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Overhauling the American Electoral Process with Open Source Technology

open source votingHanging chads and dimpled chads—what?

For anyone who needs a brief history refresher, the United States presidential election of 2000 was an interesting one to say the least: the race to determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore won Florida’s 25 electoral votes—and thus the presidency—came down to 300 votes.

That margin was enough for a mandatory recount, and over the next few weeks the world watched as volunteers in The Sunshine State tried to determine voter intent on some ballots with holes that weren’t completely punched. Whether ballots that were partially punched (hanging chads) or punched lightly but not enough to break the paper (dimpled chads) became a big subject of debate in determining who would be the country’s 43rd president. (We all know how that turned out.)

The recount situation was a bit chaotic to say the least. To prevent such circumstances from occurring in the future, the Open Source Elections Technology Foundation (OSET) seeks to develop open source software that’s necessary to run an election. Members of the foundation envision creating a solution that facilitates smooth elections while also providing the added bonus of cash savings to governments at all levels.

Traditional voting machines can have serious glitches. A voter could try to support one candidate but the machine might record that person’s vote for the other candidate. There can also be misconfigured ballots or broken machines. It’s 2014, so these kinds of problems seem almost anachronistic due to the pervasiveness of technology in our lives. 

OSET believes that its open source solutions will encourage more formidable elections, as more companies will be encouraged to jump into the market since they’ll have a certified foundation upon which to build.

“Two vendors control 80 percent of America’s infrastructure,” explains Greg Miller, OSET chairman, and that results in “no incentive to innovate.” Investors seem to think OSET might be on to something, as the foundation expects to raise $6 million this year.

Governments around the world have been reaping the benefits of open source software for years.  And this is yet another example of open-sourcing the political process

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lacey Thoms

Lacey Thoms is a marketing specialist and blogger at Protecode, a provider of open source license management solutions. During her time at Protecode, Lacey has written many articles on open source software management. She has a background in marketing communications, digital advertising, and web design and development. Lacey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from Carleton University.

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