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Open Source Voting: Accurate, Accountable

The future of voting technology

Among other things, OVC developed an open source ballot printer system ten years ago. We've changed, the world is changing. It's 2014: Now we trust our smartphones for banking, email, private messages, and many other functions. The California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO) just might make this work. See the video PSA narrated by the great Peter Coyote.

Current Efforts

OVC's three founders, Alan Dechert, Arthur Keller, and Doug Jones continue to work on the issue of voting system integrity. Doug Jones (with Barbara Simons) recently finished writing Broken Ballots. Arthur Keller is chair of the IEEE 1622 standards committee. Brent Turner tendered the OVC system to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in early 2012. Turner is currently board secretary at CAVO (California Association of Voting Officials).

Recent News & Events

Voting System Industry Market Failure Could Lead to Its Disappearance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 1, 2009
Contact: Alan Dechert, 916-772-5360
President, Open Voting Consortium
9560 Windrose Lane, Granite Bay, CA 95746
http://openvoting.org
Reference: Letter to Election Technology Council

Johnson County Kansas joins Open Voting Consortium

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Alan Dechert
916-772-5360
alan@openvoting.org
Reference: http://tinyurl.com/6k46n4

Johnson County Kansas Joins Open Voting Consortium

Granite Bay, CA – December 17, 2008 – Johnson County Kansas has become the first governmental member of Open Voting Consortium. “The guiding light for the transition to a new voting system is shining in the middle of America,” said Open Voting Consortium president, Alan Dechert.

Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby explained, “Our Open Voting Consortium Associate Membership reflects our commitment to raising the urgency to bring alternatives to today's closed election systems to the market. When the time comes for us to replace election equipment -- and many of our voting machines already are at their half-life -- we want to be able to choose from a wide range of cost-effective and secure technology options that allow for ultimate flexibility as our county population grows. That makes it vital that innovative open systems be evaluated, brought to market, and certified expeditiously.”

Mr. Newby concludes, “Our membership will allow us to evaluate the technology while it simultaneously follows a fast track for federal and state certification, as well as a subsequent market launch.”

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has called for open source software for election systems. But six weeks after Election Day, election officials in Minnesota are still mulling over ballots in effort to divine voter intent. “These antiquated systems need to go away,” said Alan Dechert. “We need unambiguous ballots and a modern system owned by the people.”

Open Voting Consortium (OVC) was founded in 2003, a nonprofit California corporation. OVC develops and promotes secure and accessible voting technology that is free and fully open to public scrutiny.

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Open Source Voting: Transparent, Cheap, and You Get to Read Your Ballot

October 17th, 2008
Orginally posted at Wild Bee.

Success at LinuxWorld

OVC can run elections with free software and inexpensive hardware. We can do it now for elections that don't require federal and/or state certification.

This fact was demonstrated earlier this month in a very public way. Thanks again to everyone that helped make this happen. It was by far the largest event ever for OVC. Over 800 voters cast ballots -- mostly high tech professionals, but people came from all over to participate in this trial. Voters included two members of the San Francisco Elections Commission, Richard Matthews and Gerard Gleason. San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly came by and gave a speech to the audience on Wednesday, August 6th, extolling the virtues of transitioning to a voting system owned by the people, not corporations. Other election officials and elected officials attended.

The system was well received by participants, and it worked as advertised. The election included five contests on the first day, then six contests on the second and third days.

At 6 pm after the first day, OVC received the list of eleven best-of-show finalists. By 10 am the next morning, the voting machines were ready and the polls opened with the new ballot definition (including voice prompts and tabulation routines updated and checked).

Press was very favorable. Besides the San Francisco Chronicle article posted before the event, there was an excellent Computerworld article that appeared during the 3-day event.

The event was also documented on YouTube.

Hundreds of people signed a support letter.

All of the 816 ballots cast scanned successfully with the barcode reader (in a previous trial in January of 2008, one out of 204 ballots could not be tallied with the barcode reader due to mangling and poor print quality, although the text was readable). Ballots were tallied in batches every 45 minutes or so. Each batch was then sealed in an envelope with a copy of the tally sheet.

A video-taped audit was conducted two weeks after the event. The batches that were checked demonstrated that the tally sheets matched a hand count of the votes. A few individual ballots were audited by checking the barcode output with the text on the ballot. The grand totals were also checked by summing selected contests from the tally sheets.

