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NYT Calls For Open-Source Election Machines 302

Posted by simoniker
from the immediate-response dept.
anti-drew writes "The New York Times Magazine has an interesting editorial (free reg. req.) calling for open-source voting machines. From the article: 'Electronic voting has much to offer, but will we ever be able to trust these buggy machines? Yes, we will -- but only if we adopt the techniques of the 'open source' geeks.' That's quite an endorsement coming from the Times. Of course, one of the justifications was that open-source enthusiasts are 'libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power', who would 'scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong'."
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NYT Calls For Open-Source Election Machines

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  • Yeah, right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KrisCowboy (776288)
    open-source enthusiasts are 'libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power', who would 'scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong'.
    The same NY Times that got Adrian Lamo busted while he found a f**king open-proxy on their network.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:43PM (#9298678)
    First Vote?
  • "Endorsement?" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:44PM (#9298682)
    It's most definitely not an "endorsement from the Times." Unless the Op-ed was written by the Times editorial board, it will have a disclaimer stating that the statements contained herein only represent the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Times or its parent corporations.
  • by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:45PM (#9298695) Homepage Journal
    MSDN Magazine [msdnmagazine.com] has an article calling for closed source voting machines with .NET Passport validation.
  • One armed bandits... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    That comment reminds me of a history book of Las Vegas which noted the distrust that regular gamblers had against the electronic one armed bandits, who much preferred the electromechanical machines.
  • Use google and google at the prompt.
  • nutty? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jtilak (596402) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:47PM (#9298712) Journal
    'libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power' i thought we were socialists? what's nutty about being suspicious of centralized power? it would be naive not to be. read a frickin history book. (or a newspaper, for that matter)
    • And once again, a /.er bravely steps up to the plate to play America's favorite game:

      Proving the point.
    • What you are seeing is the negative side-effect of one Eric Steven Raymond and his public voice. He "seems" to speak for the OSS community and that means that when the Times is looking for a way to pigeonhole OSS people, they assume his insane political beliefs apply to everyone.

      People do the same with RMS sometimes, calling us all "communists" instead, even though Stallman is not truly a communist.

      What the Free Software world needs is a nonpolitical leader, like Linus only more public. Maybe Bruce Perens
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:48PM (#9298716) Homepage
    I think it's a great idea... not a new one but it's probably new to the general public and the NYT clearly thinks there's nothing wrong with free registration required so there you have it! A national publication force supporting a public-trust open-source project. It's the only way to help ensure the public's interests are protected against corruption.

    But the machines themselves are only part of the process. There must be audit and process supervision and that still requires people.
  • Go NYT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:49PM (#9298724)
    Of course, one of the justifications was that open-source enthusiasts are 'libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power', who would 'scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong'."

    For once they hit the nail on the head. Although I don't see why anyone might consider the statements to be any sort of insult. The so called "libertarian freaks" are just doing what every citizen should be doing: always questioning "centralized power". Technically, we give them the power, so why not ask why?
    • Re:Go NYT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Roger Keith Barrett (712843) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:10PM (#9298891)
      'libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power'

      Sounds like a description of the American founding fathers to me.

      I take it as a complement.
    • Re:Go NYT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Entropius (188861) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:10PM (#9298892)
      Minus the rhetoric, the NYT isn't that far off.

      That statement should read "suspicious of unecessary centralisation". Distrust of centralisation is very much a part of the geek world: internet rather than one-to-many media like broadcast TV, bittorrent rather than ftp, the bazaar development model, the division of a working OSS system into hundreds of chunks (the kernel, kde, X, etc.) that can be arranged to suit, enthusiasm for P2P technology that goes beyond free pr0n/warez, etc. etc. etc.

      This "screaming to the high heavens" isn't unique to politically-sensitive bugs. This is how the OSS development model works: let a bunch of eyeballs go over something and raise red flags if something is wrong. People would scream to the high heavens if, say, a version of KDE was released with a major memory leak; it's just part of the process.

