Vote for Red Hat!

by on September 15, 2006 · 16 comments

Luis Villa urges Red Hat to join the voting machine industry. He suggests that the open source model would be a good fit for voting machine development:

  • Security- As Ed Felten demonstrated spectacularly yesterday, the current generation of electronic voting machines are painfully insecure. Go watch the video. Open souce security auditing can do much better than that. (Diebold’s defense, by the way, is that Felten should have asked them for more information. That would not be a problem in an open source context.)

  • Cost- Governments are fairly price sensitive, especially in low-profile areas like voting. Open source is traditionally very cost competitive, and in this particular case, the closed-source systems have to license components like WinCE, so they are definitely at a disadvantage.
  • Pre-existing community- Corporate-sponsored open source work does best when it works in hand with existing bodies of volunteers and expertise. Such groups already exist in open source voting; open voting consortium is the first hit on google but I believe there are others as well.
  • Political motivation: one of the most tried and true ways to motivate open source contributors is to give them a bad guy. Voting fraud is replete with bad guys on all sides; if a project got enough backing (i.e., RH) to make it look like it might get actually used in an actual election, people would come out of the woodwork to audit and patch it.
  • And he points out that Red Hat is one of the few open source companies with a track record of building complex, mission-critical hardware-software systems.

    I find this argument pretty compelling. I still think the best solution would be not to use computerized voting machines at all, but if we must have them, it’s hard to beat open source for security, transparency, and affordability.

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