22 January 2004

Open-Source E-Voting Heads West

Unlike U.S. voting systems, which use proprietary, secret software written by private companies, the Aussie system was created by Software Improvements in conjunction with an independent government body. The government placed draft and final versions of the source code on the Internet so the public could review it and provide comments.

The system took only six months to create and runs on Linux, an open-source operating system that also is in the public domain for anyone to use.

Ritchie plans to modify eVACS to include a voter-verified paper audit trail, or VVPAT, which California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley mandated must be included with all e-voting machines by July 2006.

The VVPAT would let voters independently verify that the machine cast their ballot correctly before the paper receipt goes into a secure ballot box to serve as a backup of the e-votes.

Ritchie's group plans to build the system for California first and then offer it to vendors to modify it for use in other states. He said several computer experts have expressed interest in helping to write and review the code. He also expects vendors, in keeping with the open-source ideology, will let the public see any modifications they make to the code.

'The goal of the foundation is to oversee the project and tell the programmers what they need to do according to California law, and then to build a prototype machine,' he said.

I'd be a lot happier with eVACS if it included a paper trail, but the weird part of this story is that writing software to count elections just should not be so complex as to require large corporations. The use of proprietary and unauditable software is an abomination.

No comments: