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LinuxWorld Test Run For Open Source Voting

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Next week in San Francisco a voting machine that runs on open source software and was designed by the Open Voting Consortium, a nonprofit with the stated goal of moving towards “trustable and open voting systems,” will be put to use at LinuxWorld, where they will be holding a mock election. Apparently 100,000 people are expected to participate. Here are some of the details from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The LinuxWorld conference is held every year in San Francisco to discuss open-source software – software whose code is designed and maintained by volunteers. The conference takes its name from Linux, computer operating system designed by Linus Torvalds in the 1990s that has a passionate following. It competes against Microsoft Windows and has spawned software for numerous devices, including voting machines.

Open-source software is free for anyone to use, although licensing restrictions apply – changes to the code, for example, usually need to be given back to the community. The code that runs this voting machine is based on the work of a former Berkeley student, Ka-Ping Yee, who now works at Google.

At a price of about $400, the new voting machine is a tenth of the cost of proprietary machines – less if made in quantity, Dechert said – because it’s simply designed and based on free software. Its workings are transparent, he said, unlike some of the electronic voting machines that California decertified for security problems.

People who attend the conference will vote by scanning a bar code on their badges, then selecting a candidate from a computer screen. When they’re done, they will print their ballots, which will include their bar codes. A separate machine can scan the bar codes and read their votes back to them if they choose.

Votes can be audited in several ways – by manually counting the ballots, scanning the bar codes, or processing pictures of the ballots to see if the text on each ballot matches its bar code.

The article goes on to say that this particular could be certified and ready to roll in real (not mock) elections by 2010. I’m down in Los Angeles now and will be next week, and might try and make it up for LinuxWorld if I have the time. This sounds pretty cool.

Click here for a look at our past coverage of electronic voting, including an interview with a Princeton professor, the Mayor of Philly and more.

One Response to “LinuxWorld Test Run For Open Source Voting”

  1. Chris Wilson Says:

    Why the barcode method? A better method would be to use digital pens and paper as PenVote has developed. Could still be open source, but has greater accuracy rates than barcodes and could incorporate bar codes as a back up method of verification.

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