The last surge of investment in voting technology happened a decade ago. Since then the regulatory apparatus for election reform has broken down, and voting machines themselves are starting to fail as well. Every election shines attention on a different bit of dysfunction, from long lines at polling places to cyber security risks. Open source to the rescue? Maybe, although probably not in time to have much impact on the 2016 election. Silicon Valley’s Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) is methodically chipping away at the problem, building credibility with software for voter registration and election-night reporting while also working on the more challenging problems of improving the casting and counting of votes. Meanwhile, a few brave — and impatient — county election officials are embarking on their own voting technology design and development projects, which may or may not intersect with OSET’s work. The bottom-line goal of these initiatives is the same: to move away from reliance on proprietary technology while boosting transparency and leaving a reliable audit trail — making it clear that the victor in any contest really is the candidate who won the most votes.
“[Current voting machines] certainly weren’t constructed with transparency and accountability in mind,” bemoaned E. John Sebes, co-director of OSET and CTO for the TrustTheVote Project. “There’s a lot of demand for that, but not a lot of money for [it].” One of the ways OSET wants to help is by reducing the cost of doing the right thing.
The last purported technological fix to what can go wrong in elections arguably backfired. The 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was partly a reaction to the Constitutional crisis of 2000, when a disputed vote count in Florida caused the US Supreme Court to decide the election in favor of George W. Bush. That was the election of hanging chads and the Palm Beach butterfly ballot, which raised issues of unreliable analog technology (punch card voting) as well as usability and design. HAVA set new standards and provided federal funds for voting upgrades, but critics saw this as a boon for a handful of digital voting technology vendors and worried that the introduction of touchscreen technologies raised as many questions as they answered.
Full Article: Open Source Fix For US Voting System? – InformationWeek.