Trust the (Glass) Vote

By July 29, 2009

The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV) is a California-based initiative that “addresses a serious problem in voting technology: the lack of technical guidelines and specifications for determining truly high assurance, high veracity voting devices and services.” OSDV is working with governments to develop publicly owned transparent elections and voting technology. Their goal: federal certification with eventual widespread state and local-elections jurisdiction, adoption and deployment. “The only way to restore trust is to make systems publicly owned,” OSDV core team member Aleksandar Totic said at OSCON last week. The OSDV’s current effort, Trust the Vote (TTV), is an attempt to shift away from proprietary black box voting towards "glass box voting."

"We're working to build and foster adoption of publicly owned 'critical democracy infrastructure,'” Totic said.

“Trust the Vote’s mission is to put underlying election technologies in the public trust, because voting technology is part of the critical democracy infrastructure,” according to the initiative's mission statement.

Government IT is still stuck in the late 20th century because of long government procurement cycles, so it’s hard to keep up with new tech, Totic said. For voting technology it’s especially difficult, as the life cycle of election budgets go way beyond investments in individual technologies.

Richard Benham, executive director of the Elections by the People Foundation, said that another big hurdle to introducing better voting technology is that the sector is dominated by three big vendors, who sometimes have vested interest in government policy.

By putting election technologies in a public trust, Trust the Vote hopes to resolve these problems.

“TTV’s approach to transparency is to be an enabler for 'open government' in U.S. elections, a first-ever demonstration that election technology can capture all the details of all the digital processes of election, and publish these details so that the public can see exactly what public servants are doing in pursuit of the public’s business of operating elections,” according to the mission statement.

By the mid-term 2010 national elections, TTV hopes to impact voting in four areas: voter registration, ballot design, ballot tabulation and auditing.

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