Why we need new election technology

I work at the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation, where we are creating new, modern, open source, and publicly owned  technology for operating all aspects of voting in the US.

By the way, do not assume this means ‘internet voting’ — it does not. There is a lot of old technology use to run elections today, a lot of it developed and sold (expensive) by for profit companies. And there’s a lot more to running an election than how a voter casts a vote. We aim to develop tools and technology that is made available for free to anyone who wants it.

It’s important and exciting work. I came across this bit as a small reminder of why we need it:

“Once the polls close, each of the digital scanners used at the city’s polling sites spews out a supermarketlike receipt. Election workers cut the paper strips and sort them by election district, since a polling place may serve more than one district. They then use a calculator to tally the results for each candidate, and the count is transcribed by hand onto “return of canvass” forms. They are given to police officers at the polling places, who take them to local precinct houses, where the numbers are entered in a computer and transmitted to the board and to The Associated Press — which distributes them to other news organizations.” (from Recount Finds 195,000 Voters Were Missed on Election Night)

 

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.