      (Side thought: when does American democracy get a bugzilla page?

      Bug #41298: Voters in non-swing states effectively disenfranchised by electoral college system
      Assigned to: FEC
      Status: IS_FEATURE_NOT_BUG

      Aargh!)
  • by thedogcow (694111) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:49PM (#9298729)
    Click here [nytimes.com]
  • Another argument (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gregmac (629064) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:51PM (#9298738) Homepage
    I think a strong argument that you could put forward would be that the current system of manually counting votes is the equivalent of 'open source'. Everyone knows what they do (count votes), and how they do it (by looking at each one and recording the number). I believe you can even watch them do it, if you'd like. Open source is pretty much the equivalent. You can see what the code is doing, and how it's doing it.
    • by zalas (682627)
      I'm sure a lot of geeks will be convinced that the voting software would be safe if all the able coders can look at the voting software at their leisure and find bugs, if any. However, how do you convince the general populace this? Just saying there are random people in the world finding bugs in it doesn't seem convincing enough to a normal person who knows nothing about computers except that they can use it to get email and buy flowers. While I'm all for open source voting, I think it doesn't inspire th
      • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m a i l.com> on Monday May 31, 2004 @07:14PM (#9299288)
        But it would certainly help to have tons of CS Ph.D.s say "I've gone over this code and tried to hack it and it looks good" instead of "I broke into the state board of elections, completely changed the results, and erased all traces, and did it in five minutes."
      • How about more NYT articles, and articles from other news outlets. How about endorsments from political figures?

        i don't think it'd be that hard to convince people that this is a good idea.

        the problem is attempting to drag those who have a vested interest in keeping the vote closed along.

        All the people who bitch about closed voting schemes should email this article to their Senators and Representatives.
    • by lfourrier (209630) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:42PM (#9299085)
      The current system of manually counting votes is not the equivalent of 'open source'.
      It is a system designed to deliver a provable result, even if the different actors during the vote and the counting don't trust each other.
      Going voting machine move the trust relationship, to some technical system managed by (paid or volunter) experts.

      And now, some gramatical questions from someone who is not a native english/american speaker :

      When you ear about thinking machines, do you think of :
      - machine that help to think or
      - machine that think ?
      (without speaking of an old company of the 90)
      When you ear about voting machines, do you think of :
      - machine that help to vote or
      - machine that vote ?

      • although i think that's an issue of context-specific meaning, it's very easy to argue that "voting machines" means "machines that vote." they're actually doing the voting, counting, etc. they're just doing it in reponse to user input.

    • Right.
      Remember, "The Emperor Has No Clothes" was broken, not by the smart elite, but by a dumb street urchin.

  • alas, my memory fails me yet again (please, no lame 'upgrade' jokes), i know my explanation will suck due to lack of facts, but here ya are anyway;

    there was *some guy* who placed some code into a compiler once, so that even if there was no malicious code in the actual souce, once compiled, the executable had a block of code enabling the original author to do things (i.e. a backdoor). if i remember correctly, even if you were to recompile the compiler, the code would once again be placed into the compiler
  • What's the problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lakeland (218447)
    There's a lot worse images we could have. They even chose libertarian instead of marxist.

    Besides, I think the quote is fairly accurate -- just look at how much we jump up and down about 'trivial' licence details. In the closed source world they'd just pirate the software and forget about it.
  • Not an "editorial" (Score:5, Informative)

    by gkuz (706134) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:53PM (#9298751)
    The New York Times Magazine has an interesting editorial

    It's an interesting piece, but it's not an editorial. An editorial states the opinion of the newspaper as a whole (actually of the Editorial Board, if you're feeling pedantic) and as such carries a fair amount of weight, as in saying, for example, "The New York Times has endorsed Kerry for President." This is just an opinion piece by one of the paper's writers, and is a lot lower on the food chain than an editorial.

