington, D.C., has gone with an open-source solution to comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. It's a good thing.

Washington, D.C., has decided to go with open-source voting technology in a pilot project to, basically, speed up the process of getting back absentee, military and oversees ballots.

The results on election night are always unofficial, as they need to be certified by elections commissioners. But even then, other votes need to be counted - and one need only to look at the 2000 Presidential election to know how much those extra ballots can mean for the outcome of a race. Problem is, it can take weeks for those ballots to be returned from a war zone. Even fax or e-mail can be dodgy, and neither form is particularly secure - at least as secure as one's ballot need be.

The thing that's interesting about the project being open-source technology is that many have expressed concerns about the proprietary software used in electronic voting. How secure is it, really?

Look at what just happened in the South Carolina primary. Some believe the systems were hacked; there's no good way to audit them.

A voting system that's based on open-source software will have the transparency needed to support the democracy we're so proud of. Anyone suspicious of the process will have access to the source code to see for themselves how it works. That doesn't mean they'll have the access to the actual ballots once they're cast (I can hear the cries of outrage now from people who don't understand open source). What it does mean is that people who understand computer code will actually be able to read it and explain to others how it works. 

Independent professionals.

The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation is implementing the District's pilot project, the first step in Washington's compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

Said Rokey W. Suleman, II, executive director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics:

"This pilot project will deploy OSDV's ability to digitally generate and transport ballots of overseas and military absentee voters, and it can lead the way to helping reinvent how America votes in a digital age."

The primary is Sept. 14 and will involve digitally transporting ballots for 2,500 military personnel and other citizens overseas. District officials have invited "technical experts to stress test the pilot solution, in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the privacy and security mechanisms and processes."

I have no doubt they'll do their best to hack it; I'm curious what the result will be.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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