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New OVC Demo Disk Ready to Show

A new version of the OVC demo disk is available for download. I will use this disk for five demos to county election officials in various counties in Northern California this week. Previous demos have been very encouraging, and we really enjoy doing them.

If you have already tried our previous demo, you might want to download this one to see how we are progressing. If you haven't tried our demo disk yet, please download it and try it out. Let me know if you need help, or read some of the notes about it we have on our website [1].

Here's the url for the download: http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/ad/ovcdemo5.iso [2]

There are several improvements, and the main one is the result of a feature request from Elaine Larson of Santa Clara County. We are listening to feedback from election officials, and we are willing and able to incorporate good ideas they have.

Thanks again for your continued support.

Alan Dechert
[1] http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/blog/2008-feb-26/ovc_demo_gaining_exposure
[2] Updated 15 MAY, 2008

Bowen Urges Los Angeles to go for Open Source Voting

On her conference call with the Courage Campaign Wednesday, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen urged Los Angeles to go for an open source voting solution.

We heard some pretty strong statements in support of open voting when she was running for office, but not so much since she was elected [1].

I think this is her strongest public statement so far in support of the idea we have been promoting for so many years. Go to 40:00 minutes into the program to hear what she says about that.

Will LA go for open voting? I don't have a prediction at this point, but I can tell you that I handed Secretary Bowen our demo disk on March 7th in LA and I also handed one to acting registrar, Dean Logan. On the 21st of March, I gave a demo and presentation to Dean Logan and staff at their Norwalk offices. I spoke with Dean Logan yesterday, and we agreed to continue talking about it.

Overall, I think we are making some progress with the consensus building.

Thank you for your support.

Alan Dechert
[1] She wrote a somewhat indirect letter in support of our AB 852 in April of last year, although her office had opposed a couple of key provisions that were in the bill as introduced. Also, in August at the press conference where she announced her decisions coming out of the top-to-bottom review, she said she hoped vendors would start offering open source systems.

NY State Board of Elections Passes Resolution Favoring Open Source

The New York State Board of Elections took an important step toward establishing a public voting system based on public software. Today, they passed a resolution that gives a break on examination fees to vendors that apply for certification of voting systems that use free open source software.

Here's the resolution, which has been on the NYS Board web site for some months now:

I initially suggested this to Commissioner Douglas Kellner back in June of last year. It took lots of steps and some persistence, but we got it done. Thanks to Doug Kellner! Professor Richard Johnson of Open Voting Solutions deserves a lot of credit, too: he wrote a letter to the board to get things rolling [1].

Thanks to all for your support to make open voting a reality.

Alan Dechert
[1] here are some posts I made to our discussion list that give an idea of how this happened:

OVC Demo Gaining Exposure

Every day, more and more people are getting a look at OVC's voting machine on a disk. We want to get our latest disk -- released today -- into the hands of as many people as possible.

Please read my previous article about it. We have added a few features including the tabulation program. As before, you can download the disk or request a copy. Also, we will be handing out copies in person to interested parties.

Here are a few notes on this release:

  • The disk works with PCs that have at least 384 megabytes of RAM (need to be able to boot from CD drive; no hard drive required). We are working on a disk that will boot on Macs ... this should be ready soon.
  • Connect a printer to the PC after the system completes booting up.
  • The general idea is to start the EVM program (see icon on the desktop) and print out a few ballots. Press the Esc key when you have a few printed. Then run the tabulation program.
  • There are several new icons on the desktop. The one labeled "barcodes" contains the strings of characters encoded in the barcodes on the ballots. Since you may not have a 2-d barcode scanner handy, you can try out the tabulation program by cutting-and-pasting these strings into the entryfields when prompted to scan a barcode.

Latest OVC Demo is Best Ever

Open Voting Consortium (OVC) is pleased to announce the release of its latest voting system demo software. The software is available via free download, or disks can be mailed upon request[1].

OVC describes the release as a "voting machine on a disk." The demo disk is bootable and contains all the software needed for a complete voting machine. The software does not use any files on the user's hard drive -- the hard drive may be disconnected if desired. The main requirement for the demo computer is that it have 384 megabytes of ram; most any computer made in the last five years will suffice. An attached printer is also required. All the software is free and open source.

While some work and money are required to make this into a certified system ready for use in public elections, the advantages could be significant.

  • No preprinted ballot costs
  • Low or minimal hardware costs
  • Only free open source software needed

If 5-yr old PCs can be used, it's hard to imagine a less expensive voting system.

