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ETC Urges New Approach for Open Source Voting


April 17, 2009

ETC Urges New Approach for Open Source Voting

By Vivek Naik
TMCnet Contributor


The Election Technology Council (ETC) has announced their bid for a new approach for open source voting solutions and has released a new  report, “Open Source: Understanding its Application in the Voting Industry” that recommends policy makers clearly differentiate between proprietary and open source code voting based software solutions as well as urges them to use a grass root level approach to guarantee smooth and legal transition from existing proprietary to possible open voting applications.

“Given the unique management structures and contrasting challenges between a commercial and an open source software product, the most prudent course of action for state and federal policymakers is to recognize each option for its uniqueness and avoid mandating policies that could be perceived as instituting unfair trade practices,” said David Beirne, Executive Director, ETC.
ETC is an industry trade association that represents more than 90 percent of voting applications used in U.S. that support: independent review and approval of digital voting systems; training and allocation of poll supervisors and equipment that turn out accurate results; methods and resources that encourage increased voter participation; establishing long term standard procedures and transparent regulatory methods; and adequate funding for the entire electoral infrastructure and admin to be set up, as well as delivery of the process lifecycle.
The latest report says that although open source efforts have experienced significant successes due to a large number of developer resources ready to tweak and refine applications, this generally happens in an unregulated environment, which is unacceptable for digital voting systems that are governed by non-negotiable federal requirements and stringent state certification guidelines.
“The current federal and state certification process for voting systems serves as a significant hurdle for the viability of open source voting systems,” said Beirne.
The report also claims that voting-based proprietary products have been subjected to multi-level contractual obligations that leave no room for unapproved modifications.
 “More research needs to be done on the challenges of developing an open source voting system and supporting it in the field,” said Beirne.
It also cautions that open source code based products are available free to all, whereas the intellectual property rights of proprietary software are protected by the Fifth Amendment which allows the use of private property only with approved financial agreement.
“The entire election community and our voters benefit from choice. Open source voting systems should be seen as another option, not an overall policy approach,” said Beirne.
What remains to be seen is how long the government can hold out against the benefits of open source. TMC (News - Alert) recently reported that even the military is now considering a Linux-based operating system as a money saving option when compared to current costly proprietary OS’s.

Vivek Naik is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Vivek's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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