    • by crashnbur (127738)
      One term that gkuz left out in his comment above is that opinion articles that appear on editorial pages that are not representative of publication itself are either op-eds (what this article is) or letters to the editor (much, much lower on the editorial food chain).
  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:53PM (#9298752)
    A long time ago, Linus Torvalds gave an interview in Maximum PC in which he pointed out that some people thought that open source "somehow was tied to communism." This type of thinking is still around, I think, and it's part of what fuels the Ken Browns and Darl McBrides of the world. They see something that looks a little like something they've been trained to hate with unreasoning passion, and then the blinders go on and the brains turn off.

    Fortunately, I think that people are finally starting to understand exactly what the open source software movement stands for and the benefits we stand to accrue from it. 'Communism' - either in its real form or the corrupted understanding that some people seem to have of it - simply doesn't enter into the equation anymore. Open source, to many mostly computer illiterate people that I know, looks much more like an exercise in free speech than an expression of the Marxist dialectic.

    Open source voting software is the best way to deal with the problems in electronic voting machines. Will it be an absolute panacea? Probably not. But in any case, it will doubtless produce more trustworthy software than anything produced by a proprietary company using proprietary software development methods on a proprietary operating system with proprietary political causes and motivations.
    • by crashnbur (127738) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:11PM (#9298898)
      Right. "Communism" emphasizes collective public ownership of property, which is contrary to American ideals. That's not what the open-source movement is going for. Open source is closer to "socialism", which emphasizes the collective public ownership of the means of production -- not the products of production -- and the freedom of the entire community to exercise political power.

      In this particular case, the open-source movement advocates the individual's right to public information, especially information behind public processes that have a huge impact on government functions and operations. We have a right to understand exactly how such critical processes work in order that the integrity of such processes is preserved.
    • Nothing will prevent post scruinty tampering. That's what I fear most about any of this. With the fascists running the show and wanting to remain in power over those they need to "care for" I fear any method that isn't tried and true and basically tamper-proof.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday May 31, 2004 @08:38PM (#9299774)
      The reason that people (and by "people" I mean those individuals who decide in what direction to throw IT resources) are taking Linux and open-source more seriously has far more to do with economics than politics, neo-McCarthyism aside. Your average CEO really couldn't care (from a functional standpoint) whether his company runs Windows, Linux or anything else. What he cares about is a. how much does it cost and b. does it do the job. Open source is proving, at the corporate level that it can, in fact, do the job, and do it well.

      Honestly, I don't think that Darl McBride got into this mess because he "hates" Linux and Open Source, not in the way Americans used to "hate" Russians. Hell, SCO sells the stuff, or used to. He's hardly the anti-Stallman: I doubt he has that much emotional investment in the Open Source movement. On the other hand, RMS is passionate about his cause, consistent in his expression of it, and more to the point, time has proven him right on a lot of counts.

      The McBrides and Ken Browns of the world don't have blinders on: they know precisely what they are doing and why. The reason has little to do with hatred of us "communists" or any other political motivation: it has to do with opportunism and greed. I could respect McBride and those of his ilk (while vehemently disagreeing with them, of course) if they had anything resembling an ethical stance, or at least a position that doesn't change with the phases of the moon.
  • by coshx (687751) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:54PM (#9298763)
    No mention of an open-source voting project currently gathering a lot of support. Their idea is to keep what people trust about voting, and just computerize the parts that will make the process easier and more accessable.

    Open Voting Consortium [openvotingconsortium.org]
    • The article actually did mention the open voting consortium:
      "A group of civic-minded programmers known as the Open Voting Consortium has written its own open-source code."
  • by hellmarch (721948)
    librertarian freaks? i think not. i'm a compasionate conservative anarchist.

    Make $5250 Guaranteed!!! All you need is a PayPal account and $25. We'll do the rest. Click here to find out how. [flamingboard.com]
  • by JessLeah (625838) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:59PM (#9298813)
    ...that the source made available is actually the code running on the machine?