This revolutionary product is an example of an Electronic Ballot Printer (EBP). In this case, no information about the voter or the selections made are stored on the voting machine. The only artifact is the printed paper ballot produced once the voter finishes indicating choices. The selections are printed in plain text and encoded in a barcode (duplicated on each long edge).

As demonstrated in the January 12th straw poll in San Luis Obispo County, we intend that the ballots be counted at the poll site once the ballot box is opened at the close of the polls. The data read from the barcode is to be publicly displayed so everyone can see the tallies incremented.

Open Voting Process Demonstrated in San Luis Obispo

OVC achieved a major milestone on Saturday, January 12th. You may know that we received this request from San Luis Obispo County on the previous Monday (to provide software to run their JAN 12 straw poll).

By Friday, we had the software prepared and Saturday's event has to go down as a great success for Open Voting Consortium and the cause of transparent election administration (to others, I suppose, it was mainly about success for Obama). The response was overwhelmingly positive. We used the Ubuntu (Linux) operating system, which is also free and open source. As always, our code is publicly available [1].

I want to thank everyone that made this happen. On our side, THE GREAT Jan Kärrman of Sweden did the heavy lifting preparing the code. Asheesh Laroia wrote the tabulation program (100 lines of Python code) on Friday afternoon. Brent Turner went with me and video taped everything and conducted a number of interviews along the way. I also want to thank all of those involved in previous OVC demos because the software we used yesterday was based on these efforts -- going back to 2003. So, thanks to Fred McLain, who was the development lead for our APR 2004 demo that got such great reviews. David Mertz, Arthur Keller, Ed Cherlin, and Laird Popkin helped get the demo project going in 2003. Thanks to them. Thanks also to all of the other developers involved, including Eron Lloyd and John-Paul Gignac. All the past (esp. Doug Jones) and current OVC board members also deserve credit. And, of course, the OVC project only continues because scores of individuals continue to provide financial support. Thanks to them.

Alan Dechert on Washington DC Panel

Alan Dechert has agreed to serve on a panel with other opinion leaders that will discuss the "Voluntary Voting System Guidelines" (VVSG) put forward by the federal government's Election Assistance Commission.

This event -- December 6th -- is being hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ITIF), the UMBC Center for Information Security and Assurance (CISA), VSPR , FairVote and the National Center for the Study of Elections (NCSE).

Mr. Dechert will focus on aspects of the VVSG that could be improved to bring about better quality, public oversight, and transparency in the voting system.

Smash Diebold

In June of 2006, a Diebold TS Touch Screen voting machine showed up on eBay. My immediate impulse was to take a sledgehammer to it.

Under the auspices of Open Voting Foundation, we managed to purchase the machine. The Diebold TS represents the very worst in voting technology: Big, heavy, expensive, multiple avenues for hackers, no paper trail, crashes, freeze ups, secret software, a lead-acid battery that needs frequent changing, antiquated, and so on. Some friends talked me out of smashing it -- for a while.

We considered the possibility of adding a printer and open source software to show how it might be converted into something better, but concluded the design was too flawed to begin with to make such an effort worthwhile.

We published our findings on July 31st of 2006. In an Associated Press article in March of 2007, Open Voting Foundation was cited as one of the reasons Diebold might want to exit the voting system business.

Finally, on October 30th, we decided to carry out the verdict. We took the machine to the steps of City Hall in San Francisco for recycling.

Sebastian Kunz Reports: Smashing Diebold Voting Machines

We found another YouTube video with clips from the evening television news.

I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I have enjoyed them!

I want to thank everyone that helped make this event work -- like Brent Turner, Alec Bash, and we can't forget the Raging Grannies. Also, thanks to everyone that contributed toward the purchase -- special thanks to Pete Johnson of Ohio, who arranged to pick up the machine and ship it to us in California. I think it was well worth it and helped us make several points in a very public way.

Alan Dechert Speaking Sep 29 in San Francisco

Dear Friends of Open Voting:

Here's the announcement about this event (quoted from http://www.owlsf.org/calendar.php)

OWL SF Calendar
Monthly Meeting - Guests Welcome
Saturday September 29, 2007

Dechert "on the air" with Bev Harris and Black Box America

In case you missed this one-hour Internet broadcast, you can listen to a recording of it whenever you like. I recommend it for anyone wishing to understand open voting is all about, and wanting to hear some of the latest happenings.

Bev Harris was delightful, and really helped to clarify some of the reasoning behind why we want complete transparency in the voting process, and how this relates to the larger issue of transparency in government.

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