The open source systems that I have seen print a paper ballot. This is important. We should always be able to easily check our ballots before putting them in the box or scanner.
Computers avoid voter errors such as undervotes and overvotes. The outcome of the Florida 2000 election would have been different if scanners or voting machines had warned voters of overvotes. The same is true of the 2005 San Diego mayoral election.
Ballot box stuffing or disappearing is less likely if there is an electronic backup record as well as a paper ballot.
The large fonts of a computer screen and attached audio equipment can help those who have difficulty reading English.
Computers can assist the disabled to vote.
Computers can handle multiple languages.
Computers can add millions of numbers more accurately than humans.
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), aka Rank Choice Voting (RCV) gets difficult to count if it involves overlapping jurisdictions.
With multiple parties, more jurisdictions, and many initiatives, ballots are getting longer and more complex. While precinct-based hand counting can probably be accomplished in half a day (based on a 2006 estimate made for Alameda county), there is a tradeoff. This requires 2 shifts of poll workers with something less than an average age of 72 years.
Why Open Source?
The public has the absolute right to know how their votes are being counted. Nobody, and no machine, should be counting American votes in secret.
Open source software is more secure, because
- the engineers know that the code is public, it has to be airtight. "Security through obscurity" does not work.
- many more engineers will be looking at the software, and spotting the bugs.
The software is free, saving taxpayers billions.
Profit seeking vendors do not have taxpayers locked in (addicted) to outrageously expensive upgrades and service contracts.
The open source systems that I have seen use standard computers that
- are cheaper that fancy custom-designed machines
- can be used in schools, libraries or government offices in between elections, saving, among other things, heavy storage costs.
Open Voting Foundation
This organization has as their mission, to educate the public and governmental officials and entities concerning elections systems based upon open source software, and further to promote the adoption of open source voting and elections solutions worldwide. See
Nobody, and no machine, should be counting votes in secret.
For further information, email Jim Soper at :
May 29, 08