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.

Great paper about Harri Hursti’s demonstration of ballot scanner security concerns

I recently saw the movie Hacking Democracy. It’s absolutely fascinating and basic background for anyone interested in election reform. In it you learn about some of the heroes of election reform, including Harri Hursti who demonstrates in a pretty dramatic manner some of the weaknesses of commonly used election technology.

This is from the wikipedia article:

“Seven participants made out their ballots using the opti-scan paper sheets (Hursti remaining outside the test area). Sancho then went to Hursti and gave him a ballot which Hursti filled out. Hursti then gave Sancho the memory card to insert in to the machine. The operation of the machine was explained by Sancho to those in attendance and the card inserted and machine turned on which then produced the “zero total tape.” The tape produced zero votes cast. The test ballots were then inserted in to the Diebold machine followed by the “ender card” (same size as ballot) was inserted telling the machine to turn off its counting function and start its reporting function. The machine then produced a paper tape with 7 yes votes and 1 no vote.” (from Wikipedia)

I was curious about the back story and he pointed me to this paper which goes into extreme detail of how he discovered the weaknesses and how he was able to demonstrate them. There are many other descriptions of what he did, but this paper, in his own words, is great because of the dry scientific way in which he describes what was done.

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