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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Sequoia Voting Systems Comes Clean

    Sometimes it seems like Americans are forgetting that we had elections from 2000-2004 where fraud and uncertainly clouded the results and it is very likely that the wrong person won. This included Florida and Ohio in Presidential elections, Georgia elections, etc. This is one reason why I push the Secretary of State Project so heavily since a good sec of state can help avoid such "irregularities." There is considerable documentation of such irregularities including from Republicans who have found fraudulent actions from their own party (see here for the tip of the iceberg).

    The push for electronic voting machines after the 2000 election fiasco picked up considerable momentum for awhile...until states who purchased them found out how lousy they were. The technology broke down easily, was easily hacked and open to fraud, and just plain didn't work well. Many states started ABANDONING their electronic voting systems in favor of somewhat less problematic optical scan machines (though these also gave problems in Ohio in 2004...which requires a good secretary of state to fix!).

    But there was a fundamental problem with the eVOTE machines: the companies that made them were insisting on a proprietary code. That meant no one in the public, no one in the press could know how the votes were tabulated. This built into the system a way that fraud could be committed without being detected. In fact, it rendered a recount meaningless since no one could legally know how the votes were tabulated. This is clearly counter to a properly running democracy where every aspect of an election MUST be transparent.

    Well, this problem is changing. From an email from the Secretary of State Project:

    We have big news. Sequoia Voting Systems have announced their first transparent, public source voting system that will be available for public download as early this month!

    This is a bold move for Sequoia, who has previously resisted this kind of public examination of their source code, and it will go far to increase transparency in our elections process.1

    Now it's time for their competitor ES&S to open up its source code to the public too.

    Our campaign isn't about revealing trade secrets as ES&S would have you think. It's about ensuring that voters have the most accurate and trustworthy voting technology when we go to the polls on election day.

    That's the direction Sequoia has just taken with their new public source optical-scan voting system. In their own words:

    "...security through obfuscation and secrecy is not security...Fully disclosed source code is the path to true transparency and confidence in the voting process for all involved."2

    Diebold and ES&S have done nothing to restore that same confidence. In fact, California announced another investigation to determine if there are larger malfunctions with the Diebold machines that dropped hundreds of votes last November.3

    Now that ES&S owns those same Diebold machines, not to mention 70% of the voting machines in the country, it's time for them to step up and do what's right.

    Tell ES&S to follow Sequoia's example and open up its source code to election officials and the public.

    You've already helped to send nearly 5,000 messages to the Justice Department and Senator Schumer calling on them to demand open source voting. Now it's time to send the message directly to ES&S.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Becky Bond
    Co-Founder, Secretary of State Project


    [1] - "In Industry First, Voting Machine Company to Publish Source Code," Wired Magazine, October 27, 2009, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/10/sequoia/

    [2] - "Sequoia Voting Systems Announces the First Transparent Election System with Fully Disclosed, Freely Available Source Code and Open Architecture Developed to Meet Federal Voting System Guidelines," October 27, 2009, http://www.sequoiavote.com/press.php?ID=85

    [3] - "California Investigating Problems With Voting-Machine Audit Logs," Wired Magazine, October 22, 2009, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/10/audit-log/

    P.S. If you like what we're doing to protect the election process, please donate to the SOS Project Fund here.

    I should note that this does not solve all the problems with eVOTE machines, but it is a step in the right direction. We STILL need good secretaries of state and oversight and a formalized, reliable way to conduct recounts. But eliminating the idea that proprietary codes are okay for conducting elections is a big step.


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