Friday, November 19, 2004

Open Source Voting

Of course an open source solution is what makes the most sense. As I posted to a Quaker list recently:
As a data base programmer for many years (tip of hat to colleagues I've seen posting), the open source focus overlaps with the voting infrastructure focus. It's a no-brainer that vote counting and tabulating should be done using open source software and designs IF it's to be computerized at all.

Contrary to uninformed opinion, making the designs open does *not* make them easier to hack. On the contrary, transparency and transparency alone is what protects us from fraud. Too little attention is given to the fact that some of Diebold's top employees came to their jobs with a resume of coding back doors for embezzlement and other nefarious purposes.
Small NGOs with open source savvy should start prototyping, with R&D infusions from wannabee commercial vendors of tomorrow's voting technologies. On a small town scale, we could start using the stuff. And in the schools, we need more practice with voting and counting votes, so that when kids grow up to be precinct captains, or whatever we call them, they don't get panicky and run the same cards twice, or whatever some did in Ohio (yes, mistakes happen too, over and above whatever organized crime is up to).

Quakers wouldn't be a good denomination to test the prototypes because we don't use secret ballot accounting. Everyone with a strong leading makes bold testimony, so it's no secret what the process was, by the time a new minute is recorded. And yes, when the spirit moves, positions change, sometimes drastically. That's what makes a Quaker Meeting for Business so exciting (sometimes -- dull as dishwater other days).

The senate and the house were designed to work more on a Quaker model. This "voice vote" thing is somewhat nefarious, in that it allows senate or house members to "pass by hubbub" -- a kind of mob psychology thing, where you don't get held accountable the next morning. Why should we let a low ranking rabble (i.e. mere voice voters) increase their own borrowing authority is beyond me.

As for this most recent election, it's bound to be studied for years to come. The universities have the means to burn DVDs with raw data. We do have source code for many of the proprietary models (some of which contains back doors or easily subverted controls -- especially if you designed these controls yourself). Computer science teachers are already rubbing their hands with glee, given all these real world examples of how not to code. So many object lessons. The police have a parallel curriculum.

Future generations will be amazed at the primitive, low quality, shoddy and downright ugly infrastructure we tried to run our vast democracy with in 2004. The beginning of this millenium was indeed a dark time in USA history. Only a few leaders stand out, for having worked hard to address the situation (thank you Bev Harris).

Related blog posts:
USA Veeps Debate