    I could write a closed-source proprietary OS and have it go:

    printf("Kernel version: Linux 2.4.26\n");

    ...but that wouldn't actually make it Linux.
    • Duh... that's where TCPA comes in

      err no really..
    • The solution is to use a checksum of the code in the following fashion:

      Rule 1 - The voting hardware and OS must be rather uniform, with only a few variations for regional preferences (it wouldn't be fair to force a small precinct to be forced to buy an overpowered version intended for high-volume voting places, therefore there would be a few different configurations available, but the number of allowed combinations of hardware and software must be discrete and small in number, not something where you can j
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SbooX (181758) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:01PM (#9298827)
    'libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power', who would 'scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong'.


    I guess they read /. at the NYT.
  • by cemkaner (55453) <kaner@kaner.com> on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:04PM (#9298844) Homepage
    Open-source enthusiasts, by contrast, are precisely the sort of people you'd like to see inspecting the voting code; they're often libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power, and they'd scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong.
    As one of the geeks who is nuttily and loudly suspicious of the electronic voting machines, I appreciate columnist Clive Thompson's compliment and endorsement. But I think he's missing his own point.

    If 10 voting equipment vendors publish their open source (remember, "open source" is not necessarily "free") software for inspection, then for each vendor, the other 9 vendors will have a strong incentive to inspect and criticize that 10th vendor's code. ("You really should want to buy *my* voting machines . . . their code sucks. Here, let me prove it. . . .")

    I predict that competing commissioned salespeople can be even more nutty, suspicious, and enthusiastic than computer science professors.
  • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:08PM (#9298869) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    Already, Australians have used the open-source strategy to build voting software for a state election, and it ran like a well-oiled Chevy.

    The last Chevy I owned was a '74 Vega, and it burned a quart of oil every 100 miles. I guess that's what he's referring to here.

  • by cluge (114877) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:08PM (#9298870) Homepage
    One of the biggest problems with voting machines is cost per use. Voting machines are relatively" expensive and are used at most twice a year, and often only once every 2-4 years. If they aren't being used, they are simple taking up room in storage (which costs money).

    Cost Advantages:
    NOW as distros like knoppix [knoppix.org] have proven, putting a full featured desktop on a CD is possible. That being said - putting your "voting machine" on a CD, and using standard PC hardware makes a lot of sense. You don't have to buy a bunch of larg proprietary machines that only get used ones in a while. The CD's can be verified. If one is careful it would even be easy to use hardware already in place - or obsoleted hardware. Such a system would also use a simple standard printer to print an encrypted voter verification (audit) record in case a recount is requested. This should eliminate the long standing problem with most other electronic voting systems (no real audit trail).

    Development is spread out over a large not for profit group of programmers with the end result being free. The only real cost is the certification procedure each state decides to institute - and thus it is the state that becomes accountable. If a states procedures are not robust enough to catch dangerous bugs then it's their own fault. I would think that several states go in together and split the certification costs. Since the buy in price is almost nothing (essentially media) the states have more money to play with and spend on voter training AND certification.

    Considering Diebold and others - this seems like a natural, easy and simple solution.

    Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country - Come up with a simple, secure, reliable voting system on a CD that will boot from standard PC hardware.

    SIDE NOTE: If my county uses electronic voting machines that do not have a paper trail - then I will vote by absentee ballot. I would STRONGLY urge any US voter to do the same.

    cluge
    AngryPeopleRule [angrypeoplerule.com]
    • I like the idea of using Knoppix on commodity PC hardware for e-voting in combination with Open Source software handling to voting process.

      If e-voting is going to be used at all, transparency in the process is paramount. This type of system would guarantee that.
  • So if things go terribly wrong with open source voting code, can we expect another grovelling editorial in the Times, complaining about being mislead by the right wing neo-con hawks of the open source movement?

    Maybe we should get Jayson Blair to look into the whole open source thing. I can just imagine the headlines now: "Exclusive interview with the inventors of Linux, Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy." Oh, wait...
  • by foidulus (743482) * on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:09PM (#9298885)
    voting machines. Someone has to provide tech support in case something goes wrong, or barring being able to fix it, idemnity. And who better to do that than the people who made the code?
    Just because something is OS doesn't mean that everyone is going to steal your trade secrets. If I were on a local voting comittee, I would almost certainly give the contract to the developer, because their people have the most experience with the machines.
    Food for thought for Diebold, but who am I kidding. It will take a long time before people come to see open source as something more than just a bunch of punk kids who don't know how to make money.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:10PM (#9298890)
    Publically verifiable code. Sure. The geeks who can read and understand it will, far more than current distros and projects. If only for the novelty.

