Election Integrity and Open Source Voting Software

Voting systems must provide the maximum level of security, accuracy, transparency and verification possible — consistent with the principles of public disclosure — and ensure that all ballots are counted as cast.

Open source voting systems are designed to do just this, by increasing transparency and verifiability in elections, while reducing the potential for our elections to be manipulated at the ballot box.

Open source voting systems provide an open source code that can be independently verified by anyone, provided they have the necessary technical skills and time. With privately-owned proprietary codes, such claims can be based only on trusting those who are able to view the code. – not a recipe for public confidence in our elections.

• Require and fund open source voting software for county-run elections

In California, county governments run many of our elections and they are grossly underfundedin other words, we short-change our democracy by underfunding its infrastructure. It makes sense to establish funding on a state wide level so that all county elections are using high-qualify, up-to-date equipment, rather than making the quality of our democracy vary by location.

However instead of providing a financial incentive for counties to adopt ‘voting centers’ – a new option under state law that would replace neighborhood-based precincts – the financial incentive should be to fund open source systems each time a county is ready to purchase new equipment. This would be relatively small investment on a one-time basis, that would pay back our democracy over decades with greater election integrity.

• What kind of open source software?

Open source software for California elections should be required to use OSI-approved licenses and particulary an GPLv3 license, because GPLv3 is the “purest,” most widely recognized copyleft license.

“Copyleft”  means that if the code is copied and changed, the new version also has to be open source, and under that same license. This makes the code “perpetually” open source, because all of its descendants have to be open source as well.

If it’s not copyleft, a company could come along, change and improve the code, and make the improved version closed source and start charging money for it, which isn’t in the public interest. Copyleft prevents that from happening.