posted on Oct, 27 2009 @ 11:35 PM
In Industry First, Voting Machine Company to Publish Source Code
Sequoia Voting Systems plans to publicly release the source code for its new optical scan voting system, the company announced Tuesday — a
remarkable reversal for a voting machine maker long criticized for resisting public examination of its proprietary systems.
Apparently, Sequoia's new public source optical-scan voting system (say that three times fast) , called Frontier Election System, will be federaly
certified and tested early next year. We will get to see it in November, according to their web site. Full article
Open Source Software is software for which the underlying programming code is available to the users so that they may read it, make changes to it,
and build new versions of the software incorporating their changes. There are many types of Open Source Software, mainly differing in the licensing
term under which (altered) copies of the source code may (or must be) redistributed.
A little different than Sequoia’s public source software where we only get to read it.
They announced this five days after a non-profit foundation announced their open-source election software for public review, but they say it had no
influence on their end.
In the press release announcing the public-source system, a Sequoia vice president is quoted saying that “Security through obfuscation and
secrecy is not security.”
Amen to that!
The company has long had a reputation for vigorously fighting any efforts by academics, voting activists and others to examine the source code in
its proprietary systems, and even threatened to sue Princeton University computer scientists if they disclosed anything learned from a court-ordered
review of its software.
Given that Sequoia is now acknowledging the value of code disclosure as something that can lead to better security rather than worse security, as
it has claimed in the past, Felten said “it seems that it should follow that they would now be willing to release code for all of their other
products as well.”
Hmm. I don't know about that. Open source everything?
Appel, in a separate issue, also found a discrepancy between summary tapes printed from Sequoia touch-screen machines during New Jersey’s
primary election and totals that were recorded on the machine’s memory cards. Summary tapes from machines in one district showed a phantom vote for
then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama that didn’t appear in the memory card totals.
Sequoia initially blamed the problem on election officials for pushing the wrong buttons, but later claimed it uncovered a problem in its software
that was creating the vote errors and announced that it had fixed the issue.
I'm not an expert on this at all, but how often do phantom votes show up? I wanted to see how common they were so I did a search on Google, and
guess what? I typed in "phantom vote" and The article from Wired was the 6th one down on the first page of results.
Earlier this year, in a separate case, Sequoia agreed, after a concerted battle, to hand over its source code to election officials in Washington,
DC, to investigate why, during the city’s September 2008 primary election, Sequoia’s optical-scan machines added about 1,500 “phantom” votes
to races on ballots cast in one precinct.
That one was blamed on static discharge.
After the city demanded to look at the source code to determine the problem, Sequoia in turn demanded a $20 million bond from officials
guaranteeing they wouldn’t disclose information about the system. Sequoia finally relented to provide the code without a bond, though only after the
city agreed to keep the company’s trade secrets confidential.
The new optical-scan machines are wrote in C#, and runs on Linux. The election management software that creates ballots and tabulates votes runs on XP
and uses a Microsoft SQL database.
Sequoia’s history of hiding behind its proprietary code could make this public effort come to naught, but I don't care wither way as long as they
get it right, and we don't have so many phantoms making it to the polls.
[edit on 27-10-2009 by Enigma Publius]