    But then what is needed is a strict, multiparty custody chain, to ensure that the specific, compiled, verified code, as well as the machines it is run on, are what was actually verified.
    it does no good to verify codebase X, if what finds its way to the machines is codebase Y
  • by coupland (160334) * <.dchase. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:13PM (#9298907) Journal

    libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power', who would 'scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong'

    Hmmm...

    libertarian...
    suspicious of centralized power...
    scream to high heaven if there is a loophole in the democratic system...

    Wow, three compliments in a row, Thanks NYT!!!

    • I'm no fucking libertarian. The last person I met who called himself a libertarian had a lookout post by his house where he was always sitting with a huntig rifle & binoculars, spikes on his road ( and sometimes on the public road), and had covered his house in steel plates to withstand gunfire... I don't feel like sharing a label with him. The other two are fine compliments though...
      • It's this kind of right-wing republican rhetoric that really pisses me off. Do not voice an opinion if you have no idea what you're talking about and are only looking to fill /. with your ignorant fear-mongering. I DID NOT cover my house in *aluminum siding* to withstand gunfire. You're a quack.

        I did it to keep the aliens from reading my thoughts...

  • Misses the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:15PM (#9298914) Homepage Journal
    While this article was nicely supportive of open-source software, the author misses the real problem of computerized voting: lack of auditability.

    There is a growing consensus that, in order to be trustable, election machines have to produce a paper ballot that can be hand-counted in case a recount is required. See, for example this article [notablesoftware.com] for a authoritative discussion of the issues by a recognized expert in the field.

  • A little late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demachina (71715) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:16PM (#9298930)
    Its unfortunate the U.S. is just waking up to the massive threat evoting poses to democracy. As slowly as most local governments move I wager most of them are going to go in to the next election with machines that are easily rigged. I would now lob out the conspiracy theory that the Republican's are going to use them to steal the next election but I'm starting to have my doubts. If the Republican's hold the White House and both houses of Congress, and even better achieve their holy grail of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, which is where I think rigged voting machines is most likely to come in to play, the next election will be meaningless because the Republican's will have a defacto dictatorship in place by then, especially if they are blessed with another 9/11 they can use as an excuse to trash whats left of the constitution.

    The doubts I have about this scenarios is that I'm of the opinion the election was really stolen when the media, the DNC and DLC moved Kerry from also ran to front runner and all the Democratic primary voters followed along like so many lemmings.

    With Kerry as the Democratic nominee we are faced with a situation where Bush may win no matter how awful a job he does, or how dangerous he is, because no one can stand Kerry, especially after the Republican's shred him with $200 million in attack ads. He is unfortunately a two faced hypocrite and totally unlikable. I'm pretty sure Karl Rove danced a jig in the White House when Kerry moved to front runner status. I find myself hoping that the Democrats will come to their senses at the convention in Boston and realize what a loser he is and throw the nomination to Edwards. He may be inexperienced but at least he is likable in a Clintonesque sort of way.

    If Kerry does win I doubt the establishment will mind, he is after a spoiled rich kid and member of Skull and Bones so he will look out for the establishment interests first, and the people's interest not at all(except to get reelected). He really doesn't seem to differ all that much from Bush. He's pretty much a fan of the war in Iraq, the only time he wasn't was when that was necessary to get the Democratic nomination. He seems to be a fan of the Patriot act and intrusive big brother government, again the only time he wasn't was when that was necessary to get the Democratic nomination. As soon as he had the nomination sowed up he rushed to the center and his first proposal was for a tax cut for corporations. He is a man in the pocket of the establishment if there ever was one.

