The Boston node of OSDV

I’ve been working quite a bit on the Open Source Digital Voting foundation project over the last 9 months or so. It’s really weird but I’ve turned myself into a mini-expert on how elections are organized and run here in the USA. It’s fascinating and way complicated.

OSDV is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a suite of election (as in Democracy) hardware and software.

The umbrella name for that project is TrustTheVote: an open source project, which will work closely with election officials around the country to learn requirements and then develop software which in turn will be offered free of charge to those who want to deploy it. So we won’t be selling the technology, but we will be evangelizing it like crazy. Think Apache or Drupal.

Here are some links to satisfy your curiosity:

We are getting closer and closer to being properly funded with some major contributions so it is time for me to start finding people who might want to join the team. This being an open source project, the idea is of course that any interested person can look and work on the code.

But we also plan to hire 3 developers in the Boston area. Right now it looks like a good part of our code will be Ruby and Ruby on Rails. But that may change; it certainly will be broadened. Really more than anything I would ask if you consider yourself a really good software developer, who loves to design, write, debug and deploy code. And then secondly I would ask if working on a project that is mega ambitious and/but that has a chance to really have an impact on our society – whether that excites you.

Please contact me directly if you want to learn more or throw your virtual hat into the virtual ring.

0 thoughts on “The Boston node of OSDV

  1. Dear Pito,I am very interested in being a developer on this project. I’ve worked with open source technologies to put out software. When I was a Black Duck everything was open source. At other companies, only some of the aspects of the technology we used was open source and the cost was, in my opinion, way out of proportion to the benefit.But I am also interested in preserving our Democracy and I’ve been embarrased by the high jinks in the elections process here in the US. Having relatives in non-democratic countries and seeing the strength that elections give the people of the United States, I’d like to further that freedom everywhere.I worked at eRoom until 2001. I worked with Tony Pentimalli in and I helped integrate eRoom.net with the Financial and Onyx systems.I’ll send along my resume this evening, but my profile on Linked In is pretty accurate. Here it is. http://www.linkedin.com/in/lucillewilsonThank you very much.Lucille Wilson

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  2. I think this is a great idea, but I don’t think the primary challenges are technical. I poked through the OSDV website and couldn’t find the answer to my biggest question: does OSDV have the wherewithal to have a political impact? None of the management team or trustees are professional lobbyists.Without the political connections, we can build the best, most secure, easiest-to-use voting system in the world and it will never be deployed in the US. Voting systems are deployed based on which company made the biggest political donation to the lawmakers in question, and that’s not going to happen here. What’s the plan to get OSDV-based systems deployed?

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  3. Thanks for the pointer Pito; I’ll respond there. I have friends at Act Blue and Blue State Digital and will pass long pointers in case they’re not already aware of this project — they may be able to offer OSDV useful advice.

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  4. To Jered’s point about pointers, thanks. Blue State Digital is well aware of us; I’ve met several of their team from time to time. They well know the OSDV Foundation and TrustTheVote Project; similar is true for Sunlight Foundation and Sunlight Labs.

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  5. While none of the management team are professional lobbyists; I am actually trained and experienced in technology policy, and indeed, one of our trustees is one of the best known lobbyists in the beltway when it comes to technology; former colleague of mine from Netscape Communications, Peter Harter. Furthermore, our Advisory Group boasts some very sharp political and policy professionals, including former Administrations’ appointees, in years gone by (from both sides of the aisle).We have the wherewithal and strategy to have the appropriate impact, but let me add this: our 501.c.3 organization is prohibited by IRS rules from engaging in lobbying (that would be a 501.c.6). Furthermore, so far, lobbying the Administration or Congress is not (so-far) required for what we’re doing.The only scenario that would entail a Federal question (and so far we haven’t had to launch an army of *State* lobbyists either 😉 we can make up is where some legislative initiative was put forth to make open source voting systems illegal for adoption nationally where a federal contest was held. And I think readers will agree that’s a doomsday scenario that just doesn’t seem to be even within the 1% doctrine category 😉

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  6. One final point than I’ll head back over to the trustthevote.org blog… The comment:> Voting systems are deployed based on which company made the > biggest political donation to the lawmakers in question, and thats > not going to happen here.>This comment is of course cynical, but to the point of simply wrong. Voting systems investment decisions are based on State Procurement laws and regulations and subject to competitive bidding. I do not know of any State level voting IT decision maker who has the legal ability to arbitrarily choose a voting systems vendor without justification or merit aside from a political favor. If you know of one, that is a HUGE story, and we beg for first crack at breaking it 😉

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  7. Pito:This makes me very happy. Back in the late 80s, I was a consultant on a project where the late (and not at all lamented) Nixdorf was trying to design a voting machine to sell to NYC. I wrote all of the software for the prototype, and had a big hand in the proposal documents. The part that appalled me at the time, and that has continued to frighten me as I’ve watched the whole Diebold scandal over the last few years, was just how little people cared about election security. They generally fail to understand that an electronic voting system makes it easier to hide large-scale fraud.It seems clear to me that the project you’re attempting is essentially the only safe solution — America needs this badly. The thing I’d like to suggest is that you take a look at the OLPC project (One Laptop Per Child) which has used a similar structure of a small number of paid developers leading a larger open source community to do something socially significant. You can probably learn a lot from that project’s successes and issues. You probably know that Ed McNierney is VP Eng there right now.Good luck with this!

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