Are You Ready for Open Voting?
Open source software is used for many things these days: operating systems, databases, word processors, web servers, browsers, CRM systems...the list goes on. But there's an area where so far open source has gained no traction: voting. Though the United States has made a wholesale switch to electronic voting machines in the last decade, the software in those machines is all proprietary and closed source. The folks at the Open Voting Consortium want to change that.
The OVC's argument is straightforward: democracy benefits from operating in an open, transparent manner - and the best way to ensure that for voting is to make sure that the software used is open source. They're putting their money where their mouth is, too: they've developed a prototype system in Python on Linux that is open source and designed for ease of use, as well as to preserve a paper trail. The current goal is to get the system adopted by California in time for the 2008 elections.
Want an opportunity to try it out? Of course you can download the software and inspect it yourself, but there's a big public test coming up. This year's LinuxWorld (held in San Francisco in August) will feature a straw poll using the OVC system. The estimated 7500 attendees will cast ballots in a mock US Presidential election, as well as voting for the People' Choice Award for best new product announced at the show.
This will be the largest test yet of the OVC voting system - and, assuming that it's successful, should go a long way to validate the OVC approach. Who knows, the next time you go in to vote, you might be using a box running Linux on top of an old, scavenged PC - with smart code to make it free and fair.