    I hate to say it but democracy is in a state of complete collapse in the U.S. There is a very small group of powerful people who decide who will be on the ballot, the media en masse anoints them and by the time it gets to the voters they are little more than a rubber stamp.

    Rigged, closed source evoting is just another level of control to make sure the American people don't make a mistake and elect somebody that might upset the apple cart.

    You can look at Iraq at the moment and see this same process in action. Iraq was supposed to get sovereignty and a U.N. representative was supposed to choose an interim government. Instead the U.S. appointed Iraqi governing council suddenly picked the government with massive back stage manipulation from the U.S. and surprise, surprise they are picking a man who has been on the CIA payroll for years as prime minister. He is a carbon copy of Chalibi who was the U.S. man until he fell in to disfavor. The U.S. is even interfering in the choice of the figurehead president to make sure he is pro U.S. versus the previous frontrunner who wasn't entirely a fan of U.S. occupation.

    Our government is great with the empty rhetoric about freedom and democracy but if we ever found a way to actually get it they would freak and the current plutocracy would put a stop to it in a heartbeat. I find myself truly wishing Nader had a shot at the Presidency. He would be a train wreck but it would upset a very entrenched and corrupted kleptocracy. I'd just like to see it and we could start a pool on how long he would last before he was assassinated.
  • by Suburbanpride (755823) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:18PM (#9298943)
    I voted on one of the new Deibold machines here in San Diego, and it didn't instill much confidence in me, thanks to everything I had read about Diebold. but even if the machine was open source, it still wouldn't make me confidant unless there was a paper trail. It was spooky just go up to a console, insert a card and hit a few buttons. It didn't feel like voting.

    As bad as the old punch card system were, I liked the feeling of knocking out a chad, and then being able to see an actual physical representation of my vote.

    With the amount that counties are already spending on these machines, it can't cost much more to add a printer.

    • Here's an idea... you enter in your vote to the computer. The vote is registered electronically (easy counting) and then the machine spits out a card with the votes you just picked mechanically punched on a card that's clearly labeled so that the voter can scan it and verify "hey, yeah, that's my vote!"

      The voter then must deposit the mechanically punched card in a box on the way out... maybe the card has a unique bar scan so that the vote isn't electronically registered until the card is returned at the e

      • There must also be no way that the vote tally is readable by a human ... being able to prove you voted for who you marked also means you can prove to someone else you voted a certain way -- and this opens up the possibility of selling/buying votes, leveraging votes for employment purposes (boss says "prove you voted for Canidate X or you are fired.") and the like.

        Optimally, have the machines store the vote using a *proprietary* hashing algorithm. Open-source the entire thing except for that module, which w
    • I quite enjoy using a pen and paper to cast my vote. I still don't understand what the US has against it.
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:24PM (#9298973) Homepage
    At first I was going to say "Of course the government should adopt open source voting machines," but then I looked at the current situation:

    * The government doesn't display the diagrams to locks it has in its buildings.
    * Most of our miltary documents and weapondry are completely classified (can you tell me what exactly Area 51 does)?
    * Some of our most cherished documents (like the Constitution) are protected by systems meant to place them underground in the event of a nuclear war (Google it). But how exactly does it work? Who has access to the documents afterwards? The secret shadow government that's up and running in case of an emergency (Google it).

    Fact is, very little of government is open source anythin. And yet the US has gotten along for over 200 years. While that doesn't necessarily mean things have been done "correctly", it does mean they've been sufficient enough to keep the country going. The chances we're going to change course now is unlikely.
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:49PM (#9299137)
      Mark an X, punch a hole in a piece of paper, write a name...and a bunch of your fellow citizens (from all sides of the political spectrum) count them, by hand. Any questions - "I demand a recount!"

      Only recently has it gone into a black box. The magical computer.

      A move to continue the 'openness' would be advisable, no matter what the technology.

