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DARPA is building an Open Source voting system!

Article for: everyone interested in voting technology
Difficulty: moderate
Importance: If you are interested in secure accurate voting

DARPA (the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency) is funding research into an open source secure voting system. DARPA is the agency that provided the original funding for the Internet. This is truly an exciting development.

The Portland Oregon firm Galois got the contract. Features of the contract include:
  • Open source software: This is critical. Open source means that anyone can view the source code and compile it for themselves. They can check for flaws or a back door. They can test for weaknesses. My feeling has always been that allowing some corporation to make a closed 'black box' to count our votes and then believe them is somewhere in that gray area between unbelievably stupid and criminal. Furthermore, whenever those closed systems were tested, hackers could exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Open Source Hardware: The designs and technology for building these machines will also be open and verifiable.
  • Openly tested: they will publish the source code and hardware online. Galois will work with several university teams to produce secure hardware and software. They will also open their systems to hackers to penetrate.
  • Freely available: The hardware and software designs produced by this method will be available to all manufacturers to use free of charge or licensing fees. This will enable them to produce secure machines without the millions of dollars in research and testing required.
  • Voter Verifiable: Each voter can verify that his or her own votes were counted.

Two types of machines

The first voting machine will be a ballot marking touch screen machine. It will not count votes, just print out a paper ballot marked with the voter's choices. Voters can review the printout before submitting them to the scanning machine. The scanning machine will print a receipt with a cryptographic code of the voter's choices.

After the election, they will publish the cryptographic codes online, and voters can verify that their votes were counted. Furthermore, any group could hire a programmer to download the cryptographic codes and tabulate the codes themselves. So we can all verify the count, rather than rely on election officials.

This machine will be available this year. Many current machines do not allow the voter to review the ballot to determine that it is correct. None let voters check that their votes were counted.

Next year, Galois plans to offer a machine that will read paper ballots marked by voters by hand.

Further Reading

Date: May 2019

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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