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Deborah Gage reported Obama sweeps the open source vote 545 to 135 votes for McCain. Canonical won the People's Choice Award for best-of-show also in a landslide (the fact that Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has endorsed OVC is purely a coincidence ... or maybe it's just that great minds think alike).

Brian Fox and Parker Abercrombie of The Okori Group deserve credit for bringing the OVC system to a whole new level of power and flexibility. We are ready to move to the next level. I predict you will see the OVC system used in official elections at the local level next year, and the federal level in 2010. To see more pictures, scroll down after you click here.

SF Chronicle: Voting machine gets LinuxWorld tryout

Voting machine gets LinuxWorld tryout
Deborah Gage, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Like many people, Alan Dechert was outraged when the 2000 presidential election was thrown to the Supreme Court because nobody could figure out how Florida's voters had voted.

An engineer who has designed and tested software for a living, he thinks the outcomes of elections should never be in doubt.

So Dechert and a couple of colleagues founded the Open Voting Consortium, a nonprofit group dedicated to delivering "trustable and open voting systems." In addition to lobbying against proprietary voting machines, they have spent the last several years working with scientists and engineers around the world to design and build a voting machine of their own.

On Tuesday their machine will be put to the test at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, where the 10,000 people who are expected to attend the conference will get to vote in a mock presidential election pitting Barack Obama against John McCain.

"The voting system in the U.S. is still not sufficiently accurate to determine the winner in a very close election," said Dechert, who has worked at Borland International and Intel developing and testing software. "By the time we're done (with the mock election), nobody will have any doubt."

The LinuxWorld conference is held every year in San Francisco to discuss open-source software - software whose code is designed and maintained by volunteers. The conference takes its name from Linux, a computer operating system designed by Linus Torvalds in the 1990s that has a passionate following. It competes against Microsoft Windows and has spawned software for numerous devices, including voting machines.

OVC Featured on CNET

Last week, we got a chance to show our system to writers at CNET in San Francisco. The article they posted is a pretty good preview of the technology we will be using next week at LinuxWorld -- includes some YouTube video.

Entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth Supporting OVC

Mark Shuttleworth has given us a tremendous boost by lending his name and financial support to OVC. Today, he pledged $5,000 for our current fundraising drive. He wrote,

I will contribute $5,000 personally, and you are welcome to use that endorsement to help raise additional funding.
Shuttleworth funded the development of Ubuntu (the Linux operating system we use).

See his Wikipedia entry for more information.

Thanks, Mark!

Independence Day Message

Adopted 232 years ago today, we all know something about the Declaration of Independence. It's worth looking at it again. How many of us really know what it says? What is the purpose of government, according to this document?

Sure, it says we will be independent from British rule and it explains the philosophy and reasoning behind the action. Overall, it says that we-the-people run things. We can decide for ourselves. We have the right to alter the system of laws, or throw it out altogether and establish a new one -- whatever makes sense to us. The basic concept is self-governance.

Some will say it was only an idea and that, in reality, it was and remains a system created by the elite for the elite. It was a great idea, but the implementation has been poor.

Today, we the people are mere consumers of whatever they are serving. We are mesmerized by gadgetry, trained to believe we can't change things. They will do what they want.

Like everything else, the voting system is controlled by large corporations. Governments are the customers of the voting system vendors. They don't consider you to be the customer because it's been forgotten -- or they never embraced the idea -- that you are the government. This mentality is pervasive and potentially catastrophic for us and the children.

The Declaration of Independence was a great idea. We may never achieve the perfection described, but we can come much closer to it.

Dechert to Speak Jun 16, Menlo Park, CA

OVC to Provide Voting System for LinuxWorld AUG 5-7

Open Voting Consortium has been asked to provide the voting system for the LinuxWorld conference August 5-7, 2008 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The People's Choice Award for Best Product at LinuxWorld 2008 will be among the contests on the ballot. Conference organizers with World Expo say they "will send out a press release[1] about the area pre-show, and release and promote the result of the ballot, during and after the event."

This plebiscite will include several other issues of interest to conference attendees, including preferences in the race for US President.

With 7,500 voters expected to cast ballots on the system, it will be the largest demonstration so far of the OVC voting system.
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[1] Updated 6/15 with press release. A version of the press release formatted to 2 pages is also available.

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