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Open Source Voting System Software

John Edwards Supports "Open Source" for Voting Systems PDF  | Print |  Email
Open Source Voting System Software
By Alan Dechert, Open Voting Consotium   
July 01, 2007
John Edwards has become the first presidential candidate to support "open source code" for election systems. In a letter dated June 21st addressed to Alan Dechert, the Edwards campaign stated that, "To ensure security, these machines should be programmed with an open source code for complete transparency, and election results should be safeguarded by voter-verified paper records."

Currently, software used in election systems remains the proprietary property of vendors. This situation has created a continual problem when anomalous results have been reported and independent experts are denied the ability to review how the systems work. A growing body of critics oppose this privatization of the voting system.

"Open source" means that the computer instructions written by programmers are publicly available. Open source software is rapidly replacing proprietary software in other applications, including the Internet and military applications.

"We congratulate Senator Edwards for taking a leadership role in the fight to restore public oversight of the voting system," said Alan Dechert, president of Open Voting Consortium.
Vendor Applies For Certification With Open Voting Consortium PDF  | Print |  Email
Open Source Voting System Software
By Open Voting Consortium   
October 15, 2006

Open Voting Solutions, Inc., a Delaware corporation, has become the first voting system vendor to apply for certification with Open Voting Consortium, a California nonprofit corporation. While many independent experts have advocated open source software for election systems, no such products have been sold by voting system vendors. Companies like Diebold prefer to keep the inner workings of their systems confidential.

"There is no excuse for any secret methods to be involved in the tabulation of our votes," says Alan Dechert, President of the Open Voting Consortium. "It's about time that voting system technology be fully open to public scrutiny. We expect that Open Voting Solutions' OpenScan product will become the first commercially available Open Voting system."

Open Voting Solutions CEO, Dr. Richard Johnson, wrote to Mr. Dechert requesting that testing and evaluation be done by Open Voting Consortium (OVC) scientists and engineers. Dechert explains, "This is new, so all the details have not been finalized. Generally speaking, a voting system can earn the OVC service mark if it utilizes a voter verified paper ballot and all software written for the voting process is published for all to see."

Insecurity Through Obscurity PDF  | Print |  Email
Open Source Voting System Software
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 15, 2006

I was asked yesterday in a CNN interview how I felt about the fact that voting equipment was available for purchase on EBay. My response (which didn't make it into the 15 second soundbyte) may have surprised the interviewer. I think it's great that the equipment is available on EBay - right now, this is just about the only way this equipment ever gets any truly independent review. 


The question was prompted by news of the purchase of a Diebold touchscreen voting machine by Open Voting Foundation (OVC) last month. Their access to the equipment allowed them to discover yet another egregious security vulnerability in this system (reported in the article "Worst Ever Security Flaw Found In Diebold Touchscreen Voting Machine"). The Diebold TS has successfully gone through what passes for a federal testing and certification process and used in elections - yet the appalling security flaws in this system have been well documented. Similar flaws may very well exist in equipment produced by other vendors. However, because of the secrecy that shrouds the testing certification process, which is funded by the vendors and operates without public oversight, the voters who are forced to trust these systems aren't allowed to know.


Voting system software should be publicly disclosed and independently reviewed and the hardware should available for examination by computer experts with no financial ties to the vendors. There is a general consensus among computer security experts that 'security through obscurity', the notion that security depends on secrecy, should never be used as a primary security measure. Computer scientist Justin Moore has observed "The best systems have the fewest secrets." Anything that needs to be kept secret - such as a password, an encryption key, a physical building key -- in order for the system to work securely is a potential point of attack. The more things that need to be kept secret or secure, the more points of attack. The best systems are the ones where you can hand over the entire source code to the attacker, and they still can't get anywhere. In other words, the source code reveals no points of attack, and no longer needs to be secret.

California: Testimony in Favor of AB 2097 PDF  | Print |  Email
Open Source Voting System Software
By Alan Dechert, Open Voting Consortium   
April 18, 2006

The following testimony was presented by Alan Dechert of Open Voting Consortium at a hearing of the California Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee on April 18, 2006. The bill was passed out of committee by a 4-1 vote. [Slightly adapted for posting, original available for download in PDF format.]

Secretary of State Bruce McPherson asserted in a April 17, 2006 letter:

Allowing unqualified, non-expert access to source code and providing detailed instructions for building voting systems software, could compromise the system security and result in the manipulation of elections.
This assertion is absolutely false. In fact, the opposite is true. Open systems are more secure. You can’t achieve system security by hiding vulnerabilities. “Security by obscurity” has proven not to work. Hackers can find vulnerabilities without this documentation.
California Senate Holds Hearing On Open Source Software In Voting Systems PDF  | Print |  Email
Open Source Voting System Software
By Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation   
February 10, 2006
This report on the recent hearing on open source voting was posted at It is reposted here with permission of the author.

State Senator Debra Bowen, who chairs the elections committee, ran the hearing, which was comprised of two panels. The first included experts from the open source industry and representatives from California agencies and a university utilizing open source software. Clark Kelso’s testimony was particularly compelling, Kelso, Chief Information Officer for the State of California, briefly described the historic use of computers in California government.

Kelso said that thirty to forty years ago, the state was engaged in its own software development activities, typically on mainframes, and was successful in developing and acquiring stable programs to support state needs. Today many of those legacy systems are stable and still serving the state very well, according to Kelso. Starting in the 80’s and 90’s, state agencies began to use more commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software.

Kelso said that the Air Resources Board is the leading department that has begun turning to open source solutions. The agency maintains a culture in their workforce that supports the use of open source, and the strategy has been successful in that it reduces costs, reduces the amount of time needed to develop technology, and helps the agency avoid procurement cycles. This last point is highly relevant to voting systems equipment, where a long procurement cycle often forces counties to limit their options to considering only equipment from vendors that is certified when the procurement process begins.
Open Source Resources
Open Voting Consortium
Zetter: Aussie Do It Right
CA SoS Policy Paper on Open Source
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