While the Elections Commission may be among the least followed city bodies, the seven members are playing a critical role in determining whether San Francisco will begin to use an open-source voting system. For years, open-source voting advocates have called on San Francisco officials to part ways with traditional voting machine companies. Open-source voting is widely considered the best defense to voter fraud with the added benefits of cost savings and flexibility. Much to chagrin of these advocates, The City has continued to sign contracts with nonopen-source voting companies. While no open-source voting system has been deployed elsewhere, other jurisdictions are currently working on it, such as Travis County, Texas. After The City allocated $300,000 in the current fiscal year to move San Francisco toward an open-source voting system, the effort has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start. Advocates worry if funding isn’t committed to building out such a system, the effort will face further delays.
The Elections Commission sought to address those concerns last week. As city departments must submit proposed two-year budget proposals to the Mayor’s Office today, the Elections Commission voted unanimously last Thursday to request $4 million in the second fiscal year to pay for the initial stages of an open-source voting system.
The vote came after conversations in previous days among Director of Elections John Arntz, commission members and the Mayor’s Office over project concerns.
The amount was reached by looking to Travis County, which in October issued a request for proposals, to create an open-source voting software called STAR-Vote. The county has committed to spend $4 million and raise $11 million through a consortium over five years.