. San Francisco or New York, which will be first with open source voting system? | Open Voting Consortium

San Francisco or New York, which will be first with open source voting system?

San Francisco officials have voted several times in favor of open source where the issue has come up this year. Now, New York City has a proposal on the table which strongly favors open source for voting systems.

This resolution even goes so far as to quote Richard Johnson, CEO of Open Voting Solutions (and resident of NY). It looks like this is moving in the right direction. One-third of the City Council signed on as sponsors the day it was introduced. Congratulations to our friends in New York for getting this far with the idea.

Here's a link to the resolution:

I have the whole resolution copied below:

Res. No. 961

Resolution urging the New York State Board of Elections to promptly commission the development of a Precinct Based Optical Scan voting system that would comply with New York State voting system standards, which would be owned entirely by the State of New York and would be certified for use by the county Boards of Elections and by the Board of Elections in the City of New York.

By Council Member Mealy

Whereas, Public confidence in the outcome of elections depends, in part, on the use of voting equipment that is under full public control and not under the control of private corporations, which have no responsibility or accountability to the public; and

Whereas, In 2005, the New York State Legislature enacted the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) in order to comply with the Federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), ERMA requires county boards of election to select new voting technology to replace the currently used mechanical lever machines; and

Whereas, Many computer technologists urge that all software in any voting or vote-tabulating system be Open Source Software; and

Whereas, Open Source Software is software that: (i) is freely available for any member of the public to read and evaluate, free of charge; (ii) is easy to obtain, (iii) can be copied, used, modified, and distributed but not sold; and (iv) the open source voting system is currently in development by citizens eager to provide an alternative to commercially produced voting systems; and

Whereas, The use of Open Source Software has not been possible to date in New York State because all of the private manufacturers and vendors of the computerized voting equipment that may ultimately be certified for purchase by New York counties require certain protections for their software in their contracts of sale that prevent the public from being able to freely read and critique the software; and

Whereas, In addition, these private manufacturers and vendors require on-going payment for the use of their equipment, which in some cases can double the purchase cost of equipment within a few years of purchase; and

Whereas, These private manufacturers and vendors have had multiple problems, including delivery of non-working equipment, a history of high equipment failure rates, and legal disputes with jurisdictions in which the vendors have claimed ownership of voting data after the jurisdictions purchased and used their equipment; and

Whereas, New York has two alternatives to the purchase of Precinct Based Optical Scan ("PBOS") voting systems with "secret" software from private manufacturers and vendors: (1) New York could commission the development of a PBOS system to be used throughout the state, or (2) New York could accept a free, completely Open Source system that runs on Commercial-off-the-Shelf ("COTS") laptops, scanners, and printers; and

Whereas, New York State could follow a model similar to that of Oklahoma, which in the early 1990's purchased hardware and full ownership and control of the software source code for an optical scanner voting system; Oklahoma freely revised and modified the software to develop a statewide optical scanner system perfectly tailored for Oklahoma's needs, and now has an optical scanner system completely under Oklahoma's control; and

Whereas, Certain American companies and individual machine-vision system consultants are very experienced in developing custom machine-vision and document processing systems similar to what New York State would need to commission in order to develop an open source PBOS voting system; and

Whereas, Some of the advantages to New York State of commissioning the development of an optical scanner voting system include: (1) the programming code could be designed and implemented using currently-accepted professional standards, thereby enabling New York to avoid the use of equipment with programming that has been criticized for poor design and security flaws, (2) there would be substantial initial and continuing cost savings because there would be no annual recurring payments to vendors for use of equipment or software already delivered, (3) the system could be customized specifically for New York State's requirements by using COTS hardware programmed to provide all necessary functions and customized to omit functions that are not wanted, and (4) the people of the State of New York would have complete control over the voting process and the State would be free of dependence on any manufacturer and/or vendor; and

Whereas, An open source optical scanning system already exists and according to Richard C. Johnson, CEO of Open Voting Solutions, a final completed system could be prepared and submitted for testing at an estimated cost of under $200,000, which would enable the New York State Board of Elections to evaluate the system when the State resumes testing of other voting systems under consideration for certification; and

Whereas, Due to various delays, New York State may not begin to use new voting equipment until the 2009 elections, which would allow sufficient time for the completion of testing and certification of New York State's PBOS voting system; now therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York urges the New York State Board of Elections to promptly commission the development of a Precinct Based Optical Scan voting system that would comply with New York State voting system standards, which would be owned entirely by the State of New York and would be certified for use by the county Boards of Elections and by the Board of Elections in the City of New York.

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