San Francisco could have an open-source voting system in place by the November 2019 election, under a plan approved earlier this month by the Elections Commission. The timeline could result in the emergence of San Francisco as the leader of the open-source voting movement in the United States. For supporters of open-source voting, the importance of that point can’t be underscored enough. “San Francisco could help write some U.S. democracy history with its leadership role,” said a Nov. 18 letter to the Elections Commission from Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Foundation, a collection of executives from top technology companies like Apple and Facebook. “And the total estimated cost to do so [$8 million] is a fraction of status-quo alternatives.” Open-source voting systems bring a greater level of transparency and accountability by allowing the public to have access to the source codes of the system, which is used to tabulate the votes. A system owned by The City could also save taxpayers money.
If the recommendations are followed by Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors, The City would allocate funds to begin the project for the fiscal year beginning July 2016. There are 13 steps outlined in the Elections Commission unanimously approved open-source voting resolution, which was drafted by commission president Christopher Jerdonek who is a software developer. The effort has drawn support from those like Brett Turner, of the Open Voting Consortium, who has advocated in San Francisco for open-source voting for about eight years.
Steps include hiring a project director, establishing an open-source voting committee and making various design decisions. The commission supports an open-source voting system using paper ballots. The resolution sets the goal for San Francisco to have “open voting system be available for use by the Department of Elections for the June 2020 Presidential Primary Election, and for partial or pilot use by the November 2019 Municipal Election or earlier.”