Open Source and Democracy - Creating transparent, trustworthy voting systems

Emerging Topics, People, Security
Location: Meeting Room B2
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Advocacy and standardization efforts in recent years by groups such as the Open Voting Consortium (OVC) , the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV), and the OASIS Election and Voter Services Technical Committee have resulted in produced significant tools and technologies that can support the development of Open Source voting systems.

While some efforts have focused on overall solutions to solving the various technical problems facing voting systems today, such as lack of transparency and verification difficulty, others have been working towards common standards and specifications which can be used in the development of overall solutions. Notable standouts include the Election Markup Language (EML) specification from OASIS, and the Open Voting Consortium’s Linux-based voting system which was demoed at last year’s LinuxWorld. These early projects, along with the U.S. Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) provide a roadmap of sorts for future projects.

The next wave of development, which is already underway by many groups public and private, will build on these achievements, utilizing Open Source technologies as part of complete voting solutions. Many major hurdles remain, including gaining public acceptance of Open Source as a viably secure option for voting systems and overcoming the entrenched incumbent solutions, electronic or otherwise.

This conference session will do more than cover the technical issues surrounding voting and the use of Open Source in elections systems. It will explore the non-technical issues related to developing, certifying, and ultimately using an electronic voting system, and how those issues can be uniquely addressed by Open Systems and Open Standards. There are hundreds of interest groups with a stake in the integrity and usability of U.S. voting systems. Many of them wield power that could stop any effort in its tracks. Navigating the minefield of taboos and requirements these groups have while still emerging with an affordable, usable, and efficient system is one of the most important challenges remaining.

In the end, the best technology in the world, be it Open Source or otherwise, will be worthless if it is not used. Incorporating systems built on Open Source and Open Standards with practical, effective workflows and techniques could result in a system flexible enough to be used nationwide, perhaps worldwide. Such a system might restore the faith and trust of the people in our elections processes once again.

James Tillman

Elections by the People Foundation, Inc.

James Tillman has been developing software for State and Local governments for 15 years, and has been active in Open Source development for more than a decade. An early participant on, he served as a coordinator for the now-defunct Java and Perl “foundries” in its formative years, and contributed to many Open Source projects, such as LWP and Ht://dig. He has led and participated on multiple software development teams which have designed and developed enterprise-level solutions for mission-critical systems, including a Java-based authentication and authorization library utilized by Law Enforcement. Over the years, James has been active in the Tallahassee/Leon County regional technology community, and is currently Chair-Elect of Tallahassee Technology Association (“TalTech”), a regional technology advocacy group that works with technology businesses and State & Local government agencies. From 2003 to 2008, James was President and CEO of a multi-million dollar, Fortune 5000 software development company which provided software and database development resources to Federal, State, and Local governments, specializing in Environmental Protection, Health Care, and Law Enforcement support. James now serves as the Director of Product Development for Elections By the People Foundation, Inc.

Richard Benham

Elections by the People Foundation, Inc.

Richard Benham is the Executive Director of the Elections by the People Foundation, Inc. As an attorney in Tallahassee, Florida he has been involved in numerous election law matters. Serving as General Counsel for Ion Sancho, Supervisor of Elections for Leon County, Mr. Benham recognized the threats posed by closed source proprietary elections systems to the integrity, validity, and voter confidence in our elections. Before entering the practice of law, Mr. Benham held many technical and business roles in the information technology industry. He co-founded a successful application software business, worked with open system technologies at a major hardware vendor, and led the health and human services division of a mid-sized system integration concern. He currently serves on the adjunct faculty of the Florida State University College of Law.

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Facebook
  • Gear6
  • Kaltura
  • Liferay
  • MindTouch
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • Symbian Foundation
  • Twilio
  • WSO2
  • Yabarana Corporation

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