Wisconsin requires source access to evoting software
By bnitz on Jan 05, 2006
After the year 2000 florida election fiasco, some states decided to hide the problem behind a computer running close source software. Thankfully my old home state of Wisconsin held out for a better solution requiring a paper trail and:
5.84 (3) If a municipality uses an electronic voting system at any election, the municipal clerk shall provide to any person, upon request, at the expense of the municipality, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and to tally the votes cast.
The law isn't perfect, how would the average citizen know that the screen he/she voted on isn't hooked up to a closed source box running a random number generator? A receipt should be required but it should be encrypted in such a way to discourage vote selling. Also, what if a municipality mistakingly uses a closed source product such as Microsoft Windows instead of an open source product such as OpenSolaris in evoting machines? Will Oshkosh, Wisconsin be required to purchase the source code to Microsoft Windows? And the municipality must pay for providing the source code to "any person?" Wow, even if they used a typical linux distribution and slashdot got wind of it... this could get expensive! Another question which would be familiar to fans of GPL is, where do you stop? As written it appears that the law requires the municipality to provide source code for the entire system. This would probably include the voting software, the operating system, BIOS, drivers, peripheral cards (video, I/O...) and the firmware of CRTs, printers. It's a commendable goal, but I suspect it will be a while before electronic computers can match the pure openness of other vote tallying solutions.
Fortunately, the "If" at the start of paragraph 5.84 allows non-electronic solutions and the expense of distribution favors simplicity and open source. Let's just hope the municipalities make wise choices.
Wisconsin doesn't yet require that the voter present a form of identification and this law doesn't seem to have any A11Y, i18n requirements, voter assurance or prevention of vote selling. But it is an improvement over laws passed in other states requiring electronic voting but not requiring a paper trail or any access to evoting internals.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. -- The Wizard of Oz.