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For the First time, Voting Machine Company will Publish Source Code

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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 here

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]

posted on Oct, 27 2009 @ 11:58 PM
On the conspiracy side, will they allow election officials to verify that the code loaded onto the machines is the same as the one we made? Some believe that small chips inside the machine itself could have microprocessors and change the integrity.
So what then? They can't make the hardware open source can they?

I still don't think I am ready to trust electronic voting like this. Especially the touch screen ones. Those will have the most irregularities I think.

posted on Oct, 29 2009 @ 11:56 AM
Before I retired I was a network Admin so I have a few thoughts...

these voting systems are supposed to on what we call a virtual private network... lots of security meant to keep most out... But nothing is ever 100% secure... by publishing their code there is the risk a skilled coder could rewrite that software so that say every third vote cast for an opponent is given to the other guy...

No this isn't something the script kiddies can do... but when we talk about government offices we are talking about millions if not billions of dollars and the future of entire industries at stake.... more than enough incentive for a well founded outfit and an out of work software coder to make a serious change in an elections outcome... By publishing their code, (Open source) they invite others to completely rewrite that code... would anyone catch it if the rewritten program was covertly installed and over wrote the legitimate Tally program???? maybe not...

As always s&f


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