Fixing the Vote, the right way…

Dumbold Voting Machine for The Sims

For many reasons I’ve not previously blogged about politics, nor do I intend to make it a habit. But in this case I want to address a burning issue that I believe should not be partisan-in-nature, and further that I believe the evolving processes in the tech community can uniquely solve. I am of course referring to the crisis in confidence regarding the vote counting process in the United State and open-source solutions development, respectively.

Rather than rehash the issues related to the voting crisis, let me simply reference numerous articles written by others who are much more eloquent:

Clearly if the problem is not fixed and confidence is not restored in our voting process, it could cause the entire foundation of our democracy to fail. This is an incredibly important issue, and no one but a fool would argue that ensure out election process is accountable is essential.

However, given the events of the past decade,I don’t believe the public will soon trust either politicians or corporations to solve this problem. Frankly, I think that it can only be solved by the public. And by that I mean voting machines developed with the community via an open-source process on commodity standardized hardware.

Counting votes reliability and without the potential for fraud is a thorny technical issue but I believe that the tech community has probably tackled and beat far more complex challenges. I believe an open-source voting system could be designed and developed that would make it effectively impossible to tamper with the vote, and I personally think it would be great to be involved in designing the architecture for such systems.

With that, I would like to issue a challenge to the tech and business community. Let’s:

  • Take back our democracy!
  • Pull together a group of qualified people and create an open voting machine,
  • Design and develop voting software that is 100% auditable and verifyable,
  • Design an inexpensive hardware reference platform using off-the-shelf components,
  • License the hardware and software via an open-source license so they can be widely manufactured,
  • Find people to fund a foundation, if possible, to make this thing official (though let’s not make funding a requirement), and
  • Let’s put an end to voting machine tampering and help minimize voter fraud (worldwide.)

If both software and inexpensive hardware were made available to all democratic jurisdictions and municipalities that any local company could install and service and the public is made aware of these machines so as to put pressure on elected officials to adopt them, I see little reason why the machines wouldn’t be widely adopted in relatively short order. That is except to perpetuate the ability to perpetrate election fraud.

Having open voting machines would also teach a lesson to those companies such as Diebold that did not proactively ensure we could be confident in the results of our elections. Plus it would allow jurisdictions (the world over) the ability to guarantee the integrity the vote.

With that in mind I registered the following domain and I will donate it to this initiative assuming I can find other like minded people to make open voting machines a reality:

www.openvotingmachines.org

Note that www.openvotingmachines.org just redirects to this blog post at the moment.

If you find this idea compelling, even if you don’t have the time to participate, please pass it on to your friends, relatives, and/or colleagues that you think might be interested, as applicable. And if you happen to know someone who might be interested in funding a foundation to make this happen, or provide fund for such a foundation, all the better; please forward this post on to them too.

Now I don’t know if this post will gain any traction. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t but I sure hope it does because there are few other things that could be as potentially devastating as loss of confidence in our elections. Post a comment if you want to become actively part of this initiative, and let’s get the ball rolling!

P.S. I didn’t see this post until after I had conceived of mine, but it sounds like this guy had similar thoughts although he has not made any call to action. Maybe those commenting on his post could be some of the first to join this initiative? I unfortunately don’t have the time to drive this initiative as I need to focus on generating revenue or I would pursue these people, but I wanted to put this call-to-action out into cyberspace in hopes that enough people who do have the spare time will be inspired to pursue it (OTOH, if this initiative were funded by someone, maybe I could be active in driving it?)

3 comments ↓

#1 Ka-Ping Yee on 11.03.06 at 1:47am

Hi, Mike. I’m glad to hear of your interest in this issue (your link to Usable Security showed up as a trackback over there).

I’m working on voting machine designs in my graduate research in computer science. The NSF funds my work as part of <a href="http://accurate-voting.org/">ACCURATE</a>, a multi-university research effort to improve voting technologies and the voting process. The <a href="http://openvotingconsortium.org/">Open Voting Consortium</a> has also been working on open source software for voting machines. So, there are a lot of people interested in improving voting machines, but it’s a big and complicated problem.

#2 Mike Schinkel on 11.03.06 at 3:09am

Thanks for the comment. I’d love to hear more about your work, and specifically the aspects of difficulty (It’s clear it would be a difficult problem, but not as difficult as the future will be if we do nothing and letting Diebold continue to control things. :)

#3 anonymous on 08.30.07 at 1:42pm

Any news on the open voting machine front?

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