      And there's a reason the exact capabilities of military weapons are classified. If someone were to want to attack you, would you want them to know the exact maximum range of your guns and where they are deployed?
  • "Open-source enthusiasts, by contrast, are precisely the sort of people you'd like to see inspecting the voting code; they're often libertarian freaks, nuttily suspicious of centralized power, and they'd scream to the high heavens if they found anything wrong."

    The actual complete quote is saying that open source paranoia and nuttiness is a GOOD thing
    and notice the word "often" which is not in the slashdot posters quote. It changes the tone and the facts of the article.

  • by wombatmobile (623057) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:32PM (#9299020)

    In Australia voters get a piece of paper and a pen.

    Uh.............. that's it.

    The counting takes a lot less time than it took the New York Times to organize the Florida recount, and the method supports unlimited error checking.

  • by Stevyn (691306) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:56PM (#9299173)
    They'd just be under /dev/null

    Actually, regular voting is open source if you think about it. The ballot is checked off and goes into a box Everyone can see the process and how it works. Using proprietary machines is like giving your vote to an employee of a private company who hauls them off in a van and then reports the tally. If these machines were based off open source software, then you could possibly have a huge number of developers working on the project in their spare time that diebold could never compete with. Think of how many people would be going through the code to find mistakes.

    I don't think we should imediatley switch over, but slowly as to allow many people the chance to look over the code and find bugs or backdoors. The system doesn't need to be that overly complicated either. We're not talking about installing a huge linux environment on these but rather something from emebeded linux.

    Going open source shouldn't be the issue here, it's why we went to a closed source like diebold that is what's the question.
  • by barfy (256323) on Monday May 31, 2004 @06:59PM (#9299190)
    Electronic voting machines need to make human readable paper ballots that *can* be hand-counted. Anything short of that opens up the elections to all sorts of tampering that can be undiscoverable, even if the code is "open source."

    You can collect the votes, in a variety of electronic methods, that will meet the needs of quick reporting, but ultimately the votes need to be auditable, which means being able to recount by some manual method.

    The ballots need to be human readable so that they can be verified by the voter AND the auditor.

    If the protocol is secure, then it doesn't matter if the code is open source, or closed source. Whatever. As a taxpayer, I would hope that they choose something that is as inexpensive as possible that provides a secure and auditable voting record.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    the answer is to NEVER USE COMPUTING DEVICES for voting (unless they are used to create a physical artifact like a punch card).

    It doesn't matter if the code is open or closed. All the open code does is make it cheaper, simpler and probably more well-audited. But that doesn't solve the fundamental problems: nobody can ever know what goes on inside of a computer.

    You don't know if the code you compiled from the voting machine website is the same as the code on the machine. Even if you got a computer expert
  • by 5n3ak3rp1mp (305814) on Monday May 31, 2004 @07:36PM (#9299421) Homepage
    If every one of these voting machines printed out a line on some old dot-matrix printer in another room the instant every vote was cast, a technical difficulty would be a minor inconvenience instead of the catastrophe it is now, due to the audit trail. Cringely hints as much in this column: No Confidence Vote: Why the Current Touch Screen Voting Fiasco Was Pretty Much Inevitable [pbs.org]
  • What about india? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Monday May 31, 2004 @07:39PM (#9299441)
    I mean, they are a democracy that's voting population absolutely dwarfs the US of A.

    THey have an electronic system that, although not impervious to fraud, is simple, elegant, and cheap, and gets the job done. The systems are so simple that it would be very difficult in practice to actually cheat.. and if you could doctor one machine, the damage you could do would be quite limited.

  • by Gathers (78832)

    "If you take a letter, lock it in a safe, hide the safe somewhere in the city and then tell someone to read the letter, that's not security. That's obscurity. On the other hand, if you take a letter and lock it in a safe, then give someone the safe along with the design specifications of the safe and a hundred identical safes with their combinations so that he and the world's best safe crackers can study the locking mechanism - and you still can't open the safe and read the letter - that's security."

    - Bru

  • Would it be reasonable to expect a typical New York Times columnist, nuttily supportive of centralized authority, to "get it" when referring to open source? Still, I suppose we have to take it where we can find it.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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